Lessons a Filipino home can learn from Scandinavian design

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The interiors of Hablingbo Prästgården 154B, which was previously the locomotive shed of a small town in Gotland, Sweden. Photo by HENRIK NERO/ALEXANDER WHITE REAL ESTATE AGENCY from Scandinavia Dreaming, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — For Angel Trinidad, the lead researcher of Gestalten’s new book, “Scandinavia Dreaming: Nordic Homes, Interiors and Design,” it began with imaginings of her own dream.

“It’s been a dream for me to live in Sweden,” she shares, “ever since I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in European Studies from Ateneo [de Manila University]. So the interest in Europe was already there since I was a teenager.” Her love for Swedish indie music brought her closer to her dream destination. “I really love The Shout Out Louds, The Radio Dept., Club 8 … the classic Swedish indie bands,” she says. “And then from there, from their music, I started imagining what life in Sweden is like. How come they can make music like that? What kind of environment are they living in, what kind of atmosphere. So I started doing research about Sweden, and then the more I learned about the place, the more I fell in love.”

Shortly after her graduation from university, Trinidad applied — twice — to Erasmus Mundus, an initiative by the European Commission, eventually leading to her master’s degree in European Culture. “I didn’t give up,” she says, after failing to get into the program on her first try. “I was really sad the first time that I applied and didn’t get it. But I didn’t give up, because I really wanted to be there.” Since her chosen course was a mobility program, Trinidad spent a semester in Germany, with the next spent in Bilbao, Spain, before landing in the land of her dreams, Sweden. “For the third semester, you can choose any country you want to do an internship in and do your master thesis in, so I chose Sweden,” she laughs. “Siyempre!”

Angel Trinidad, the editor and lead researcher of "Scandinavia Dreaming," in Bar Luce, a Wes Anderson-designed cafe, in Milan, Italy. Photo courtesy of ANGEL TRINIDAD

Trinidad’s master thesis revolved around Swedish indie music and the country’s nation branding, “how Swedish indie represents Sweden as a nation, and how it helps with their cultural promotion,” as that was what her experience had been. “So I tried to apply that to nation branding, while at the same time doing an internship with the Philippine Embassy there.”

Now currently based in Amsterdam, Trinidad has made it a point to keep writing about Sweden, and her love for it, which has extended to the culture and lifestyle of the rest of the Nordic territories, in various magazines and publications like Holland Herald, KLM’s in-flight magazine — where she was editor — and TrendTablet, one of the leading platforms for trend forecasting. A couple of months after introducing herself to Gestalten, they approached her to be a part of a project they were working on: a then-untitled book on Scandinavian design and interiors.

Norrtullsgatan 22 is a corner apartment in Stockholm, Sweden that has undergone "extensive renovation," preserving the building's historical details and adding to it some contemporary Nordic features. Photo by HENRIK NERO/ALEXANDER WHITE REAL ESTATE AGENCY from Scandinavia Dreaming, Copyright Gestalten 2016

“Scandinavia Dreaming: Nordic Homes, Interiors and Design” is, at the root of it, an interior design book. Released in late September by Berlin-based Gestalten, currently one of the biggest publishers of design and art books in the world, it explores the nuances of Scandinavian design, as applied in personal spaces and homes found all over Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, and Denmark) and some of the other Nordic territories (Scandinavia, Finland, and Iceland), as well as different projects inspired and influenced by the region’s penchant for clean and thoughtful aesthetics.

When one hears the word “Scandinavia” these days, it is, perhaps, an automatic response to refer to “Kinfolk”-esque minimal whiteness that can feel boring and repetitive, but “Scandinavia Dreaming” is a testament that there’s so much more to Scandinavian design than suprematist white on white.

“Gestalten specifically asked me to look for new projects and new designers, and what else is out there aside from the minimal, white, and sparse design,” Trinidad explains. “So, I’m really happy I got that assignment, to be able to show people that there’s more to Scandinavian design than boring, white design, because I also find that boring! I like challenging design, you know, the more colorful but still harmonious and elegant, and still Scandinavian, which is heavily informed by the principle of ‘form follows function.’”

Hálfdan Lárus Pedersen's home, which he designed and built from reclaimed and salvaged materials from all over Iceland, took him 10 years to build. Photo by MIKAEL AXELSSON from Scandinavia Dreaming, Copyright Gestalten 2016

The triumph of “Scandinavia Dreaming” is the diversity of spaces and projects, found through extensive research and tapping into connections from the design scene, picked and presented to a willing audience. “I got to discover several of my favorite designers now,” Trinidad shares. “One example is Hálfdan [Lárus] Pedersen, and he’s Icelandic. I’m like, ‘That’s really amazing, when you can find new people or new projects.’ He uses 100 percent recycled materials. Everything is recycled, but it’s really beautiful and elegant. It doesn’t look like crap.”

For Trinidad, the appeal of Scandinavian design is the immediate calmness it imbues on those who experience it, regardless of the colors or patterns used in the resulting design. “I think Filipino design can use less busy-ness or less details,” she says. “Kasi sobrang chaotic na dito, tapos dagdag pa yung inner home. [It’s] to remove from the stress, parang it’s an escape from the daily chaos of city life.” She laments the lack of accessible and affordable Scandinavian-inspired furnishing in the Philippines. “I really think having [something like] an IKEA here would make a big difference. Everyone could have beautiful, minimal furniture at an affordable price.”

Her idea of the perfect fusion of traditional Filipino design and architecture and Scandinavian design principles, she thinks, is realized in The Henry Hotel, located on F.B. Harrison in Pasay City, and designed by Eric Paras of Artelano 11, a concept space and interior design studio located in the same compound. “I went to Old Manila with a friend and she showed me The Henry Hotel,” Trinidad says. “I like how they restored the old house and kept the old details, to preserve the historical value of the place, but at the same time, making it contemporary by using a lot of minimal furniture. It’s calm, and it’s very minimal, and at the same time, they used a lot of nice colors and preserved the original tiles. It’s so beautiful!”

Vega house is located on Vega Island, Norway, and was inspired by traditional Scandinavian boathouses or 'nausts.' Photo by ÅKE E:SON LINDMAN from Scandinavia Dreaming, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Trinidad’s understanding of space and environment as a refuge is evident and reflected in the spaces she has included in “Scandinavia Dreaming.” Many of the homes she selected provide answers to the questions posed by her younger self, linking the possibility of the kind of creative output that used to feel so far from what we know in the Philippines to the kind of environment occupied by those who create: that the output reflects the environment in which it was created or incubated, and vice versa.

For now, Trinidad has kept on dreaming about these spaces and more. Expanding on the book, she has set up an interior design blog called Keen on Walls, which is, true to form, a play on a song by The Radio Dept. called “Keen on Boys.” Although the blog was originally intended to focus on Northern design, even more research and a recent trip to Tokyo and Milan have encouraged her to look beyond the region and explore design from other parts of the world, particularly Japan. Trinidad says she admires the thought behind their design solutions. “I see a lot of similarities between the two [Japanese and Nordic design],” she says. “Nordic designers, they put a lot of thought into the process, and the materials used, and the reasons why they’re using specific things. What for? I like it, it’s a thoughtful design process."


Photo courtesy of Scandinavia Dreaming, Copyright Gestalten 2016

“Scandinavia Dreaming: Nordic Homes, Interiors and Design” is available in select branches of and by request from Fully Booked.