In case you missed it, Scandinavian design is having a moment (or, rather, a continuous repetition of a "moment" that's been pinging between the woodworking shops of Copenhagen, oil-funded civic architecture in Oslo, black-leather-clad fashion ateliers of Stockholm, and Pop-art-inspired studios in Helsinki for the better part of a century). In any case, the new generation of Danish design has proven to be a particularly worthy export: It's not aggressive, it's pleasing to the eye and to the hand, it's colorful but not raucous, and it imbues spaces with a sense of hygge—a sense of coziness only articulated by, well, Danes.
Leading the pack is HAY, which was founded 13 years ago by husband-and-wife duo Rolf and Mette Hay. The pair has exercised its vision of palatable, friendly, everyday design at every scale—from coat racks to stationery to sofas to bedding to rugs—with the help of collaborators famous (Scholten & Baijings, Inga Sempé, and Sebastian Wrong, who now heads up his own offshoot called Wrong for HAY) and emerging (a roster of young design talents including Line Depping, Sylvain Willenz, and Lex Pott). HAY has been available stateside through a select group of e-retailers, and from now through January 2016, shoppers can experience HAY in person at MoMA Design Store's bricks-and-mortar location in New York City. We spoke with co-founder Mette Hay about the HAY Mini-Market concept, and more.
Richard Woods's porcelain Tree Trunk vases ($45-$89) are part of the companion line Wrong for HAY, edited by designer Sebastian Wrong. Photo by Scott Rudd.
On bringing HAY's vision of Danish design to America:
Mette Hay: "For us, when we open new HAY stores, it's always the question: Why Amsterdam? Why Antwerp? It's so much about meeting the right people. Emmanuel [Plat, MoMA's Director of Merchandising] and I met in Tokyo, and we just decided to do it right now, this summer in New York. The whole thing about HAY, it's not like we started it 13 years ago with some big business plan. It's about having passion and an idea. The Mini-Market is about being playful, and the energy you get from meeting people.
On the difference between HAY and its "mini-market" outposts:
Mette Hay: "We have 17 stores—one in Shanghai, one opening in Beijing, and all the rest in Europe. For the Mini-Markets, we had one in Milan in 2014 [during Salone del Mobile], then Selfridge's and Le Bon Marché pop-ups, and one in Tokyo during the design fair. And now we're here in New York. We have some dealers, and you can find our accessories in small design stores, but we have no plans yet [for furniture in the U.S.]. For the Mini-Market, the idea is to make small items that people can carry home in their suitcases."
The process behind introducing new products to the HAY canon:
Mette Hay: "The Richard Wood tree trunks and the Nathalie du Pasquier cushions are new, though almost everything here is new to the American market. I'm happy that Wrong for HAY and HAY go well together—we work individually on each product. It's not like we have a color palette for 2016. We start fresh. Sometimes there's a period where we really like a particular color, but it's not planned. When I work with Scholten & Baijings, it's their color scale combined with my ideas, and Inga Sempé has another range of colors... While Sebastian is an artist himself, so he likes working with artists like Nathalie and Richard and Jody."
On divvying up the many product collaborations:
Mette Hay: "My husband Rolf does furniture, I do accessories, and Sebastian does Sebastian. For me it's about a gut feeling when I see a product. It's very important that [all three of us] have freedom. It's usually the first time we see all the new products together, at the design fairs. It's like how you don't buy all your furnishings in one weekend, and your artwork isn't chosen to match your cushions."
On collaborating with designers:
Mette Hay: "BIG-GAME, I asked them to do a coat rack, and for Paris, we're introducing a new laundry basket with them, which was a request from me. We get a lot of proposals every day, and then I have five external designers I work with whom I can brief on what I need. Rolf is working very closely with the Bouroullecs at the moment; we're bringing a new outdoor collection to Paris [for Maison & Objet in September]. HAY first concentrated about doing things for the home, and the new shelf system was very much for the contract market. So the next presentation—benches and chairs and tables—is outdoor furniture."
Shoppers can browse over 200 individual products, all meticulously merchandised by color and type in a setting designed by creative directors Clara von Zweigbergk and Shane Schneck. Photo by Scott Rudd.
On her vision for HAY:
Mette Hay: "Rolf said to me, This trip to New York is what you've been dreaming of your whole life. I've always said I wanted to start a kind of supermarket of objects, like Vincon in Barcelona, where you can get everything from a standard scissor in the bookshop to high-end design objects. I really like the mix of cheap and expensive, fashion and not fashion, color, vintage, new. Since I was small I traveled with my parents and went to, for example, the Conran Shop in London, which was just amazing. Some people, instead of buying a normal eraser, want to buy this marble one and will not throw it away; they'll keep for a very long time."
On the future of the Mini-Market:
Mette Hay: "The mini-market is something we like right now, and it will constantly move toward new colors and new products and new everyday things. It has to stay alive and keep changing. When I'm traveling, I bring things back from India or Nepal or Japan, like 50 papier-mache masks I bought at a market in Delhi. I put them in the Copenhagen HAY House and they sold out on one Saturday! At the end it's about having fun. There's a lot of design that can be brought into another context."
Stacks on stacks on stacks: Box Box rectangle set ($45) and Dot wash bags ($34-$38), with textile design by Jody Barton. Photo by Scott Rudd.
· HAY Mini-Market [Official site]
· Wrong for HAY [Official site]
· What to Expect from the U.S.'s First "Flying Tiger" Store [Curbed]
· 11 Design Projects That Prove Ombré Isn't Just For Hair [Curbed]