December 9, 2014

10 Questions With… Thomas Lykke of OeO

The studio behind much of Copenhagen’s fresh design and adventurous new direction is


, a 12-year-old firm which has worked with brands such as Leica, Sony, Japan Handmade and Stellaworks to name just a few. At its helm is founder and creative director Thomas Lykke who, alongside CEO Anne-Marie Buemann, guides the firm in its strategic approach working across a broad range of disciplines—from interior design, product design and graphic design to packaging and branding.

On the firm’s mind of late has been Danish flooring company


, which commissioned Lykke for its new showroom space in Copenhagen. Wrapping around two sides of a neoclassical corner building next to the city’s famous lakes, Dinesen’s flagship seeks to celebrate the company’s rich heritage while broadening its horizons—look out for new wood stains, textured flooring and even furniture in the near future. We caught up with Lykke, a former fashion designer and design editor, to talk about his latest collaboration.

Thomas Lykke Square

Interior Design: What did you set out to achieve with Dinesen?

Thomas Lykke: We love wood and everything that is about quality, craftsmanship and material. To me Dinesen is the ultimate when it comes to wood. I love their floors but I think it’s about so much more than just floors. It’s about starting with the perfect wood, you can then take this wood and turn it into anything. By approaching it like this we could tell the story in different ways, so people can understand Dinesen on a more emotional level.

ID: How is this reflected in the new showroom?

TL: You can feel the material here; it comes to life. In the showroom you may like the floors but you also may like the bookshelf or the wall panels. I think it’s about creating an awareness of the brand in different ways. The space is like an apartment—we included a dining room, a kitchen, a living room, a wine cellar and a library so that Dinesen can use it as an event space for private dining or for meetings with clients.

ID: How did the existing architecture inform your design?

TL: Because this is an old neoclassical building we wanted to reflect that and show what it might have looked like in the past, but also take a modern approach—so it’s like a revitalization of a neo-classical building with respect for details but also giving it a new twist.

ID: Did you take inspiration from any other sources?

TL: We looked at the work of the 19th century Danish artist Hammershøi. When you look at his paintings you will find the colors seen in this showroom (the paint colors are made by Danish brand Flügger). Dinesen’s previous showroom was more like one big room and this new one is more like an apartment, when we saw the location we immediately made the connection with Hammershøi’s work.

ID: Was Dinesen easy to work with?

Totally. I think they were very challenged, but in a good way. Its good to be challenged because once you achieve the goal it opens up a whole new chapter to be able to do something different and I think they learnt a lot from this project. I think in a family business like Dinesen where you have the experienced staff and the new younger generation it was extremely good for them to work on a project where they could meet in the middle and to go hand in hand. We always say we like to push our clients to the edge, but always with respect.

ID: Was it more challenging to work with a flooring brand as opposed to a furniture or industrial product manufacturer?

TL: No because I think it’s always about the conceptual approach, the idea and the experience. The product here [at Dinesen] is the architecture of the space, that’s what we’re communicating in the showroom.

ID: With the advent of online, showrooms are increasingly becoming spaces to experience the brand rather than a place to exclusively sell products. Is that what you wanted to achieve here?

TL: Definitely, I wanted it to be a destination. If people who have an interest in architecture or design are visiting Copenhagen I want this to be on their list of places to visit.

ID: Do you think the format will roll out to other locations around the world?

TL: I don’t think it would be exactly the same format if we did. That would be the easy way. The design of this location is specific to the existing architecture and the city, so maybe in other locations we would adapt the experience to its surroundings—it should have some local touch.

ID: Is it tricky juggling different clients and working across different scales, budgets and disciplines?

TL: We work with a broad range of freelancers and people that we have known for many years from all over the world. We work much like a magazine and the way they use editorial correspondents. We create the best teams according to the job or assignment.

We are only a small company so there is a limit to how many projects we can dedicate our time to. Obviously Dinesen has been a big project for us, we couldn’t take on two interiors projects like that at once! However we just launched new products with Leica, a rug collection for Takashimaya in Japan and we potentially have a new project with the oldest furniture factory in Thailand coming up—a country I haven’t visited before.

ID: Are you selective about the clients you work with?

TL: We are picky in that we like to work with brands that have a great story to tell. The story is the starting point. I think family run brands they have a different kind of dedication and obviously they have a legacy. We are in a phase where we have a lot of clients where the family business is in a stage of transition, where the next generation is taking control especially in Japan and ever here in Denmark at Dinesen—although Thomas Dinesen is not stepping down, his son, Hans Peter, is there and involved. He will be the next generation. That’s how I like to work. Instead of always chasing new clients I like to have steady relationships with my clients and see them evolve over time.

However we are fortunate enough to be able to work successfully with both small, independent craftsmen and big corporations (Oeo count Sony, Leica and Georg Jensen among their clients)—so we experience both sides. For us it’s about the end result and the collaboration has to make sense—we’re not just in it for the money.

Recent DesignWire