It’s no secret that the traditional furniture fair format is undergoing a complete overhaul. Major platforms are rethinking how they accommodate their exhibitors inside and out of the traditional convention center venue. Tradespeople and consumers are looking for much more than just rows of dimly-lit booths that limit engagement and fluid exchange. One way in which these design industry agoras are changing is by welcoming city-wide programming: happenings that activate the myriad showrooms, temporary event spaces, repurposed government buildings, and even cultural institutions already in place. Brands are able to mount displays that are more site-specific and aligned with studio values.
Leading the charge in this new approach to the fair is Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design. Now in its tenth year, the annual event spreads across the Danish capital with hundreds of small yet thought-provoking exhibits, panel discussions, and parties. Immersive installations are mounted in grand fashion at historical palaces and underutilized retail spaces alike. Leading interior designers open their studios and homes. Playing on the country’s rich contribution to design history—especially during the modern period—the event takes as much of a cultural dimension as it does a commercial one.
With most of the heritage Danish furniture producers opting to employ this year’s event as their main launchpad, 3 Days of Design is rapidly joining the ranks of European design fairs like the Salone del Mobile. The post-pandemic shift toward localism is seeing top industry players become more selective about when and where they announce new developments. Why should one see the same products launching time and time again at similar events throughout the world when they can simply travel to a studio’s hometown once? However, it isn’t just recognized brands making a splash. 3 Days of Design plays host to several lesser-known boutique manufacturers and independent talents that operate in the city, Denmark, and nearby European countries, with goals to expand even more globally.
This year’s edition ran from June 7 to 9 and saw an influx of more than 100,000 visitors from around the world enjoy unexpected sunshine and moderately warm temperatures perfect for touring the different design districts. Fairgoers got a first look at new products from heavyweight brands like Hay, Muuto, and Fritz Hansen, but also had a chance to engage with a raft of educational happenings. Several thought-provoking showcases grappled with everything from next-level sustainability to the future of historic craft methodologies. Throughout, a particular focus was placed on the responsible and transformative use of wood—a material abundant in Scandinavia.
Here are AN Interior’s highlights from the 2023 edition of 3 Days of Design:
Dal Pieces by Anna Maria Øfstedal Eng for Ferm Living
Ferm Living is known for its craft-oriented tableware. Its organic furnishings are often upholstered with deeply textured natural fiber textiles procured responsibly from artisans all over the world. This year, the manufacturer debuted Norwegian polymath Anna Maria Øfstedal Eng’s innovative Dal Table. Cast in recycled aluminum, the amorphous design takes on the direct imprint of solid wood carved with a chainsaw. Allowing the material to guide her process is key.
Øfstedal Eng’s designs draw influence from the particularly striking natural settings that surround her workshop, just outside Oslo. And Ferm Living has been able to translate these prototypes into serial production using the latest molding technology. The design assumes an heirloom-like quality, but is produced using a single, highly recyclable material—easily melted down again for another application if necessary, it reflects a high standard of sustainability.
The Weight of Wood by Christian and Jade for Dinesen
Design Academy Eindhoven–trained duo Christian and Jade often explores material, process, and the innate relationship between people and objects with a conceptual perspective. For long-established Danish hardwood flooring manufacturer Dinesen, the studio chose to investigate one of the inherent properties of the natural material. Mounted in the brand’s showroom during 3 Days of Design, the Weight of Wood exhibition showcases an endless array of artifacts, evidence of empirical research, experiments, kinesthetic sculpture, and finished furniture prototypes.
Revealing how different types of wood carry different densities, the pair conceived a number of balance-based designs. The dynamic display was topped with by a large-scale seaway and masterfully crafted rocking chairs. In developing this concept, Christian and Jade set out to shed new light on a material we often take for granted: Wood has been so critical to our evolution, yet is a resource in danger of being depleted.
