i was in norway last week with ekornes, scandinavia’s leading furniture manufacturer. haven’t heard of them? well i have to confess, i was only vaguely aware of them before i was invited on the trip but you don’t turn down the opportunity to fly (by private jet!) to such a beautiful country and be given an exclusive introduction to a brand, do you?
set in near idyllic surroundings, most stressless recliners today are made in the village of sykkylven, where the ekornes factory combines old world craftsmanship with advanced technology. the panoramic landscape of snow-capped mountains and majestic fjords is visible from every window in the factory, bringing the harmonious sense of peace and clarity inside, and infusing all aspects of the production line.
the skilled local workforce perform tasks that require a keen eye and an innate sense of excellence, including upholstering and quality control, while precision robots handle mechanical functions, including the repetitive action that produces the ultra-smooth wood finishes on every stressless.
it was fascinating to observe the robots at work and see them performing their own specific task with high precision – each one takes on a personality all of it’s own and becomes quite mesmerising! i tried to shoot a little video to share with you, but this one by christoffer høghjelle stette captures the quiddity of the robot’s characters so perfectly that nothing i could have create would have been nearly as accomplished!
when ekornes first launched stressless in 1971 it was hailed as an amazing blend of comfort and function, and the line has remained true to that core value ever since. the brand ethos is that working in the midst of such an awe-inspiring environment fills one with a renewed respect for mother nature, and stressless want nothing less than for the sense of true physical comfort to be attained through their seating. their reclining chairs and sofas provide an advanced level of support and comfort for the head and lower back, with the patented stressless plus system adapting to the changing contours of your back as you recline helping to keep your spine in proper alignment.
every single component on a stressless sofa is manufactured by the fjords of norway and it’s not hard to imagine that the tranquillity of the surrounds could seep into the heart of their products, from the soft space-age foam cushioning to the automatic ‘glide’ system that allows you to adjust your seating position seamlessly.
and it doesn’t stop there. true comfort is in the eye of the beholder, and it is no good having a highly calibrated inner mechanism if the outward aesthetic is not as highly considered as well. stylish wood trims are married with high quality durable fabrics and leathers in an array of beautiful colours to offer seating combinations that are perfectly tailored to their customer’s lifestyle and setting.
a short ferry and coach ride later i found myself at ekornes’ flagship showroom in ålesund – housed in an old seahouse on the picturesque harbourfront – where i was greeted by berit steffenssen, who has worked as ekornes’ interior decorator for over 20 years!
as she walked me round the myriad of floors it was inspiring to hear about the restoration of the 1920’s structure, which had been acquired by ekornes in 2000, and took 2 years to complete. formerly a storehouse for fish(!) the original interior had been painted entirely in white, and needed to be stripped back to exposed wooden beams to help eliminate the fishy odour and create a light, airy, rustic feel throughout.
my eye was immediately drawn to the sumptuous siena mustard yellow that popped in the early morning sunshine – isn’t that colour just delightful? all of the furniture ‘room-sets’ have been carefully considered and styled by berit to enhance the overall sense of wellbeing in the showroom, and work in harmony with the natural allure of the waters just beyond the (original, 1926) window frames.
for me though, the real luxury of stressless comes through in the attention to (practical) detail. i loved the cleverly designed easy-armrest tables, integrated swing trays and optimal height side tables that help add that extra special touch of luxury and ensure your morning cuppa or evening tipple is never out of reach! armrests double as practical storage places in the home cinema range, while ottomans offer more expansive storage options, and with the addition of a handy table top can double as handy refreshment tables – nifty, right?
i must say, i’ve almost been inspired to pack up my city abode and head to the (norwegian) coast to try and capture some of that alluring nordic charm for myself; can you imagine how blissful it would be to wake on a quiet sunday morning and take time to stretch out on your sofa – coffee cup in hand – enjoying your favourite novel, safe in the knowledge you’re being perfectly supported by your sofa? or how about being able to sit in a stressless jazz, your laptop held on an integrated computer table, blogging to your heart’s content in front of a jaw-droppingly stunning view (such as this one from my hotel room in geiranger, or the one below shot at 10pm in the showroom!)…