“It’s usually the really simple stuff that’s the hardest because you go through a whole process of reducing, reducing, reducing.”
Hallgeir Homstvedt × Industrial Designer × Oslo, Norway
Hallgeir Homstvedt is a Norwegian product designer and ½ of the duo Takagi Homstvedt, who designed our first sofa, Alfa. Despite keeping studios on opposite sides of the Atlantic, the two friends share a rapport that’s obvious in their excellent collaborative work. Hallgeir was once a professional snowboarder, lived and studied in the U.S. and Australia, and finds energy and purpose in nature.
RE: FINAL FORM
The thing I like about Alfa is that it has this visual lightness. For instance, we have quite a big seat but it’s still visually light because it looks like there’s nothing holding it up — the structure is all internal. I think we ended up with something that’s quite unique in a world where so much looks the same. People want objects to look recognizable — yet they rarely want to go too far out on a limb. There’s a fine line and I think we found a nice balance here. I can say that I’m pretty sure it’s not a dull sofa!
“I just think there’s inherently something beautiful about objects with carefully considered proportions. It’s not always about maximum comfort. There’s a fine balance to be struck between comfort, style and lightness.”
RE: BRIEF, DEBRIEF, RE-BRIEF OR, “IT’S THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION”
We spent a lot of time on Alfa. A lot. I think we had three rounds of proposals and after the 2nd or 3rd round, we had a total reset. We had to sit down and reassess. We had a long conversation and said we’d give it one more try. It was a joint effort: both feedback and design. We did a lot of sketches, a lot of CAD work and 3D renders. The reason for all of that is that sofas are really hard to visualize — they tend to turn out looking like a chocolate bar with upholstery on it. So, if you want to make a realistic sofa, you need to spend a lot of time putting in imperfections. They are what gives a virtual form its softness.
RE: A SOFA’S IDEAL SIZE
Not to overgeneralize, but a lot of furniture in the U.S. tends to be overly big. I just think there’s inherently something beautiful about objects with carefully considered proportions. It’s not always about maximum comfort. There’s a fine balance to be struck between comfort, style and lightness.
“Alfa was inspired by the general aesthetic of those times: things then were a little softer, lighter, flowing…”
RE: ALFA WHO?
The design reference to ’60s Italian cars started with Jonah for sure: he put a car seat in one of our early presentations. When you present a design, you have to tell a story, right? Especially in the furniture space. We tried to put references in the presentation that were not like other sofas. We wanted to start somewhere that would put us on an interesting path, and one direction we took included upholstery details, a car seat, metal finishes, all these visuals that referenced cars. The end product obviously has a sort of retro industrial look to it. And the lines — the way the back sweeps up…
And Alfa Romeo, the brand — they were really a big-time racing brand. Ferrari came from Alfa, you know? It’s a cool reference. But I wouldn’t say that it’s inspired only by those cars, maybe it’s more accurate to say that it was inspired by the general aesthetic of those times — things then were a little softer, lighter, flowing… I think that’s really the essence we wanted to convey.
We didn’t want it to be retro either, so we had to bring that sensibility into our time. There’s maybe a bit of Finnish aesthetic as well — the lightness of that metal frame. That’s the nice thing about design: you can borrow from a lot of places. There’s no point in just redoing something.
RE: TAKAGI HOMSTVEDT
We started working together because we got along well. We had the same opinions on a lot of things and it made sense to expand our networks. We did some projects for DWR that turned out nicely. We’ve worked with Le Klint in Denmark. It’s worked out really well. We talk pretty often, actually. Even though he’s in the States, we spend like 1-3 days a week working together.
RE: NORWAY’S PLACE IN THE PANTHEON OF SCANDINAVIAN DESIGN
In Denmark, they have a real marketing machine. They’ve been great at promoting their designers since forever — they were way ahead of the game. They have a whole industry around it. In Norway, I guess design was traditionally maybe less craft-based… maybe more mass-produced? We’ve always had a furniture industry here but it’s maybe been a little more mass-market.
Norway was just a really poor country until they found the oil — so, basically until the 1960s. Most people didn’t buy designer furniture until way later. There wasn’t the same kind of upper class they had in Sweden, well, especially in Sweden but in Denmark, too. Everyone was sort of on the same level and there were maybe a few rich families. We’ve made up for that, but we just don’t have that same hierarchy.
