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DESIGNERS

Nathalie Schwer

This designer gets inspired by everything but design.

Nathalie Schwer is a Danish interior designer with a passion for travel and a tendency to think outside the box. Green Collective chatted with her about inspiration, her latest projects, and a beautiful concept called the “intelligence of the hands.

Green Collective
Who are you and what do you do?

Nathalie Schwer
I’m an interior designer; I work with interior styling. I also create a lot of bespoke products for my projects. In the last couple of years, I’ve worked more with strategy and consulting for architectural firms, helping them develop their interiors a bit more.

Green Collective
When you’re doing projects like that and designing interiors, what do you find usually inspires you?

Nathalie Schwer
It’s really random; it’s everything but design. Not to exclude it, but I do find that there are so many good designers out there that I tend to look at what people are doing. And then I’m like, “That’s great, I should do something like that”, and I feel like if I take myself out of that loop and start looking at nature, or art, or start obsessing about a texture or something, then I get into something more. It’s sustainable for me in the sense that it becomes my style, my signature, and it doesn’t really change that much anymore. I’m often inspired by something organic; I made these ceramic dishes based on leaves of the Lotus plant, and I had them because I was working on this big sculpture out of leaves for a furniture company, but suddenly I was like, “Wow, that’s beautiful.” The leaves came closed, and then I opened them and it was all this intoxicating green color and it looked like a dish. And then I just said, “Let’s try to see if we can get the texture into the shape.” Somehow, I didn’t even care if it was ceramic or glass or metal.

Green Collective
So, do you often design sculpture work when you’re designing interiors?

Nathalie Schwer
I used to do more floral installations. I also did some stage design for a festival here called Heartland, which is not just a music festival – it was music, art, talks and food. It was in a beautiful castle and the food was exquisite, like Michelin chefs. It was in the middle of a field; a crazy format for artists creating huge installations in nature. Then they asked me to design the setup for the talk stage. It was for artists like Brian Eno, Marina Abramovich, etc. I did these huge floral backdrops and weird installations to sort of bring the outside inside to the tent. I’ve made some weird sculptures. I once did something with cement and a lot of dried hay. I did a lot of live floral walls.

Green Collective
That’s really interesting. What is your background? And how did you end up doing what you do?

“I was very conceptual. I tended to challenge the format a lot.”

Nathalie Schwer
Well, I sort of floated for many years. I was always very creative. I never dared to apply to the design school here. It was too scary for some reason. And then I worked in fashion and different things, and then at one point, I just applied to a design school in Barcelona. Some of my friends were living there, and I thought it was nice. I was just like, “Whatever, I’ll do it,” and I got in, and I just went and it was pretty random. Then pretty much from the get-go at the design school in Barcelona, I could see that I had something. I was very conceptual. I tended to challenge the format a lot. Randomly I met the people who started Kinfolk; they used me a lot for styling and suddenly I was a sought-out stylist. Then I just took that ride and it was fun. I love to compose the pictures; I love being on shoots. But it also made me look for something that had a little bit more depth. I still do big campaigns and stuff but I treat them in a different way, mentally. And then I seek out my creative expression in different ways. For instance, now I work a lot with fashion photographers doing art projects, and I enjoy getting more into the interior designing part. Now I’m doing individual home interiors primarily for wealthy clients. It’s not a big tradition here [in Denmark] yet compared to the US. It’s still a little bit different. But it’s getting there.

Green Collective
You said that you’re very inspired by nature. How would you describe your aesthetic?

Nathalie Schwer
People describe my aesthetic as international; I have no idea what that means, but I don’t know what I like. Sometimes I can feel a little bit old school. I think about sustainability in many, many ways. I know that everybody in design companies now is looking at how they produce things and transport things and so on. But in fact, for me, sustainability also very much means to have a consistent style, not changing according to trend.

Green Collective
I know that Danes have appreciation for their history and tradition, and beautiful Danish architecture and design.

Nathalie Schwer
Yeah, very much here. That’s one thing that baffles me about my own aesthetics; I can look at my Pinterest and my books, and decide that I want to do something. And then I boil it down, I create something, and then the outcome is something that looks really different. I wanted it to be a thin line, and it’s a really thick line, or everything is cornered. And a teacher once had a sort of lecture about it; they call it the “intelligence of the hands.” I feel very strongly sometimes that your aesthetic is like the intelligence of your hands; it has sort of its own life that’s a little bit undefinable. That makes so much sense to me that you have sort of a spiritual, physical, “something” that processes that and then gives it a certain life.

Green Collective
On your website you state that your design studio explores and challenges our experience and perception of space. Could you talk a little bit about what that means to you?

“My assistants and I have worked abroad a lot, so we’ve tried to just challenge that sort of stuck notion of what a space is supposed to be like.”

Nathalie Schwer
I think that it has to be understood in a Danish context. We [Danes] are very good at doing things in a similar way. It’s very homogenic here, and that is really great. We have such a good life here in Denmark that we’ve had time to define: ‘What is the perfect dining table? What is the perfect cutlery? I need the perfect bed sheets.” And we reproduce the same type of aesthetic all the time. And we have that tendency for everybody to have the same bed linens and cutlery and lamps.

My assistants and I have worked abroad a lot, so we’ve tried to just challenge that sort of stuck notion of what a space is supposed to be like. How do we look at it in a more holistic way? I think the idea is really from a Danish context, because we tend to hear that it’s different from how other Danish people approach it. And it’s this “international thing” again. I’ve lived in New York; I’ve lived in Barcelona. My father’s Irish. We have family in Africa. I’ve traveled all over.

Green Collective
Could you talk a bit about the materials and producers that you work with when you design a space? What do you look for in furniture producers, or what types of materials are important to you?

Nathalie Schwer
It really depends on the project. For instance, right now I’m working on a hotel project. It has a budget which defines a lot. And then for a hotel, you have a lot of things to consider like fireproofing, you have a lot of wear and tear, you have a color palette that you have to challenge. I made a color palette for that hotel based on the original old building, to sort of bring in the history of it. So that really defined a lot, and then particularly what was available within the price range within a short amount of time; things like this also tend to have a lot of weight in projects.

Sometimes the architects have painted something, or chosen something that I can’t go against, so I have to just go with it. The space talks to you. The parameters are, I think, quite safe for me sometimes because without them I could choose anything in the world. I always bring in things that are old and I always try to mix up materials. I always try to have a color palette that is more earthy that I prefer to work in rather than strong colors. For me, it’s really about creating the perfect story for that space. Also, understanding who the client is. This hotel now, it’s a luxury kind of hotel, but in an area where there’ll be summer cabins. So, they’re trying to lift the area a little bit, but at the same time you want people to feel welcome to come inside. We tried to give it a more crafty, homey feeling without losing its elegance.

Green Collective
That’s important because I feel like sometimes people try to make a space too stuffy. You want people to be able to live or work in it. They should feel comfortable sitting on the sofa or putting something down on the table. You don’t want to feel like you’re in a set piece or a museum.

Nathalie Schwer
Or that you have to wear a certain piece of clothing to go through the front door. A lot of people have said to me that what they think I’m good at is being able to create very aesthetically pleasing spaces, that also look like somebody just left the couch.

By Ann-Sophie Fjellø-Jensen

Shop Designer
Dining table made for indoor use
DKK33.750
Handmade in Denmark
Dining chair made for indoor use
DKK6.900
Handmade in Denmark

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