Soothing pastel shades, fuzzy textures and plenty of biophilic elements such as hanging plants are hallmarks of the Familien Kvistad’s growing portfolio of workplace projects – a deliberate antidote to sleek corporate design. In the Oslo headquarters of Bakken & Baeck, a fast-growing digital design agency, pale blue walls and whimsical handmade wall rugs set the tone, while the recently completed B & B satellite in Amsterdam boasts “creamy yellow” rooms, a soft pink chill zone and a blazing neon sign overlooking the dining area.
For Bjarne Flur Kvistad, the art director, illustrator and graphic designer who operates Kvistad with his wife Miriam, his sister Astrid and Astrid’s husband Ziemowit Skoczynski, this “refined handcrafted” aesthetic reflects their Scandinavian roots, but it isn’t exactly hygge, the trendy Danish concept of coziness. Kvistad’s work also reflects the unusual breadth of skills – from colour theory to machine knitting – that its members bring together under one roof. Azure recently spoke to Bjarne Kvistad from his clan’s home base in Hurdal, Norway, about 80 kilometres north of Oslo.
How and when did you all decide to work together?
We decided when our families [both couples have young children] moved to the same neighbourhood a few years ago. Our projects are of different scopes, from art and product design to interiors for homes and companies. Our studio is located in an old classroom, where we have a sewing area, an atelier, a photo studio and a workshop for creating and reviving furniture and objects. Our goal is to amalgamate all of the disciplines we have to offer, ensuring that everything we make has a useful functionality and good craftsmanship.
Can you describe your studio’s aesthetic? The work I’ve seen is warm, colourful and idiosyncratic, with a refined yet handcrafted look. How would you characterize it?
I think all of those characterizations are apt. We definitely put an emphasis on colour play. Mastering colour has turned into a goal and we want it to be a defining characteristic of our work. A refined handcrafted look relates, I would assume, to our Scandinavian heritage. But we like to have a funny or strange element in our projects as well – and this has been expressed so far through our hand-tufted rugs.
Does your aesthetic have anything to do with hygge?
When it comes to the mainstream Scandinavian aesthetic, I think that we might be somewhat off as a firm – probably more relatable to other, more vibrant countries [than to those that espouse hygge]. Making workplaces homier, however, is definitely a goal. A sense of community within companies is good for business.
Can you tell me who in your studio does what exactly?
Everyone in the Kvistad family has had experience in different design fields – interior, fashion, graphic, digital – as well as illustration, machine knitting and carpentry. My sister Astrid and her husband Ziemowit are the driving forces of the studio. Astrid was trained as a fashion designer with knitting as a speciality; she currently serves as a project manager and sewing expert. Ziemowit is an expert tufter. My wife Miriam, who was educated in art direction and photography, handles colour planning with Astrid and is our in-house photographer. And I’m an llustrator and graphic designer as well as a digital designer.
How do you approach a new project, especially an office?
The first part of most projects is about creating an aesthetic concept that we can use as a thread throughout. From this we create a visual language to base our future decisions on, including choices about furniture, colour and materials. For Bakken & Baeck [in Oslo], we developed the concept of a Scandinavian spaceship, a union of space age, futurist and Scandinavian lines. The company was growing fast and it needed space to accommodate future workers. It decided to expand to the floor below and this was where we came in. After we had established the concept of a spaceship, it became the through line and made it easier to validate ideas.
How did designing Bakken & Baeck’s Amsterdam office differ?
From concept to completion, Amsterdam involved a way more structured process. The goals were quite similar [to those in Norway], but it was important for us to create an aesthetic link to Oslo while also giving the new office its own character.
Bakken & Baeck is a relatively small and progressive company. How would you approach a design for a larger corporate client?
It’s hard to answer this. Larger clients have a higher degree of design standardization, which is really the opposite of where we want to be.
Composed of two siblings and their respective spouses, Norwegian design studio Kvistad is bringing authentic and unabashed hominess to European workplaces. Its goal as a family firm is to help people perform their jobs better through greater degrees of comfort. Just don’t call what they’re doing hygge