The son of a cabinetmaker, Hee Welling grew up watching materials transformed into products by hands and machinery through processes, which shaped his design philosophy. Today, he is a prolific designer and educator, and his studio in Copenhagen, Hee Welling Design, is a frequent collaborator of well-known furniture brands such as Lapalma, Cane-line and Hay.
Hee’s collaborations with Hay, for instance, date back to 2004 and are still going strong. The brand’s popular AA Collection or AAC, comprising a family of highly versatile chairs that can easily traverse the residential and commercial setting, keeps expanding. The latest additions are the AAC (About-A-Chair) and AAL (About-A-Lounge) Soft, which were recently virtually introduced in Singapore in an event hosted by distributor Proof Living. We asked Hee to tell us more.
WHAT MAKES SCANDINAVIAN DESIGN UNIVERSALLY APPEALING?
It is based on simplicity, logic, superb craftsmanship, minimal visual expression, respect for the environment, longlasting materials and close collaborations between the designer and the manufacturer. I believe that the combination of these things is the main reason why it is still relevant and has universal appeal.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON FURNITURE REPLICAS?
It remains a huge problem for the design industry in Denmark. But it’s good that more and more manufacturers that used to replicate designs have found that it is much more interesting and rewarding to invest in creating their own collections. This is great for the local young designers, too.
The customers also need to understand that buying a replica is a bad investment; the quality is often so lousy that it will only last for a short time, while the original can last for decades and fetch high prices in second-hand or auction markets. So buying cheap replicas really doesn’t make sense.
WHAT CHARACTERISES A HEE WELLING PRODUCT?
I grew up surrounded by Scandinavian design traditions. I worked and played in my father’s carpentry workshop since I was six, so I see myself as a product of that combination.
When designing new furniture, I always focus on simple shapes, high comfort, functionality, sustainable materials and well-considered construction. Hopefully, these intentions can be seen in the final products.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE AA COLLECTION’S SUSTAINABILITY ASPECT?
We have spent a lot of time in the construction of AAC products so that their parts can be easily separated when they eventually need to be disposed of. They can be sorted according to materials – steel, aluminium, wood, plastic and so on – and then recycled.
Another focus has been to create a timeless visual expression with a high level of comfort, ergonomy and functionality. We want to make it relevant for generations. The AA Eco variants in the range feature shells made from recycled plastic, while wood used for the base is FSCprotected and treated with a water-based lacquer.
WHAT IS THE BEST DESIGN ADVICE YOU’VE HAD?
A professor at KADK (The Royal Danish Academy) told me to always keep it simple and follow my intuition.
HOW HAS THE NEW NORMAL IMPACTED THE INDUSTRIAL DESIGN SCENE?
The last eight months have had a massive impact on the whole design industry. Markets have been shut down, projects have been put on hold, and most design fairs in the world have either been cancelled or postponed.
No one knows when – or if – things will ever be the same again. But we have found out that online meetings really work well and, in many cases, can replace physical meetings. That should make us travel a lot less in the future.
Hopefully, everyone has had some time to rethink the whole situation and find new ways to create better, smarter and more sustainable products, too. We all need to take responsibility in taking better care of the planet. We owe that to our kids.
text ASIH JENIE & MICHELLE LEE photos COURTESY OF HAY