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Bright Light

Stockholm, Sweden

We sit down with super-talent Ilse Crawford to talk about her new lamp for Wästberg and the sad fate of 'hygge'

Designer Ilse Crawford of Studioilse. Photo by Helen Cathcart.

“It’s a pity. Poor hygge,” chuckles Ilse Crawford. The designer is perched on a black and white striped sofa in Ett Hem, the intimate Stockholm hotel completed by her studio in 2012, which some might argue is the embodiment of the word. Crawford was certainly applying hygge to her design philosophy long before it became the throwaway term it is now, slapped into magazine headlines and book titles without a real understanding of what it means. “Hygge has become such a nightmare word, which is a shame when you dig into its proper meaning, but isn’t that life,” she shrugs.

It’s true that Crawford’s practice, Studioilse, has made its name creating interiors and products that appeal to each of the human senses, down to the minute detail. “One of the things we always try to do is combine what I call the measurable with the unmeasurable. We do projects that are functional, on budget, on time and energy efficient,” she says, “but then we look at the magic. We want to make spaces and products that are loved, that make people feel good, and that have an intimate warmth and beauty, and then bring all of those things together. It’s very hard to do that – but it’s what I strongly believe in.”

The subtle glow of W203 Ilumina for Wästberg

We’re here to discuss Crawford’s most recent collaboration with Swedish lighting brand Wästbergan ongoing partnership that started back in 2008 with the W084 Tablelamp, a much imitated design that showed how expertly Crawford fuses the sensual with the technical. “I am not a technical person but I like people who are…I like geeks,” she quips. “I like to work with people who are really on top of their game because you can fiddle around under the bonnet and see what happens. That’s the way you get the best outcome, and I love to do that.”

The designer’s new W203 Ilumina – an update on the classic library lamp – launched this year at Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair and is typical of her work in that user experience is at the heart of the design: the mechanism is seriously pleasing to use and the light quality is subtle and adjustable, which feeds into one of Crawford’s big concerns: an overlit world. The W203 was conceived for both domestic and commercial settings, but she asserts that all spaces should and could be designed with a low level of ambient lighting, so that people have more control. “If we’re trying to move toward a more sustainable future I think lighting has to be part of that story, because it’s such a massive energy user. We need to shift away from the ‘on, off’ strategy,” she adds. 

If we’re trying to move toward a more sustainable future, I think lighting has to be part of that story
W203 Ilumina for Wästberg
High-gloss copper finish of W203 Ilumina

Available in high gloss copper, brushed aluminium and eggshell white, one of the most sustainable aspects of W203 is that it’s a modular, adaptable piece. When the technology changes or a component wears out, it can be easily taken apart and replaced, whereas so many other lights need to be discarded at that stage. 

“What was so interesting about being asked to do this light was the idea of making something that is long-lasting with maximum efficiency, but also really, really beautiful,” says Crawford. “That was our goal: how can you bring these two completely alien worlds together.”