At the beginning of 2014, René Hansen and Nicki van Roon moved in together. They needed furniture, as you do.
But instead of raiding the nearest IKEA, Nicki, a graduate from The School for Visual Communication in Haderslev, and René, a graduate in Industrial Design at Aalborg University, decided to combine their expertise in industrial and graphic design to build their own.
They had so much fun doing it that by April that same year they had decided to launch their own furniture design brand Roon & Rahn. They immediately started making a name for themselves. They were awarded the Ilva’s design prize in 2014, the Nordic Buzz Award at last year’s Formland design fair and are currently nominated for the Entrepreneurship Award in Business Region Aarhus.
But the Aarhus-based entrepreneurs are not stopping there. With the DNA of the company firmly established, “our style is decoratively integrated functional design”, Roon & Rahn is only just getting started. “At the moment we are making deals with agents around Europe, which means we are jumping the borders of little Denmark.”
While expanding out of ‘little Denmark’ is the logical next step, being based in Aarhus offers a strong and well-connected design community. Godsbanen, where Roon & Rahn’s creative workshop/office is located, is a big building with even bigger opportunities. “There are open workshops such as for printing, textile, form, wood and metal work. There are different start-ups, architects, carpenters, musicians; there’s a theater, a movie company, and a restaurant, all under one roof. It is a creative hub for making acquaintances and starting all kinds of innovative projects,” they explain.
Innovation is something that drives Roon & Rahn’s design process. They add: “Theres is no single source of inspiration. It is the sum of a lot of different inputs and we believe mainly in the idea of having a problem and creating the right solution for it. At Roon & Rahn we let the limitations of our surroundings and materials lead us to paths of innovation.”
It’s an exciting process. The duo note, “You have to try it out, evaluate, and try again. You learn through prototyping solutions, and it’s never going to be perfect the first time. We build our ideas as fast as possible so we can test them in the environment they are meant for.”
But it isn’t always easy and René and Nicki have made valuable lessons they can pass on to anyone starting out, saying “Life is probably gonna suck during various periods of trying to start a business. Maybe the first business even fails. But failure is nothing more than a very important lesson for your next move.”
With Danish design being internationally renown, it is interesting to see how young design companies such as Roon & Rahn are shaping its future.
“To me Danish design can be two different things.” René explains, “The first is how we are viewed internationally for our history of modern design, shaped by designers such as Wegner, Arne Jacobsen and Jacob Jensen in terms of furniture. The second is my own, maybe more academic, view, where Danes have adapted to integrated design solutions, allowing for broader solutions to complex problems beyond mere aesthetics.
In terms of furniture, Danish design is evolving through brands such as Normann and Muuto, as they pave the way beyond having to rely on the reputation of old design masters. Roon & Rahn takes inspiration both approaches. They are predominantly inspired by the functional, organisational or communicative, but nevertheless retain the warm and inviting aesthetics of the classic Danish furniture.
Roon & Rahn also believe in the rise of conscientiousness and sustainability. The main parts of all their products come from renewable and recycled sources. “But,” they say, “we can always do better. As can all companies. It is part of the problem solving.”
The future for Roon & Rahn looks exciting. Especially when asked what their favourite piece of furniture is they’ve made so far, and René answers “It’s definitely not a constant for me. My favourite piece is always the next thing. It’s exciting to get started on a new project.”
All images via Roon & Rahn