I first came across the name, Hallgeir Homstvedt, in 2011, when his 'TOPP' lamp was first shown in Milan by the British manufacturer, Established & Sons. Since then I have noticed his name popping up on various projects (it's a name you don't forget) including last year's launch of One Nordic Furniture Company's 'Pal' stool. The brilliant little stool comes as a flat-pack and can be easily assembled in a few minutes without any tools. To my surprise I learnt that Homstvedt once lived in Australia and had attended Newcastle University where he completed a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Design. It's not every day that an 'Australian' designer manages to have their work released by a European brand, so even though Homstvedt was born and raised in Norway (where he now lives) I am secretly proud of the vague connection.
Homstvedt completed his degree in 2006 and soon after scored the dream job of working with one of Norway's most acclaimed design studios, Norway Says. With this type of background, it comes as no surprise that Homstvedt is actually pretty talented in his own right. Since starting his own studio in 2009 Homstvedt has been a regular exhibitor at international design shows like the Venice Biennale (2009 Danish and Nordic Pavilions, 53rd Venice Biennale), The London Design Festival (Norwegian Prototypes) in the same year and at Salone Satellite in Milan in 2010. He has had furniture and lighting pieces released by a variety of companies such as Established & Sons, Finland's One Nordic and Norway's L.K. Hjelle.
The 'Pal' stool is based around the brand philosophy of the manufacturer, One Nordic Furniture Company. The Finnish brand has a global outlook that relies on efficient transportation of its products, so there is a strong emphasis on designs that minimise shipping volumes. The idea of removable legs is nothing new but the way in which Homstvedt has achieved it is quite beautiful. The legs are concave to follow the shape of the circular seat and in being moulded in this way have increased strength. The joining point itself is also far stronger than most flat-pack designs, with their screwed together parts. The design also requires no tools.
"When I was a kid I tried to make my own skateboard in the garage by bending a piece of plywood. The project was a limited success since it turned out too thick and heavy or too thin and flexible. I lacked the concave shape in my decks that enable commercial skateboards to be just 10 mm thick and still tough enough to jump on without breaking. When I was sketching stool concepts for One Nordic, the idea of using this technique came back to me", says Homstvedt.
Homstvedt's 'Kavai' chair was voted Norway's chair of the year by Elle Decoration Norway in 2013. The compact armchair was designed for commercial environments as a visitor's chair or for break out areas. The idea of providing maxim comfort in the smallest amount of space is a common one in commercial interiors but here again Homstvedt brings something special to his design. Softening up the practical requirements with a fashion reference in the form of a 'collar', he also provides a softly angled armrest.
Homstvedt's 'Place' trivets where designed for the exhibition Food Work at Tokyo Midtown Hall for Tokyo Designtide 2012. "Trivets are generally covered up or stowed away when not in use, but I wanted to design an object that can be stored in sight on the table as a sculptural piece", says Homstvedt. To this end the trivets use 'V' shaped grooves on one surface - not only to act as a method to disperse heat but also to create an interesting graphic display when stacked.
Homstvedt shares a studio space in central Oslo with three other designers: Torbjørn Anderssen and Espen Voll of design studio Andersson & Voll (previously of Norway Says) and Petter Skogstad. While they work independently of one another, they occasionally work on a common project. Such was the case with the 'Bowling' bowls range for One Nordic Furniture Company that were released in 2013.
The range of bowls take on a fairly conventional shape externally but the turning of the bowls is quite refined when examined closely. Extremely thin walls mean that they are lighter than usual for a timber bowl but these walls then thicken out at the rim to ensure they are easy to pick up and nice to hold. The bowls are also stained in some very subtle shades that are then sold as a group of three - in pale pink, grey and white. Finished in a food safe wax, they have a lovely soft lustre to them.
Designed for the bedroom and other rooms that shift between daylight and darkness, the 'Herman' clock uses a dial painted in a graphic black and white pattern. The dial is divided into 12 zones - one for each hour of the day. The white lines are a fluorescent material that is "charged" by daylight and glows in the dark. A major influence for Homstvedt were the optical illusion studies known as the Hermann grid, where black and white lines close together create a visual distortion effect that makes the eye see patterns that are not actually there. The body of the clock is solid cast iron.
The recently released 'Ted' sofa for L.K. Hjelle, uses foam and feather to create a luxurious oversized pillow effect. Subtle deflections of the arms over the thin end panels add a touch of casual softness to the otherwise blocky design. The fine legs can be specified in various colours and this simple variation changes the look to a surprising degree.
The 'Duo' sofa was designed in 2009 while Homstvedt was still working for Norway Says. It features panels on the arms and back that can be flipped up to create an enclosed nook.
'Tangent' is a set of vases with a curved base that balance miraculously on a metal tray. The vases can be positioned anywhere on the tray to create the preferred composition. The appearance of the vases floating on the surface is made possible by the use of a strong Neodymium magnet attached to the bottom of each of the vases - effectively locking them in an upright position. The design is just a prototype at this stage and was made with the help of Silje Aune Eriksen in Oslo.
Check out the video below for a brief insight into the working practices of Hallgeir Homstvedt. This is just one of a number of short films created by Tomas Leach for the Norwegian Prototypes exhibition in 2010.
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