The upholstery we’re using for Alfa is actually made in Norway! One of the things we produce a fair bit of here is wool. We have plenty of sheep! We have a few good textile mills. One of them, GU, produces the one used on the Primera Green sofa. It’s called Hallingdal, named after a place in Norway and it’s one of the bestsellers for Kvadrat. Oh, and all of their Raf Simons textiles are produced in Norway, too.
We had some meetings with Kvadrat, because they’re big over here. I know them well and Jonah knows them well. In the States, it’s considered more normal to use synthetic materials but here we mostly use wool and alpaca — that was one of our considerations. We wanted to use mostly natural materials and natural fibers, and Kvadrat is a really amazing brand — they have tons of textile designs and amazing colorways in good textures. Their only downside is that they’re not cheap.
Hallingdal 65 was designed by Norwegian legend Nanna Ditzel and to this day, is one of Kvadrat's bestsellers. Shown here is Hallingdal 944 in Primera Green.
RE: PAST LIVES, OR, THE ROAD FROM PROFESSIONAL SNOWBOARDER TO PRODUCT DESIGNER
Growing up, I always wanted to be a professional skater. That was the dream throughout my whole youth. Then, when I went to the U.S., I started riding dirt bikes and I got into that world for a while. And then snowboarding. Those sports were a big part of my life. A lot of my friends still make a living in that world.
I was a professional snowboarder for a few years. I was supported by a brand and I got to go to the factory. I didn’t have a promo, but I got to make my own custom boards, and I got to choose the graphics and all that. I used to be a real “yo, dude.” Seattle is where I started snowboarding — it was nice living there.
Afterward, I started studying engineering in Australia. I really thought I wanted to be an engineer. But two months into it, it felt like I was back in high school. I was miserable. Then I met this guy that had done 3 years of the same before switching to architecture and he said, “You’ve gotta get out now! If you want to do something different, get out now!”
RE: FUTURE LIVES
I have to say I really admire people who have several careers, people who don’t just stick to one thing. Nowadays, everything is so elitist and too many things are closed off. I think if I had to change tomorrow, I’d like to do something more physical. Maybe carpentry or some other more hands-on work. That’s the thing I miss most, and actually, I’m trying to do a bit more of that in my studio — more model making and physical prototypes.
RE: MODEL MATERIAL
I use a lot of wood. Paper. Cardboard. Cardboard is great because you can make things fast. Foamcore is fast too. I have a little 3D printer. That’s not the same as model making, but they’re amazing. For some things, you just have to have it. I did some door handles for a small company called Turn and that was great, because you can print door handles 1:1. Now I have like 50 door handles!
RE: IDEATION TO ACTION
I always sketch first. It’s faster. It’s the best way to get ideas down. I don’t like going straight into 3D because you get constricted. A lot of the beauty in sketching is from the imperfections — when Jonah and I are together, I can read between the lines of his doodles and he just sort of gets what I’m trying to do. With Alfa, he was sketching the modular system, and I started working on the profile a little bit, and in the end we sort of combined it. I always sketch first, and when it’s too hard to sketch, I move into 3D.
RE: FAST FASHION
I am pretty politically engaged and am concerned about the environment. I’m definitely influenced by… well, maybe I’d say I’m recharged by nature. I go out in nature to up my energy. Design alone can’t really fix those issues so it’s really on systems — bigger things, not single things. I think big ideas like the circular economy are really interesting, and there’s definitely some interesting design challenges in that field.
Consumption is the biggest problem — fast consumption, fast fashion. I hope Alfa will be something that will endure. It’s not super trendy. It has several lasting qualities and should look good well into the future.
RE: STYLE AS A FORM OF FUNCTION
I do fairly toned down things, fairly simple things. But it’s usually the really simple stuff that’s the hardest because you go through a whole process of reducing, reducing, reducing. And in the end, after all that reducing, you’ve got to have something there! Simple design can be quite deceiving — there is always work behind it. I enjoy the process, so in that way I don’t have a set style — I adapt to the product I’m working on. I do research. If it’s a new category of object that I haven’t worked on before, I look at the way it has been made traditionally and ask if there’s some way I can improve it, make it different — hopefully both. A lot of times, the product will be shaped by those findings.
Being a dad
Black-market Muji notebooks imported from Sweden, Marvy Uchida pens because they can withstand plane rides
Recharging in nature, or at the beer garden near his studio