Emma Olbers

“A furniture designer with an eco heart”, Emma Olbers is engaged in creative collaborations with several major Scandinavian design brands. She is a firm believer in sustainability and strives to incorporate recyclable and reusable components in her designs. Over the years, she has worked with a variety of furniture producers such as Ikea, Ire Mobel, Tre Sekel, Eldvarm, Skagerak, and many other brands.

FAE: What inspired you to become a designer?

Emma Olbers : My dad has always been very interested in design products. He actually bought a Dieter Rams Stereo with his first salary. So I guess my home when I grew up, inspired me a lot.

FAE: During your initial years at IKEA, what was the one design principle you learnt that you still follow today?

Emma Olbers : Probably if you can easily assemble the product at a lower cost, it saves value for both your wallet and the environment to transport.

FAE: What was your motivation behind setting up your own design studio in 1999?

Emma Olbers : I grew up with parents that had their own company, so that was a natural way for me to do it. And also at that time, there were not that many places in Sweden where you could be employed as a designer.

FAE: Please share with us a few of your favorite designs over the years.

Emma Olbers : Among designs by others, it would be: Poul Kjaerholm’s sofa PK31, one of BörjeMogensens lounge chairs, and Cesta lamp designed by Miguel Milá.

Some of my own favourite designs are: Rejoin sofa by Ire Mobel, Carpet Star by Asplund, Fire accessories by Eldvarm, Penholder by Skultuna, and Director’s chair by Skagerak.

FAE: How do you integrate sustainability into your designs?

Emma Olbers :I start with the end – recycling! What is going to happen with our furniture when we have used it? The choice of material is probably the most important issue if you want to care for our planet. As we all know, we need to lower are use of CO2 to keep the temperature on our planet under two degrees. For furniture, the most important stage is the production stage, compared to clothing or cars (they use more CO2 when they exist). So I try to work with materials that use less CO2. Or if I use leather that uses a lot CO2, I use in small parts where it will help the furniture to last longer.

FAE: Have you ever had to make some changes into your initial design concept to comply with your sustainable goals?

Emma Olbers : Probably a lot of times. I don’t remember an exact moment, but especially when you start thinking of separating your furniture for recycling, a lot of times you do have to rethink.

FAE: Your “Rejoin” sofa was honoured with the ‘Furniture of the Year’ award. Can you give us some details about that project?

Emma Olbers : It is a modular sofa, what I would call an honest modular sofa, that you as a costumer can always change the way you place the parts. All parts have real fabric on all sides and all sides look good, so it´s easy to change it afterwards many times. The sofa cover is changeable, so you can buy a new cover whenever you feel, which gives the sofa a longer life. The corners which get most wear and tear are covered with vegetable tanned leather that protects the corners. Vegetable tanned leather also ages very nicely.

FAE: Tell us a bit about one of your recent works: the Landala Table.

Emma Olbers : The Landala Table just got Furniture of the Year by three Swedish magazines (Sköna Hem, Plaza Interior and Residence).

It is a table that can be knocked down and you are able to take it apart. So it comes as a flat pack with only four parts plus screws and wedges. It is made of Swedish pinewood. The coating is soap-washed. It’s very easy to assemble after use. Then of course, if it is okay that I say it myself, it looks nice and welcoming. The corners that are soft make that look. It is only 75 centimeters wide which makes people sit close to each other and hopefully not talk so loud.

FAE: Finally, what are your plans for the future?

Emma Olbers : I hope I can find more recycled materials. I am just now looking for recycled polyester, so if anyone out there knows anything about recycled polyester, they please contact me!

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