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Head of Design at Sofakompagniet Line Nevers Krabbenhøft is on her way to Vietnam the day after we meet and she couldn’t be more excited. “It’s like Christmas morning for me!” she gushes as we sit in the brand’s Copenhagen showroom. Her annual trip to the country where Sofakompagniet has their factory isn’t a holiday; it’s when she finally gets to see the prototypes for the latest furniture collection she and her design team have made. This is the end of a six to nine month process from conceptualizing to actual prototype, a length of time that Line says indicates how thoughtful each collection is.
“I worked in fashion for 18 years,” she explains, “and eventually I got to a point where I was doubling back on my own designs. Things had come into fashion, gone out, and come back in again.”
“I realized that I wanted something slower-moving, where the pace of production wasn’t so frenetic. I wanted to enjoy the design process.”
So Line left her fashion job and went back to school for a Master’s in Design Management, focusing on “homeliness” (how to create interior spaces). When she graduated in 2016, she immediately began working in interiors, finding her way to Sofakompagniet in 2018.
“In furniture design, the process feels really deep and grounded because we know that the items are not only beautiful, they’re useful in a very day-to-day way. And they should last for many years, so it’s something people really consider before buying. I wanted to put that same consideration into the way I design,” says Line.
So what does it mean to be Head of Design at a sofa company? Line takes us through the design process:
“We are sofa specialists, so we start the process with a problem-solving workshop. We ask ourselves ‘what are the problems people are having with their sofas? What do you solve by having a sofa?’ It’s basically a big brainstorm. The workshop takes place somewhere out of the office – usually one of our homes – because we want to stimulate our creativity,” Line says.
Next, the team of five (Line plus four designers) do trend research. Line notes: “we think about trends in terms of interiors, colors, fashion; it’s all relevant. We know that if something is in fashion, about six months later that will trickle down to interiors. So we’re aware of that, although we don’t always cater to it.”
“We make sure that we’re always relating back to the classic craftsmanship and silhouettes of midcentury modern Danish furniture. It’s important to us that we carry that design heritage through, while also bringing in contemporary styles and needs,” says Line.
“Once we’ve made it through the conceptual phase, we draw!” Line exclaims. “It’s so much fun to finally get those ideas onto paper. Usually the team will meet 3 – 4 times over a few weeks to iron out the lines of the sofas and other furniture such as chairs and tables. There are usually about 12 pieces per collection, with three to four of those being sofas. There are also always re-runs for our most popular models.”
After the drawing, it’s time to get the furniture made. “We hand the drawings over to our manufacturing team in Vietnam – two of our designers are already based there – and they take over the process. It’s about two to three months between handing over the designs to actually seeing the prototypes. Seeing them for the first time is one of the most amazing feelings!” Line says.
Once Line and her team get to see and interact with the prototypes, they can make any necessary changes before the sofa or other furniture goes into production for the public.
“Best case scenario is that the prototype is perfect,” explains Line, “but sometimes we have to go through a few iterations before it’s approved. It’s typical for us to have two prototypes before we get it right, usually not more than that. Any sofa we don’t end up using gets sold via an outlet, so nothing gets wasted.”
When all of the prototypes have been approved, they’re ready to be sold on the Sofakompagniet website. “The fact that we have our own factory makes us really flexible and dynamic,” Line says. “We can order just a few of something to test out the market, then order more if it’s successful, or stop production if it’s not. We’re able to respond to what our customers want much more quickly, and I think that’s a big aspect of our problem-solving philosophy. It’s not just about the ‘before’ in the design process, it’s also about the ‘after.'”
The “after” is, in fact, where the design team gets a lot of their inspiration for the next collection. “We do customer surveys, and I also make sure that our designers spend two to three days per year in the showroom in Copenhagen, asking customers about what they want from their sofas. That’s where we get some of our best information, because we can see how people are interacting with the furniture and what their desires are,” says Line.
Once the sofa is in your home, how you use and style it becomes paramount to whether it will be a piece you want to keep around for many years. Line’s styling advice is simple:
“Put as much textile into your home as possible,” she says , “because that softens everything. That’s what will make a space feel like home. And don’t get everything brand new! Mix in a few flea-market, secondhand, or vintage pieces. When everything is too new, it looks kind of soulless.”
Styling advice aside, Line says that there’s really only one reason that she designs sofas: “it’s to make peoples’ lives better. Furniture is something everyone has in their house, and I feel really proud that we make not only really beautiful and high-quality sofas, but also that they’re affordable. Everyone should have a sofa that they love.”
“In Danish and Scandinavian culture, the sofa is where everyone gathers, so we want to make sure we have a good one that will last. That’s where I come from when I design. The sofa is in the heart of the home, so we want it to be the best it can be,” says Line.
With her attention to detail – both aesthetic and quality – as well as her desire to bring joy and functionality to all those who buy Sofakompagniet sofas, Line knows she is in the right place.
“Making people feel at home with our sofas is my top goal,” Line explains, “so if I’m doing that, I’m happy.”
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