Nordic design picks from Asia: Bench 153B by Artek

Scandinavian design has been on the rise in Asian countries for many years now. Design Stories set on a quest to find out why. We had the honor to chat with Asian creatives who shared with us their favourite pieces of Nordic design. In this story, we meet Mikael Teh from the Monocot Studio.

Artek Bench 153B
Architect Mikael Teh’s Nordic design pick is the Bench 153B by Alvar Aalto from 1945. Like many of Aalto’s furniture designs, the bench is based on the revolutionary L-leg structure.

MIKAEL TEH is a Singapore-based architect and interior designer who founded his own studio in 2009. The clients of the Monocot Studio range from Asian holiday resorts to residential projects and cafés, bars and restaurants. Mikael selected the Bench 153B, designed by Alvar Aalto for Artek in 1945, to showcase as his favourite Scandinavian design piece.

Hi Mikael! Can you share a bit about how you were first introduced to Artek?
“It was during my first trip to Europe after my graduation. I went to Zürich and came across a really beautiful second-hand furniture store that sold brands such as Vitra, Carl Hansen & Søn and Artek. That’s the first time when I became acquainted with these iconic brands and started having interest in those classic pieces.

In fact, it was also the same trip that I visited the Vitra Campus in Germany. As I was still a postgrad student, I only purchased a few small accessories to commemorate the trip. The tray that I brought during the trip is still in use at my office desk.”

Artek Bench 153A
Besides the natural birch version, the Bench 153B is also available in black, white and three special colors from the ColoRing collection: red-turquoise, green-yellow and pink-purple.

You work as an architectural designer. Do you have some personal philosophies that steered you to purchase Artek's Bench 153B?
“I have always been interested in the mid-century period in general. Further, with my architecturally trained background, my design style tends to lean towards a more classical and modest approach. I am also personally amazed at how designs from a century ago were designed with such a modern notion of being a classical item that aimed to last for a long time. Take the Bench 153B for instance, it's a vintage piece that is still relevant and functional even in today’s context!”

“Artek's Bench 153B is a versatile piece to be placed in any location in one’s home.”

Can you give us some styling tips or settings would you advise on pairing the Bench 153B with?
“Definitely with plants! They play a huge part in altering a space. I would also encourage to decorate the bench with books.

In terms of the setting, Bench 153B is a versatile piece to be placed in any location in one’s home. It can be used as a bedside bench or at the hallway for putting on your shoes. In my house, the bench is placed next to the window in my room and styled with plants and books. It is a comfort spot where I will sit to read my books or relax. When not in use, it also functions similarly as a rack for me to display my book collection.”

Artek Bench 153A
Mikael Teh got attracted to the Aalto bench because of its timeless form language as well as its versatility: it works equally well in the hallway, bedroom or under a window as a plant table. The bench is also available in a longer version, Bench 153A.

Are there any new design items that you have recently purchased or plan to purchase next?
“The half-round Aalto table by Artek is next on my list! I saw it at the Artek store in Tokyo during my last trip. It is a nice semi-circle piece that can be perfectly tucked to any wall of a space. As Asian houses are getting smaller in size, this table can be placed as a nice little nook in the kitchen where it can double up to serve as a breakfast counter or even as a preparation area for gatherings.”

Lastly, could you describe what Nordic design means to you as an Asian designer?
“It represents forward-thinking while being able to create designs that can last through centuries and more!”

See also:

Aalto bench 153B >
All products by Alvar Aalto >
The Monocot Studio on Instagram >

Text: Melissa Tsang Images: Khoo Guo Jie

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