When east works with west


clockwise; Hung-Ming, Tina, Chen-Yen and Johan

A Scandinavian – Asian design studio producing it´s own homeware collection. What’s in it? Blond birch wood and jade dragons? As for our very first blog post we’d like to share our experience of east vs west, and why we believe these two opposites are not at all as opposite as we first may think.


Johan and Hung-Ming sketching

It’s easy to imagine a vast difference in climate and culture between Taipei and Stockholm. But as we first came together in 2007 at Konstfack University we found our lifestyles and life situations closely intersected, both beeing recently married couples, waiting our first children and sharing the same visions and concerns of family life and professional future.

Chen Karlsson 2008

The east-west gap just didn’t appear in our everyday situations – but as our collaboration evolved we started to spot differences in how we interpret the very same situations. Usually it turns clear at drawing table. Chen-Yen and Hung-Ming take in lots of inspiration from the Nordic functionalism and genious business model and flat-pack design of Ikea, where as Tina and Johan direct the interest to the far east like Chinese drawings, Sung Porcelain and tea rituals. We all seem to experience that the grass is greener on the other side – and ironically the situation often turns out Chen-Yen and Hung-Ming are arguing for simplicity and honesty in materials – when Tina and Johan is promoting figurative ornaments and narratives.

Hung-Ming in workshop

Hung-Ming in workshop

Seeing the very same things but seeing them with different eyes we believe is our very greatest asset – and the origin for most of our products. At our first show “Two famillies and a dog” at Stockholm furniture fair we display the Chen family´s flatpacked “Birdlight” (which is now produced by Hommin) together with Karlssons 100-boys paraphrase “Chinese Girls”. The dog then? Thats our one and only; Rosa, Lagotto Romagnolo, exccellent moodlifter and coach in office and home.



As our lifes have evolved from student to families a new inspiration have entered our lives and practice – our children. The recent Favourite Things lamp came up at a family visit to the museum where it in fact it was our children who saw the potential of the dramatically arranged animals in the glass bins.

The table cloth “dinner stories” is designed as a fairytale on the meter – with a vast landscape of asian and scandinavian history and present mixed together. In platevase we want to display two accuring things in swedish “fika” tradition. One is serving “seven kinds of cookies” when having coofee, and the other to pick wildflowers from outside.


Meeting while kids are sleeping

How about cultural differences then?

Tell us all about them! We have regular updates with our cultural standpoints all the time. It´s really necessary to talk about them. And eventually when all steam has left the building, laugh about it. Often it´s obvious that we have totally different references. Quite frankly its refreshing to be forced into rethink that many times a day as we do when seeking solutions or sketching new ideas.


Tina at drawing table

Finally, a few words on working together as a family. Is it a good thing to do?

Yes! Despite intensive days together – living and sleeping Chen Karlsson and spending Sundays discussing budgets or quality control, the family way of working gives us the flexibility and opportunity to pursue what we really want to do with the people we really want to be with.


Meeting outside

And as we all have small children in kindergarden there are no problems in understanding that some of us might need to take a few days home with sick children – or leave the office at four to pick them up.

Chen-Yen setting colours

In many ways the familly way of working connect us with the former farmer society where the farmer family lived and worked together. We’ve shifted the showel for the pen – but in many other ways life is very similar, wich we believe is a really nice thing.

Chen Karlsson holiday

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