An affair with Scandinavian furniture

21:25, May 07 2012
em std
LABOUR OF LOVE: Emma Hart, who spent five years in Copenhagen collecting furniture.

Emma Hart spent five years collecting everything from Danish furniture to Copenhagen street lights, which she has brought home to sell in a pop-up shop in Wellington.

While commuting between London and Scandinavia, the former Television New Zealand journalist turned communications specialist trawled through antique shops, flea markets and skips on Danish roadsides, hoping New Zealanders might want to buy her treasures.

She has returned to Wellington with three containers of Scandinavian furniture and design objects which have travelled 21,000 kilometres to feature in her vintage and retro shop, Skandi, which opens in Island Bay today for three months.

"It's a bit like hunting for treasure," said Hart.

"When I lived in Copenhagen, I felt immediately at home there. They're super-stylish and design is in their blood. Design touches everything, they inhale and breathe it. They realise that everything that is functional can also be beautiful."

Scandinavian design emerged in the 1950s as a movement characterised by simple designs, minimalism, functionality, and low-cost mass production. Mid-century modernist designers such as Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen and Fritz Hansen designed chairs, tables, lamps and other objects that were functional, stylish and affordable, and their pieces are now collectibles.


Hart shifted overseas 12 years ago, and began working for a London public relations company. While there, she became "a love refugee", meeting a Dane and commuting to Copenhagen to spend time with him. The relationship did not work out, but she became attached to Copenhagen and began hoarding pieces she loved.

"I wanted to run a furniture business selling retro Scandinavian design back in Wellington. Most of my friends thought I was mad. I leased a warehouse in Copenhagen and went back and forth from there to London."

If Hart hadn't worked in communications and journalism, she thinks she would probably have become an artist. Her father was an artist, her mother a printmaker. She grew up scouring secondhand shops. Buying these pieces and opening a shop has fed her creative side.

After so long overseas, too, the 40-year-old was driven out of concern that New Zealanders are denied beautiful, functional objects for their homes that are also affordable. Our access to good design is poor because of our geographical isolation.

"We have a choice of average flat-packed stuff or high-end Italian. Many of us don't like one but can't afford the other."

Some of her finds include 30 industrial street lights from Copenhagen, and a professor's chair made of horse hair from Copenhagen University. She also bought a 17th-century chest once owned by the Carlsberg family (of beer fame), and four Fritz Hansen dining chairs.

"Every piece has a story."

The Dominion Post