Finnish design disruptor Vaarnii challenged Danish designer Henrik Tjærby to create a series of outdoor furniture made entirely of pinewood. The often-overlooked material set a certain frame for the creative process, but Tjærby tells Design Stories that the characteristics of pine actually worked in his favor.
PINEWOOD might not sound like a very typical or usable material for top-notch design, let alone designer outdoor furniture. However, the Finnish brand Vaarnii firmly disagrees – the brand believes that pine is a wonderful material that only gets better with patina, dents, and scratches. Launched in 2021, Vaarnii’s first furniture collection was made entirely of Finnish pinewood and created in collaboration with a host of internationally renowned designers like Philippe Malouin, Max Lamb, and Kwangho Lee.
The most recent member of Vaarnii's designers is Danish Henrik Tjærby, who was asked to expand Vaarnii’s range to include also outdoor furniture. The collaboration resulted in a collection called Osa, whose uncomplicated design language draws not only on the special features of the material but also on its most common uses in the building industry.
Henrik Tjærby, what was your brief for the Osa outdoor furniture range?
“The brief was to develop a range of outdoor furniture using pine. The main driver was thermo-treated pine, which seemed to be a material overlooked for outdoor furniture. The idea was to put pine ‘back on the map’ also for outdoor use – a perfect match to the Vaarnii DNA.”
So, the starting point for the entire design process was pinewood?
“Sounds like a cliche, but yes, the material was really the starting point and driver throughout the entire design process. The Osa furniture is made of locally grown Finnish pine, sustainably treated using no chemicals but only heat and steam to make it weatherproof.
As far as we know, nobody has used this material for outdoor furniture yet, and this ‘wonder wood’ has only been used for exterior cladding and floorboards so far. Therefore, the Osa furniture is very much inspired by cladding and timber structures used in architecture.”
Pine does seem to be an overlooked and forgotten material nowadays. Have you worked with it before?
“I have worked with pine before, but never with the thermo-treated version. The heat treatment gives the pine a caramel color – and also a very pleasant toasty odor! Exposed to the elements, the color will turn into a lovely gray silver-tone after a few seasons, similar to Ipe or cedar cladding.
“The heat treatment gives the pine a caramel color – and also a very pleasant toasty odor!”
Another benefit of the thermal treatment is the weight: as the moisture content is super low, the wood is noticeably lighter and really easy to work with. Pine is high on resin, but the heat treatment extracts this so there will be no sticky patches on your new summer dress!”
Did you face any unexpected challenges during the process?
“Pine is a softwood, so we needed to work with a thicker section, but this was not really unexpected. Actually, it worked in our favor as we wanted to steer away from the traditional, slightly flimsy-looking outdoor furniture. This, combined with the reduced weight of Thermowood, allowed us to work a more solid look without being wasteful of the material.”
“We wanted to steer away from the traditional outdoor furniture. The reduced weight of Thermowood allowed us to work a more solid look without being wasteful of the material.”
Osa’s contemporary look really does stand out from classic outdoor furniture designs! Could you tell us a bit more about the look and the inspiration behind it?
“The final design is based on an engineered T-section in 2 sizes – like prefabricated roof struts used in the building industry. These T beams are incredibly strong, and the flange underneath each beam allowed a simple assembly between the top and trestle legs. For outdoor furniture, it’s also important to have drainage, so each T is generously spaced to solve this.”
Sustainability is nowadays an integral As a designer, how do you take it into consideration in your work? How is this reflected in the Osa furniture?
“The fact that Vaarnii is re-inventing Pine is sustainable in itself and using thermo-treated pine for exterior furniture is no exception. On top of being locally grown and treated without any chemicals, we use the upper part of the tree usually only used for cladding and other products with a lower perceived value.
In a small-scale production like this, you would normally buy a batch of rough sawn wood which would then have to be planed and sawn into the desired section – this is time-consuming but also creates a lot of waste.
In large-scale production, such as the cladding and decking industry, they can use almost any section of wood in their range of products. Each T in the Osa range is made using off-the-shelf planks from one of these manufacturers. Furthermore, the same material is used for the legs and entire structure, truly minimizing waste on this precious material.”
Lastly, as a native Finnish speaker, I must ask: how did you come up with the name Osa?
“Finnish has a lot of cool and crazy words – Osa is one of them. It means ‘section’, ‘part’, or ‘engineered’, so it seemed to tick all the right boxes!”
Vaarnii’s Osa collection
Text: Emmi Ratilainen Images: Diego Quintela and Vaarnii