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Visionaries — Emma Olbers

What is the first thing you look for in a new project? 

— I look for new ways of solving a problem. I’m always trying to work with low carbon materials, so I try to find the best ways of using them. It’s always different, if it’s a sofa or chair or whatever it is. 

Do you usually have a clear vision that you stick to, or does it change throughout the project?

— I usually get an idea in the beginning that I follow through on. If I look at the furniture that I have created, most of the ideas came early. 

What are some of the most important materials to use today?

— The ones with low co2e and recycled material. It’s also important to use as little material as possible. The material with super low carbon is bamboo and all fast growing fibres. And after that comes wood. 

Has your perspective on sustainability changed your view on aesthetics?

— Yes, I think it has. I really like the way leather ages, but it emits 300 times more carbon than wood. So a leather sofa is not that beautiful actually. It’s the same with virgin plastic. 

It’s been a very special year. Has your role as a designer changed because of the pandemic?

— I think we can help, not only designers but all creative professions. We are the ones that can visualise a new image of the future, and bring new ways of living. 

Are there any new visions of the future that you’ve seen recently?

— I think we can see many things already. With the use of electric cars that doesn’t make as much noise, we get quieter cities, as we see in Oslo and Stockholm. Cities plant more trees now, which is important. I really think a more sustainable world will look and smell nicer and be healthier. A lot of people this Spring have started fixing their homes, planting their own food, and being more deliberate with their time. They aren’t just running around meeting people all the time, they choose who they spend time with. That’s a new type of living. 

You travel by train, not by air. Has that changed how you see the world?

— Yeah. That’s similar. It’s not that I like a slow way of living. But I like to choose what I spend my time on. I don’t like to stand in line just to show my passport. When you travel by train you can just jump on and start working right away. It’s much more ­quality time. 

What is the most beautiful piece of furniture you’ve ever seen?

— What comes to mind is the Emeco Chair by Barber & Osgerby. Because it’s made out of recycled materials. 

What is the best interior you ever seen? 

— I think the restaurant at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm is really nice. It has a blend of different styles that I really like.

As a designer, what do you think your most ­important role is?

— My opinion about that has changed through the years. We have an important role to play with sustainability, the co2e, and our future home. I think if we have learned anything during this pandemic, it’s that we’re actually able to make changes really fast. We can change if we need to. 

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