Form & Refine is a Danish design brand. They carefully select pure materials from around the world, crafting objects and furniture from them in their countries of origin, using skilled traditions. F&R have created collections of Nordic design intended to refine as the years progress.
The brand was founded in 2018 by Helle Herman Mortensen, Jonas Herman Pedersen and Lasse Lund Lauridsen - based on a common vision to create an ethically driven brand. Form and Refine explores materials whilst preserving our earth and craft cultures through an exceptional design philosophy. By pairing local materials with neighbouring workshops/craftspeople, the production process has the lowest CO₂ footprint possible and creates furniture which can truly be labelled as sustainable.
Really Well Made have recently started retailing Form & Refine’s beautiful furniture and accessories. We have spoken to them as a more in-depth introduction to their brand.
RWM: As the (relatively) new kids on the block, we’d like to get to know you better and learn about the people and principles behind the brand! So perhaps we could start by finding out… What was the inception or key starting point for Form and Refine?
F&R: We are true lovers of travelling. The idea came to us with spending 3 months in Bolivia where we discovered the local ancient “Inka gold” of alpaca wool - as the Bolivians call it themselves. Their society, built around the alpaca materials, is really great and the local craftsmanship is outstanding. In Denmark we met the family behind the Damsbo Forest by chance, and then company was founded based on these 2 encounters.
So Form & Refine is a celebration of the great raw materials around the world, as well as the craft and social stories connecting them.
RWM: How did all the partners meet each other, were you friends or co-workers in the past?
F&R: We met at the Milano Salone del Mobili in 2014 and became instant friends. We shared very similar visions for the future of our planet, both in design philosophy and beliefs/way of life.
Lasse was sleeping on the couch at Helle and Jonas every time he visited Denmark (Lasse lives and work from Munich) and he partly still does.
We worked a bit on the brand Herman Cph together before it was sold to Ferm Living and completely included as part of their brand. Here we realised that we all 3, had some different competencies – each of us were good in hers and his field.
RWM: With your focus on materials and sustainability, do you find any restrictions to your design, or does it perhaps open up new ways of thinking about the design process?
F&R: It does have restrictions due to the more limited choice of materials (we do not work with plastics and aluminium). Some products would have been both easier to produce and cheaper with those materials. But wood, which is our main material, is ideal in feel, sustainability and possibilities.
We like that the materials we choose get a beautiful patina over time, and also that they will last a long time.
It sometimes opens up for new ways of thinking about the design process. We introduced steel in our latest collection, which is really strong and has a great surface finish.
We would love to do more with Cork, but is quite a difficult material to make minimalistic and compelling – Which makes us especially proud of our 'Nest' Cork Paper bin.
RWM: The wood for some of your products comes from the Damsbo Forest in Denmark. Can you tell us a little bit about the place and your relationship with it?
F&R: We have spent some time living in the forest, staying over, helping to plant and harvest – it made us realise how dear a 130 old oak tree really is.
Managing a forest with long perspective is really impressive. The forest has to be thought of in terms of what it will be in 100 or even 500 hundreds years! That affects the choices made every single day. We can cut and harvest exactly the right number of trees; one year we could plant over 10,000 new trees, and then perhaps less in the next, all depending on how the forest is developing.
RWM: Climate change is the issue that will shape our world in the near future. As retailers and manufacturers we have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders to reduce our environmental impact. What do you think is the one simplest thing we can all do to make positive a change?
F&R: Quality over quantity and local over distance – for instance, buy less meat and when you do; buy that meat with an exceptional quality, and if possible, locally.
Only buy what you really need – the throw-away society can change that way
RWM: Helle and Jonas, you design the majority of products for F&R and have worked together as Herman Studio since 2012 (also when Really Well Made was tentatively established), do you find it different setting your own brief for a new product? Rather than working to another brands requests?
F&R: It gives us more freedom. But we always strive for our designs to be relevant. We try to develop items that are 'missing', to improve people's wellbeing in the home. It is not so much of interest to us to create another candle holder, even though we sometimes get these sort of requests from other brands.
We find our inspiration in everyday life, in art and on journeys.
Also, our Partner Lasse gives us sometimes a brief, for instance the Angle Stool or Position Bench. In the case of the angle stool, the stool has an excellent seating comfort and great functionality with folding and the possibility to mount onto the wall – which has worked very well from the original idea to the actual product. We just didn’t want to create a stool with a flat rounded seat and 3 or 4 legs. We think there are plenty of those already.
RWM: Lots of Form and Refine products seem to solve common daily problems like lack of storage, would you say you think practically before aesthetically?
F&R: First we think of solving a particular problem. Then you can design your way around that issue.
We are constantly finding out how our own home can be improved and made easier to use during a busy day. The A Line Collection is also centred around upgrading some essential utility products to be more beautiful and compelling than the everyday items you may already own.
In the end all our items have to reach a high level of aesthetics. It was very difficult for the A Line Collection to reach that goal.
RWM: Can you tell us what’s in store for F&R during 2021? Do you have any design trend predictions for the year as life slowly returns to normality? Is this something you take into account, or do you ignore trends and make your own path?
F&R: It might sound a bit off, but we truly do ignore trends. We practice 'slow living'. So we develop a few good new items every year. And those items have to stand the test of time.
During 2021 we might introduce one new material: At the moment we are working with a very talented Danish girl on a small glass collection. It's a truly magnificent design with a great story about producing mouth blown glass.
We have some things planned and it involve more travelling/exploring. Our manufacturing partners would like to do some events with us. And we know that we need to come and tell you a bit more about us. We would love that!
RWM: Thanks so much guys, we really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us and share such detailed insights! We look forward to continuing our relationship and sharing your new creations with all design enthusiasts in the UK.