Time Made by David Dolcini, presented at the Institute of Italian Culture, Copenhagen
Contemporary Italian design also staked its claim during 3 Days of Design as renowned talent David Dolcini revealed his Time Made explorations of wood joinery at the Institute of Italian Culture. Curated by Triennale di Milano’ Marco Sammicheli, the serene showcase reveals a number of honest construction technique experiments the designer conducted during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Working from his family’s woodshop, he delved deep into the implementation and adaptation of age-old approaches to combining wood derived from different cultures, as well as inventing his own.
These speculative objects stem from his intention to work without the traditional constraint of client demands, deadlines, and cost considerations. Achieved at different scales, the iterative sculptures play on the aesthetics of contrasting colors, while also challenging the conventions of geometry and balance.
Colin King and Alex Crowder for Audo Copenhagen
Renowned “arranger of things” Colin King and site specific florist Alex Crowder collaborated on a near-architectural installation for Audo Copenhagen (formerly Menu). The designers collaborated to erect a structure out of common reed—phragmites australis—sourced nearby. The material is often used to thatch farmhouses throughout Denmark and so, was implemented as an expression of hyper localism with a naturalist perspective. The seemingly simple work—mounted within a penthouse suite at the brand’s hybrid hospitality retail complex—was constructed using rudimentary joinery techniques not dissimilar to those explored by David Dolcini.
Vaarnii at Tableau Copenhagen
Finnish awood furniture start-up Vaarnii has been making waves in the industry since coming on the scene at Milan Design Week 2021. Working almost exclusively with Pine species abundant throughout the Scandinavian region, the young brand has collaborated with hip independent studios like Soft Geometry as well as maverick talents like Max Lamb.
Choosing the display of its full product range of Brutalism-inspired, mono-material furnishing at floral shop and collectible design platform Tableau, the boutique manufacturer was able to create a playful juxtaposition. A new hyper minimal 001 Stool by Swedish designer Fredrik Paulsen is on display alongside a plethora of the gallery’s maximalist one-off works. The opposition of styles actually revealed a similarity in bold sculptural expression and a willingness to break the mold.
Yabu Pushelberg for Man of Parts
Debuting its most comprehensive gamut of furnishings, luminaires, and accessories to date, Toronto-based manufacturer Man of Parts tapped longtime collaborators George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, cofounders of famous studio Yabu Pushelberg. On display was a sophisticated sofa by Christophe Delcourt, a cantilevered armchair by Sebastian Herkner, and coastal-inspired wooden table by Workshop/APD. The design duo staged these new wares in various domestic vignettes within the Rococo-style Odd Fellow Mansion, an important multi-exhibition stop at the fair.
Atelier Collection, Reform
To launch its new Atelier collections, Danish kitchen industry disruptor Reform called on four standout talents to imagine handles in four materials. While Yukari Hotta considered the application of hand-former ceramics in this typology, Nina Nørgaard implemented cast glass. Alberte Tranberg treated bent metal, and Maria Bruun explored the various woodworking techniques. The ergonomic quality of her natural and smoked oak designs evoke the honest simplicity of craft, a trait honed by the Shakers. The research development, prototypes, and research samples of all four talents were put on full display at Reform’s flagship during 3 Days of Design.
Tee Chair by Matteo Fogale for NINE Furniture
Launched earlier this year, British boutique brand NINE Furniture has already tapped major European talents like John Tree and the Butterfield Brothers for its pared-back, no-nonsense furnishings. Manufacturing its controlled range of chairs, luminaires, and storage systems based on increasingly relevant principles of modularity, longevity, and durability in mind, the company almost only uses recycled materials. It also champions the tried-and-true strategy of flat pack shipping to meet new sustainability standards. Among the raft of designs debuted at 3 Days of Design, Mateo Fogale’s Tee Table is imbued with the innate structural qualities of solid wood. Rendered in stout intersectional planes, the geometric composition seems suited for almost any interior.
Adrian Madlener is a New York–based writer and curator.