For designer Fredrik Paulsen, pine is the mightiest of materials

Swedish designer Fredrik Paulsen and Finnish furniture manufacturer Vaarnii share not only a similar set of values but also an enduring love for pine. In Design Stories’ interview, the DIY and counterculture advocate talks about his journey into the world of design and his new 001 stool for Vaarnii.

Vaarnii 001 dining chair, pine
Fredrik Paulsen believes that design should, above all, be fun. His 001 chair for Vaarnii reflects his penchant for bold shapes and pinewood.

Hi Fredrik! How’s your summer been and what kind of projects have you been working on?
“I had a very relaxing summer, staying off-grid with my family by the ocean in southern Sweden.

Recently I started my own brand Joy Objects so I have been working a lot with that, designing a whole range of new products that we are planning to launch soon. I’m also in the final stage with a set of sculptures for a public commission in Värnamo, Sweden.”

Designer Fredrik Paulsen
Fredrik’s path into the world of design emerged from self-built skate ramps.
Designer Fredrik Paulsen
Fredrik runs his own studio in Årsta, southern Stockholm. He is also the founder of the design brand Joy Objects.
Fredrik likes to use Nordic materials, but his style is heavily influenced by Italian designers like Ettore Sottsass and Enzo Mari, known for their experimental and provocative approach.

Could you share a bit about how you originally ended up in the field of design?
“It’s all thanks to skateboarding. I grew up in a tiny Swedish village in the 80s, so me and my friends had to build our own ramps and really search for places to skate at. I even had to make my first ’skateboard’ since my mom refused to give me one. After high school, I ended up at a cabinet-making school by chance. I loved it but was too impatient to spend hundreds of hours making only one object. So I went on studying design at college which felt like coming home.”

“I think it’s my skateboarding mentality that informs my practice, very DIY and counterculture.”

Your designs don’t exactly embody classic Scandinavian minimalism. Where have you drawn influences for your style?
“I’m influenced by everything around me and don’t see any boundaries between different cultural expressions. Again, I think it’s my skateboarding mentality that informs my practice, very DIY and counterculture. To scratch the surface and name a few of my favorite designers I have to mention Ettore Sottsass, Enzo Mari, Maria Pergay, Lina Bo Bardi, and Gaetano Pesce.”

Vaarnii 001 dining chair, pine
Fredrik and Vaarnii share a similar set of values and a holistic approach to design.
Vaarnii 001 dining chair, pine
The oil-wax treatment gives Vaarnii’s solid pine 001 chair a lovely smooth feel.
Designer Fredrik Paulsen
Having studied at Beckmans School of Design and the Royal College of Art in London, Fredrik likes to challenge the formality and sophistication often associated with design.

How did you end up collaborating with the Finnish brand Vaarnii?
“When the founders Antti and Miklu contacted me to present their vision I was blown away. We really shared the same values and passion for design. They see everything as a whole, which I think is very important in creating a relevant brand today. That, and the fact that we share similar taste in furniture made me really confident in working together.”

One of the new additions to Vaarnii’s collection is the 001 stool. Did you face any challenges in designing the stool? What are you particularly pleased with in it?
“It’s tricky to get a three-legged stool stable. The legs are pretty massive and I didn’t want to add a fourth leg for a number of reasons. We managed to get the stool very sturdy, which I am very pleased with. There is also something about its presence that I am happy about. Airy and dense at the same time.”

The three-legged stool is the latest addition to Vaarnii’s 001 collection.
The beauty of pine wood lies in its characteristic grain patterns and knots, which might even have a psychedelic feel to them.

You’re one of the panelists at Helsinki Design Week, discussing Finnish Design Shop’s new Product Sustainability Framework. How does sustainability manifest in your work?
“I am focusing on making durable, well-constructed stuff, using sustainable materials that can stand some wear and tear. Since overconsumption is a major problem it is important for me to create highly personal work. Things that don’t appeal to everyone but really resonate with others can create a stronger bond between the product and the owner.”

“Things that don’t appeal to everyone but really resonate with others create a stronger bond between the product and the owner.”

Pinewood seems to hold a very special place in your heart. How has your relationship with pine evolved as you’ve worked with it? Have you learned anything new about it?
“I started working with pine when I first set up my studio. It just made sense since it is so accessible here. I like working with common materials that are not considered fancy. And I love the pattern of the grain and the knots, it’s like the symbol for wood.

I keep learning new things with pine all the time. Something useful I can share is that if you get a dent in the wood, you can wet it with a damp cloth and add some heat with an iron, and it will go away.”

Vaarnii 001 bar stool, pine
The sturdy 001 bar stools are suitable also for restaurants and other public spaces.
Vaarnii 001 bar stool, pine
The 001 bar stool is available in two heights: 65 cm and 76 cm.
Vaarnii 001 dining table, round, pine
In addition to chairs and stools, the 001 series also includes dining tables.

4 x Fredrik Paulsen’s favorites:

  • Place: Ocean
  • Food: Oysters
  • Music: Stella Explorer
  • Color combination: Purple + orange

See also:

Fredrik Paulsen’s designs >
All products by Vaarnii >

Text: Nora Uotila Images: Vaarnii and Jussi Puikkonen

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