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Fritz Hansen hygges Manila

Fritz Hansen master craftsman Hans Mannerhagen’s secret to 19 years of making the best chairs: “Slow life and good food.”  Photos by JUN MENDOZA

You’d think polar nights and winters barely above freezing in Scandinavia would dampen anyone’s spirits and productivity, yet here are the Danish — how are they happier and wealthier than everybody else?

Hygge, pronounced as hoo-guh, is the short version of a complicated answer. Like kilig in Tagalog, it is a word that is better conveyed when felt than when translated verbatim into any other language. There are entire bookstore sections, even university classes on the matter. You’ve probably accessorized your abode with prettier plants, pictures, and candles as the concept made inroads around the world in the past year. As more people prefer to stay in and with technology isolating us slowly, there’s a craving for warmth and company.

The term was a finalist to the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 word of the year shortlist; Fritz Hansen VP Asia Pacific and Middle East Dario Reicherl, an Italian who concedes that the best quality of life is that of his comrades in Denmark, came up with his definition: “It’s a psychological approach to being happy. You can achieve this state of mind through interior design.”

As its visual expression, the Danish luxury furniture giant expanded its Manila showroom three times its previous size in the high-ceilinged, once-stark Studio Dimensione. It is now awash in the Danish palette of evoking a sunlit room in the four to six months a year when the sun doesn’t rise. There’s a lot of light grey and light green, and in the furniture, there’s warmth from natural fabric and material colors like creams, browns, and blues. Light oak floors, frame paneling, and lots of strategically-installed little spotlights ground all these beautiful things. Stylized vignettes abound, some are from Fritz Hansen’s new accessories line Objects. (The Ikebana vase has a three-month waitlist).

Reicherl says, “If you go up to anyone on the streets of Denmark and ask them to show you their house, it’ll be more beautiful than this showroom. They have hygge in their DNA, they grew up with the idea that their house must be warm.”

Coming from a new generation of designers is Fritz Hansen’s current go-to designer Jaime Hayon, known for his curvy signature, breathing fresh air into the Nordic portfolio with the Lune. Lune is Danish for a certain coveted temperature and that feeling you get when something is finally just right. Hayon’s interpretation is a modular sofa made of four layers of material with a top layer of duck and goose feather, making it the first soft chair from the brand.

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 “When you sit on it, it won’t wrinkle,” Reicherl points out, adding jokingly that, “It won’t give the Danish depression.”

 

 

 

 

During the launch, Fritz Hansen master craftsman Hans Mannerhagen did a live hand-stitching demonstration, the finishing touches of not one but two Egg chairs in Elegance leather (the finest ones around), the only Egg chairs made in the Philippines, albeit partially. Mannerhagen did 1,150 stitches by hand with such rhythm and cadence; he has been doing this for 19 years, after all. Now 45, from five, he admits he can now only make two Eggs in a week — which is still not bad. “Slow life, good food,” he claims, is his approach to hygge.

The most difficult part about making each Egg? “Stretching the hides in water to give the leather a smooth finish on the chair,” he says. An Egg chair is made of two hides.

Watching Mannerhagen at work calls to mind architect and designer Arne Jacobsen himself in his garage carving out a prototype out of plaster, a solid technical material that hadn’t been used to do a chair until then, with a kitchen knife, and then stitching up the upholstery of the very first Egg.

It was all for that vision of creating coziness in transient spaces. The Egg chair was part of Jacobsen’s design for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen in 1958 (now Ra disson Blu Royal Hotel), the first design hotel ever, where he designed everything from the structure as an architect to the furniture, the carpets, even the uniform for the staff, changing the history of hospitality.

Jacobsen worked on the Egg chair on his own for three years. Fritz Hansen didn’t know about it until Jacobsen presented the Egg to be the hotel’s lounge chair, hatching the Swan and Drop chairs for other parts of the hotel.

Before the Egg, the concept of the lounge chair didn’t exist. There were only big wooden dining chairs and severe rationalist sofas by modern movement pioneers like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.

The adjectives “iconic,” “revolutionary,” and “timeless” get thrown around a lot in design, but this mid-century classic actually merits it. It epitomizes accessible modernism, dateless at almost 60 years, whether finished in fabric or leather or upholstered in prints or a solid hue, fresh but also completely at home in a minimalist lounge, a classical home, or in elaborate film sets from Stanley Kubrick’s space-age masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey to Zoolander where it’s camped up in white, among many others. Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez and wife, Rep. and STAR columnist Lucy Torres-Gomez, are among its many famous owners. Theirs is Mannerhagen’s Manila Egg chair in walnut. Reicherl adds, “The Egg chair is Jacobsen’s favorite.”

The Egg’s gentle curves are made of a hard, solid shell with fiberglass in the edge. Mannerhagen says, “It’s sharp. You can spot the difference between a fake and an original there. The fake is fat because it has foam. The edge is very round because outside there is fiberglass.” Describing it like this doesn’t sound very hygge, but when you sit, the top part gives you privacy, no matter what your height is. Mannerhagen points to a slight curve on the upper back, otherwise undetectable at a glance or when you opt to just flop onto it. “This is what supports the base of the neck. That’s where all stress is. Even if it isn’t soft, it’s comfortable because it curves to the back,” he explains.

 “The reason why people like Fritz Hansen is not because it is timeless, collectible, or that it is of fantastic quality, but because of the kind of life it inspires. We want people to spend more time at home. Maybe it won’t change your entire life but a beautiful house will make you happy,” says Reicherl, and not in the materialistic, show-off sense of owning designer furniture. “The Egg chair is nice even after 20 years because they get a patina and become glossy. The one I have in leather has my daughter’s saliva when she was one and she drew all over it as a little girl. I want it to stay there. It’s a fond memory.”

In our side of the world where heat and humidity fire up our restlessness, the wintertime lesson of hygge reminds us to hibernate once in a while and care for the connections closest to us. Catch up with family over breakfast or invite friends over to dinner. Or it could be the one you have with yourself. Of course, you don’t need an Egg or Lune to do this. But sinking into the sculptured chairs cocooning me, it sure feels much better.

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In Manila, Fritz Hansen is at Studio Dimensione, One Parkade, 28th St. corner 7th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. For inquiries, email studiodimensione1@gmail.com or call (02) 736 3728. Follow them on Instagram @fritzhansenstore_manila and @dimensioneph for updates.

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