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The Swedish design studio Form Us With Love creates concepts, furniture and products for well-known companies such as Ikea and Hem. We visited the two founders during the Stockholm Design Week 2024 to talk to them about nose to tail in the furniture industry and why they turn down so many requests for collaboration.

By Jasmin Jouhar

Photo: Form Us With Love

On the Stockholm city centre island of Kungsholmen, not far from the famous City Hall: here, right on the shores of Lake Mälaren, is the Form Us With Love (FUWL) studio. FUWL is a ten-person design team led by the two founders John Löfgren and Jonas Pettersson. They not only design furniture and products for companies such as Ikea, +Halle, Hem and Keilhauer. They also develop concepts and have already co-founded several companies, including BAUX, a manufacturer of sustainable acoustic products.

During Stockholm Design Week, you are showing the “Testing Grounds” exhibition in your studio with four new product families for the companies Stolab, Savo, Forming Function and Ateljé Lyktan. What challenges do you face in your work as designers today?

Jonas Pettersson: We ask ourselves how we can use design to understand people’s needs. Another aspect is how we can make things in an intelligent way. And then, of course, the impact on the environment. These aspects come together in the exhibition. For all four products, our research has led to a modular design. When the products are made up of individual parts, customers have a choice. Production is more efficient. And this also provides an answer to the question of how things can be extended, repaired and ultimately taken apart in order to be recycled.  

Testing Grounds | Form Us With Love

John Löfgren: I would put it differently. They are not challenges; they are opportunities. Because we are living in a time when things are being reorganised. The furniture industry is actually a fairly conservative sector, but a lot is happening right now, for example in the way materials are used. That wasn’t the case three or five years ago. Take the large felt lamp “Hood” by ateljé Lyktan, for example. It’s been on the market for over ten years, but now we’ve developed an update. It is now not only available in recycled PET, but also in wool or hemp.

One of your current projects is called “Easy Mining”. It is about utilisation options for sewage sludge. What was your task?

Jonas Pettersson: The order came from Ragn-Sells, a Swedish waste disposal company. They are currently planning a new plant in which components of sewage sludge are to be processed. Our project was specifically about red quartz sand, for which they had no previous use. They needed proof that they could utilise the material. So we investigated what could be done with it. Paint? Bricks? Acoustic materials? Sand is the second most utilised material in the world after water. Unfortunately, however, the quartz sand from sewage sludge cannot simply be fed directly into the construction industry. They want new material.

John Löfgren: It is often much cheaper to use new materials.

Jonas Pettersson: A few years ago, we worked with Ikea on a series of products made from recycled plastic. This included the “Odger” chair. At the time, it was often a question of whether customers were even ready to buy a product made from recycled material. That was a big question mark. But as it turned out, they were. That paved the way for many other companies: if Ikea can do it, then so can we.

John Löfgren: Let’s take the table from the new “Alt” collection for Stolab: If you take a closer look at it, you can see that it is made of quite small pieces of wood. Normally, such pieces are not used at all in the furniture industry but are burnt. We must try to utilise materials as comprehensively as possible, nose to tail, so to speak, as in cooking. But then not everything can be white and high-gloss.

Jonas Pettersson: It’s about changing the norms. Do we accept imperfections in recycled materials? The industry has always been about perfecting, perfecting, perfecting. Material seemed to be endlessly available. But soon we will have ten billion people on the planet, we need to reuse materials.

When there is so much going on, are these good times for designers?

Jonas Pettersson: I’m split on that. When it comes to my private life, my family, my children, I worry about the future. But when I come to work, I often feel enthusiastic, I feel more heard with my concerns. The industry wants to change. It’s no longer about making beautiful things.

Do you also turn down enquiries from companies?

Jonas Pettersson: We are actually not very good at saying no. But we still turn down quite a few requests, that happens quite naturally. For example, if someone comes and says: There’s this a particular product on the market, I want something like that. We don’t do that. We also have to justify our projects in a team of ten people. You can’t just say, I like that. You have to justify why a project is relevant.

You work a lot with architects and interior designers who select your products for their projects. What are their wishes and requirements?

John Löfgren: When you ask, you usually get the expected answers. But our task is to design something that is a little different. Something that hasn’t been seen before. I doubt that 15 years ago many people would have said, I want to make all my phone calls in a little box that looks like a cupboard. But these pods are everywhere now.

BAUX Acoustic Tiles | Form Us With Love

Jonas Pettersson: It’s also about the context of a product. A design is used in so many ways that we can’t even foresee it. That’s how we feel about the acoustic elements from BAUX, for example. When we founded the company, we naturally had an idea of what the products could be used for. In reality, however, they are often used in completely different ways.

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