CHRISTINA SCHMIDT Skandium

In the Eighties and Nineties Scandinavian furniture meant flat packs to most people in the UK but in 1998 a new destination store dedicated to modern and classic Scandi design arrived in London. The Fizz goes behind the scenes with Christina Schmidt, co-founder of Skandium, to see what floats her boat...

BY DEE IVA

How did Skandium come about?
The seed idea sparked when my partner Magnus Englund and I found a cooking pot in a provincial department store in Finland. It was the pot, we thought, what a ’looker’... so simple, like a child would draw a pot, yet perfect in proportion and execution. We learned that it was designed by typographer Björn Dahlström for a new kitchen range by Finnish company Iittala called Iittala Tools. Iitala had begun the journey of reinventing themselves for a contemporary market.

We thought the concept was smashing as all the objects were simple but divinely perfect, in a way the reinvention of modernism, celebrating timeless beauty. So we thought let’s put together Alvar Aalto from 1924 with these pieces because style never goes out of fashion. It is not about being fashionable. If it is beautiful and relevant, it is a long-term investment in the quality of your life. With this in mind, we headed to the little island of Hästö in the Finnish archipelago and sat by the water’s edge, contemplating what we should call this idea and how to go about it. That was summer 1998.

ABOVE: Christina Schmidt, co-founder and creative director of Skandium
ABOVE RIGHT: Casserole with lid by Björn Dahlström for Iittala, 1998
BELOW: Hästö island, where the idea for Skandium was born

Do you have a favourite classic Scandinavian design piece?
I do not have a favourite as such as there are so many superb pieces and the design chosen will have to work well in the space you are living in. But If I had to choose, I would always pick the 'PH Artichoke' pendant in copper, by Poul Henningsen, the 'Trolley 900' with basket by Alvar Aalto (great as a side table), a cooking pot by Björn Dahlström and the 'Lempi' glasses by Matti Klenell which serve water, wine and milk equally well.

ABOVE LEFT: 'PH Artichoke' pendant light by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen, from £4,900
ABOVE: 'Trolley 900' by Alvar Aalto for Artek, £2,365
BELOW: 'Lempi' tumblers by Matti Klenell for Iittala, from £12.50

Describe your personal interiors style
I am not so fussed about ‘retro’ as such. I do like great design and love new ideas, no matter what time they are from. I love the craftsmanship and thought behind the classic pieces of Scandinavian design, hence my passion for it, but when executing a project I like to mix styles from different periods, to keep it simple and harmonious and throw in a bit of the unexpected.

You were once a fashion and lifestyle photographer, who did you shoot for?
That was 20 years ago! I worked for the local fashion magazines and advertising agencies in Stockholm. Among others I did a shoot with Izabella Scorupco (right) who had long dark hair at the time. We used an ice blonde bob wig on her for the campaign and she later cut her hair and changed its colour. Izabella went on to play Bond girl Natalya Simonova in GoldenEye. I had a brilliant assistant at the time, Elisabeth Toll, whom I am proud to say is now a stunning fashion photographer with international assignments. It all has to start somewhere.

Do you still take pictures and has this shaped or influenced your work at Skandium?
I always think and act from a visual point, it is innate. I do not take pictures for Skandium as there is simply not the time for it since the content of what we do is so very wide. My focus today is interior design which is my passion. For this I take pictures for Skandium to go online and for my Instagram account.

BELOW: 'At Ease' sofa by Daniel Schofield, £2,700. Exclusive to Skandium

What's next for Skandium?
There are so many companies out there and many offer the same or similar products as we have done for the last 16 years, so for us it is to enhance the focus on concept living and tighter editing on what we believe makes the Scandinavian aspect alluring. We don’t show everything just because it is on the market. For this year's London Design Festival we will showcase a new Skandium collection including a range of furniture by Swedish architect Jonas Lindvall and a Stig Lindberg retrospective with Swedish manufacturer Röstrand including our own range of bowls bearing Lindberg's distinctive illustrations from the children's book 'Daniel Tip Your Toe'.

ABOVE RIGHT: 'Stig Lindberg Bowls', £12.50 each. Exclusive to Skandium
BELOW: The first Skandium store touched down in Wigmore Street, London, in 1998

Who or what is currently exciting you in design?
I am actually more impressed with good craftsmanship and production than design as such. Without good craftsmanship there is never good design and in the ‘old’ days the craftsman was innately also the designer. I love seeing a mix of materials in an object where the combination enhances the experience, not just ‘entertains’. I will always love simple execution in both shape and material, such as the Collective Tools 'Serving Spoon' by Antonio Citterio for Iittala.

