Scandinavian Connections

BY Anna Brady / Jun 6 2017 / 16:56 PM

During Milan Design Week, Jotun Paints’ colour experts Lisbeth Larsen and Rana Khadra talked to Anna Brady about trends and how cool Scandinavian hues translate into the Middle Eastern home

Scandinavian Connections
Aasiya Jagadeesh
Scandinavian Connections
Aasiya Jagadeesh
Main wall painted in Jotun 4785 Blue River
Scandinavian Connections
Aasiya Jagadeesh
Lisbeth Larsen, Jotun’s global colour and creative director

Milan’s Ventura Lambrate district was thick with exhibitions during design week, among them Everything Is Connected, celebrating Norway’s rich craft and design scene through the work of some 30 makers. Curated by the designer and interior architect Katrin Greiling of Studio Greiling, it is a collaboration between Norwegian designers’ union Klubben, DOGA Design and Architecture Norway, Norwegian Crafts and the paint manufacturer Jotun, founded in Norway in 1926. It’s an understated selection, all the pieces possessing a classic clean edged Scandinavian simplicity, and a respect for material. On show are textiles, ceramics, homewares, lighting and furniture. The majority are smaller pieces, such as Barmen & Brekke’s wood and ceramic homewares, or Kaja Dahl’s innovative Norwegian Notes collection, perfumed objects from diffusers to table sculptures infused with delicate, natural scents. Then there’s the linear, pare backed design of Jenkins & Uhnger’s Tangent floor lamp, its graphic black form set off by the pale blue-grey wall behind.

Light by Falke Svatun and Super Normal chair by Live Berg, against  Jotun 5452 Nordic Breeze. The floor is painted in Jotun 10981 Norwegian Wood. Image Courtesy of Aasiya Jagadeesh

That blue is Jotun 5452 Nordic Breeze, one of the new trio of colours unveiled during Milan Design Week. It forms the calm backdrop to the exhibition, punctuated by the stronger Jotun 4785 Blue River, a deep, rich blue, and Jotun 10981 Norwegian Wood, a light, fawn brown with reddish undertones. This palette, conceived by Lisbeth Larsen, Jotun’s global colour and creative director, is inspired by the lakes, forests and cool skies of Norway. So how can that translate to the heat and dust of the Middle East, a region that, typically, favours a far richer, ornate aesthetic? Quite easily, thinks Rana Khadra, colour and creative manager for Jotun in Middle East, India, and Africa. “When somebody looks at something very different to where they live, they find more inspiration,” says Rana. “In October, we launched our 2017 collection. We had two themes, one Middle Eastern and the other Scandinavian inspired. What we found was, the Middle Eastern clients were more interested in the Scandinavian theme, and the Scandinavians and Europeans were more interested in the Middle Eastern.”

Recently, Rana asked 250 women in Saudi Arabia to show her a house they aspired to live in on Instagram. “They were all floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of mountains and snow and forests outside. They tried to recreate that in the house that they’re living in.” She’s an advocate of how colour can effect mood, even create a feeling of coolness during a Dubai summer, though using “a colder blue, and having leather and some furs and rugs inside the house to recreate a winter feel.”

Lisbeth agrees, pointing to Norwegian Breeze as a “cooling, calming influence” and Norwegian Wood, “imagine how this colour could be matched with kelim carpets, with ethnic Omani fabrics.” Lisbeth’s inspiration comes from “Everywhere. I travel a lot, see exhibitions. I look at fashion, because working in the colour business is more or less like fashion because people tend to change their paint colours like they change clothes, and they are changing much, much faster now.”

Image courtesy of Aasiya Jagadeesh

What Lisbeth has noticed recently is the desire for colour to somehow improve quality of life. “Consumers keep asking us “please can you advise us on the best colour for the bedroom as I’m not sleeping that well?’ People put a lot of expectation on colour to change their mood and even their life. That’s the big change because ten years ago, it was all like ‘what’s the hot colour right now?’ or ‘what’s the colour of the year?’” People now, thinks Lisbeth, increasingly “want to go offline, leave their phone at home. This is my main inspiration actually for these three colours, along with nature. We also relish the handmade and making things ourselves," she notes, “so we try to work on that personal side too and not try to be some fashion police!”

Looking at Norwegian Wood I ask, are people scared of brown, of its dodgy 1970s associations? Yes, says Lisbeth, “But not the young ones, only the old ones. It’s funny you ask because I was showing some older painters these colours and all of them pointed out this brown colour and said that will be a big hit.” She would use it as an accent wall, with neutrals, but adds “I must admit that two weeks ago I painted a whole office in this brown colour with white furniture and white shelves. It’s so beautiful.”

Lisbeth believes brown is a trend here to stay but with more peach and pink tones coming in too. “Green will still be a big hit and so will the blue. But also I think we will see much more pastel colours, much more grey pastels.” Rana also foresees Norwegian Wood being a hit in the Middle East as people are more daring. “Middle Easterners tend to like blue, and slightly darker blue like navy,” she adds, “Also the burnt colours – burnt yellow and orange.” There’s a growing popularity of such burnt tones but also, she adds, a desire for rawness, “things that are real, in their raw format; concrete, wood, marble, pottery. Colours that are untouched, not manipulated.”

Everything Is Connected ran from 4-9 April at 6 Via Ventura, Ventura Lambrate, Milan. For more information see contemporarycraftsanddesign.no or jotun.com