Scandinavian design draws from many elements. Nature is one important influence, where long winters and fewer hours of sunlight inspire bright spaces with clean lines. Interiors often appear effortless, with a clear expression of form. Design has an emphasis on simplicity, elegance and practicality and is rarely ostentatious. A candle, just one example of a more unobtrusive style of design, can create a perfect everyday intimate moment, where the simple gesture of lighting a wick engenders a feeling of calm and tranquility.
On behalf of Design Bloggers United (DBU), Walnut Grey Design asked Shaun Russell (SR), the founder of SKANDINAVISK, to talk about KOTO, his company and living in Scandinavia.
DBU: Why did you decide to collaborate with the bloggers collective to create a candle?
SR: I have always followed and admired what ‘Bungalow5’ and ‘Emmas Designblogg’ have done for celebrating Scandinavian lifestyle and design in the world – they are truly magnets for design inspiration. Then when I met other members of the collective at DesignTrade in Copenhagen in 2013, I heard about your common principles and design aesthetic, and learned of your innovative thinking about working together across Northern Europe. It seemed a perfect match for our brand and ambitions.
DBU: As a collective we agreed on the concept of ‘home’ and so KOTO was born. What are your thoughts on the concept?
SR: In launching our scents we always try to identify and reflect an aspect of the region that carries great importance to its inhabitants: the value of a moment (HYGGE, RO); their symbiosis with the sea (HAV); the length of the summers (SOMMAR); or the overwhelming scale of the forests (SKOV).
I think with KOTO you have taken our concept and evolved it naturally. Prioritising small moments together at home is, we believe, what makes Scandinavia so happy and successful. In turn, KOTO makes perfect sense. The use of a traditional Finnish word for ‘home’ gives it something special too. Finland may not be truly Scandinavian, however it is Nordic and the country’s way of life very much reflects its Scandinavian neighbours.
DBU: Can you describe the fragrance those burning KOTO will enjoy?
SR: This time we decided to find a fragrance that was less native Scandinavian but similar in its subtlety. With KOTO one can find notes of jasmine, vanilla and amber. It is a lovely soft fragrance.
DBU: How did SKANDINAVISK evolve? What was the inspiration behind the brand?
SR: Gerry and I are two Englishmen who fell in love with two blonde Scandinavian girls fifteen years ago and never left [Gerry Kingham also established SKANDINAVISK]. We have spent most of our time here, living and travelling across the region; during this time we gradually fell in love with the Scandinavian way of life. There’s the endless summer days, cold dark winters, unique landscapes and scents, all mixed with the people’s active embrace of the outdoors. Then there’s the inhabitants approach to life – the priority of family over career, going home at 4pm and the sanctity of everyday moments (hygge). So we launched SKANDINAVISK early last year (2013), essentially as an homage to the Scandinavia we have observed, participate in and admire. The inspiration behind the brand is, in essence, Scandinavia. Candlelight – whether scented or simply plain – was the obvious starting point.
DBU: In what way does SKANDINAVISK reflect the wider virtues of Scandinavian living?
SR: We want people to savour the moment, any moment. It might be a moment shared or a moment to oneself, because we believe this is one of the secrets to the success of the lifestyle here. So our fragrances, our ceramics, our candles, are designed to reflect this unique region and encourage people to relax and focus on the now. As John Lennon once said, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” As an Englishman I feel almost drilled into that future way of thinking, whereas Scandinavians make life happen now.
DBU: As a self-proclaimed Englishman living in Copenhagen, how have you experienced hygge?
SR: It takes a while to really understand and appreciate hygge because it is as much a mental state as a specific moment. Danes can think almost any situation can be hyggelig, but that’s more because of their approach to that moment. Simplistically though, it’s a moment shared with people you love, often over coffee and candlelight, without thinking about what you are doing next.
DBU: What do you love most about the Scandinavia mindset and way of living?
SR: I love the way Scandinavians actively embrace the nature and the seasons surrounding them, and the way they find happiness in daily life rather than distant dreams. The cup is often half full here; there is a constant subtle optimism that is refreshing, and there is a community attitude that makes people see the future improving for everyone, not just the elite.