Is there anything you wish you had designed?
The 'Trolley 900' with basket by Alvar Aalto for Artek, as it is functional, stylish and very charming – the dream combination!

What's your social media of choice?
My personal one is Instagram without a doubt, I loooooove it!
skandium.com

Izabella Scorupco by Mark Mainz/ Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

JO SAMPSON

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In the late Seventies and early Eighties, no hipster would be seen without a leather studded wristband or belt. Brit designer Jo Sampson has hijacked street fashion's most recognisable item and infused it with high-end glamour to produce 'Rebel', a gorgeous collection of homewares and accessories for Irish crystal house Waterford

BY DEE IVA

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Tell us about your latest collection for Waterford...
The 'Rebel' collection was created with a more design-savvy customer in mind; someone interested in unique and stylish gifts. The mixed-media range is about an attitude and outlook and is meant to be aesthetically beautiful while being unexpected and fun.

It’s quite a varied mix of items, from barware to jewellery, chopsticks and travel kit – what brings its aesthetic together?
The range is brought together by the iconic punk stud; it’s a design detail which transcends time and generations. To apply such a hard angular feature to both metals and crystal (from smoke-grey to amber, purple and blush) was challenging, but it is the thread which holds everything together.

How would you describe your style as a designer?
I’m quite eclectic and design for the specific challenge rather than having a 'house style'. My ranges always have a narrative running through them, and I always design with an end user in mind. It just so happens that I would also buy everything that I create!

ABOVE RIGHT: Shot glass, £65 per pair; 'Gracie' studded cuff, £110
BELOW: Studded crystal and gold vases, glasses and bowls from the 'Rebel' collection. From left: Diamond Box, £55; Shot glass £65, per pair; Bud vase, £80; 8" vase, £110; Dog bowl, £110

TOP ROW FROM LEFT: Napkin rings, £60 for four; Bottle opener, £30; Flask, £60; USB stick, £60
BOTTOM ROW FROM LEFT: Salt and pepper set, £45; Compact mirror, £50; 'Gracie' studded cuff, £110; Tape measure, £35

Who or what is currently exciting you in design?
I love the Japanese design firm Nendo – they are all about surprise and delight and have a unique view of the world. I also look at stylists' work to see how they reinterpret a product and setting. I like the unexpected and things that make you look at life differently; antiques shops and markets are great because there is no core theme and I find that inspirational.

ABOVE: The Nendo 'Chocolatexture' lounge at January's Maison & Objet design show in Paris featured chocolate-coloured furniture set among rippling ombré tubes

What’s next for you?
I am about to conceive new products for all of my current ranges for Waterford. I love going back to a story and adding more products. Something always comes up in the development stage of a project that just doesn’t make the initial deadline and has to wait for the second phase. I am also looking at wine glasses for the 'Elysian' range and I can’t wait to develop them.

Who are your design heroes?
They vary over time. When I was starting out, I worked for Sir Terence Conran and Michele De Lucchi. Both were a huge influence on me and I saw their very different approaches to design and commerciality. I love people who are brave in the way Coco Chanel, Vivienne Westwood (left) and Alexander McQueen have been in the world of fashion. My work often means a lot of background research and historical referencing and one person whose story fascinated me was Josiah Wedgwood.

Is there anything you wish you had designed?
The Tetra Pak! For something so innocuous it has changed modern day life – it’s an everyday hero.

Where’s on your travel wish-list and why?
There are so many places and so little time! I need some escapism right now to recharge, so I would like to go somewhere very peaceful and warm with no internet.

If you weren’t a designer what might you have been?
I would have inevitably ended up in some sort of creative career. I loved photography and was always interested in it and graphic design, theatre and garden design. I can’t imagine not doing something where I use my imagination; I am a problem solver and love challenges so I don’t think I could be anything else!

What’s your social media of choice?
I love Instagram as it’s so visual – I need to do it more.
josampson.com  

The 'Rebel' collection for Waterford will be available from late April 2015
Visit 
waterford.com for local stockists


Nendo picture: Joakim Blockstrom  joakimblockstrom.com
Vivienne Westwood portrait: Juergen Teller  juergenteller.com