Function and Sensibility

An interview with Ann Marie Ekroth, creative director and partner at design studio Koncept Stockholm, about teamwork, inspirations and Scandinavian tradition

Ann Marie Ekroth, most of Koncept Stockholm's projects are urban architectural and interior designs in the sector of bars, restaurants and hotels. How would you yourself describe your design philosophy?
At Koncept, we always start with defining our client’s purpose and what mood or sensibility the project should communicate. A lot of our projects are urban since their target group is urban and savvy, but we also do projects with quite a different feel. It all depends on the client’s purpose with the project. Having early established what the project should communicate we discuss in terms of what is right or wrong in reaching the defined goal instead of “I like this but I don’t like that based on personal taste”. We like this working method since we can find new challenges and expressions in each project and work closer to our clients.

For some of your projects you mention movies as a source of inspiration. In general, which role does pop culture play for your work? Do you cooperate with artists and specialists from other creative disciplines?
I think it is super important to look outside the design world for inspiration. Many of our clients are not working in design or architecture so finding a common ground can be easier if we step into the realm of art, fashion, set design, and graphic design. This approach has given us the opportunity to collaborate with artists and graphic designers in our projects. Their contribution adds an additional layer and uniqueness to the project. Especially in our retail and hospitality projects we’ve often collaborated with artists and galleries.

You also work on apartment buildings, especially focusing on branding concepts and interior of this building typology. Could you elaborate on this a bit? What are the main criteria asked for by your clients?
The character of new residential projects in Stockholm has changed quite a lot in recent years. We’re seeing a demand for branded residential projects. Our aim is to deliver a dream home for the homebuyer, from the tiles in the bathroom, to the coffee bar downstairs where you pick up your morning coffee, to the park outside where you spend your Sunday mornings. It needs to be a consistent offer so we start with existing qualities in the neighbourhood and then add contemporary layers of design and content in collaboration with the client, municipality and business entrepreneurs.

Scandinavian design has a high reputation with the modernist but sensual designs of the last mid-century. How far does this background influence you? Would you say that there is something like a 'typical Scandinavian' design today?
If I should pinpoint something typical Scandinavian I’d say a blond palette comes to mind. Our scope is broader; we work with a broader palette. What we have taken from this tradition is an interest to pair function with aesthetics. All our projects do a job in communicating a sensibility and doing it in a comfortable and functional setting. Attention to detail is another. Something that is very Scandinavian in approach is our working method in the office. We always work in teams and each project is a team achievement.

Koncept Stockholm was founded in Stockholm in 1998. The company now has around 70 employees, eight of which are partners. The four business segments are retail, hospitality, workplace and residential. Working mostly with Swedish clients, built projects can be found from northernmost Sweden to South Africa, from Canada and Mexico in the west to Thailand in the east.

Source: Koelnmesse, reprint free of charge.