It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Ensconced by the wild forest of Lake Immeln in Sweden, completely surrounded by insouciant Mother Nature, the Vipp Shelter – at once new and exciting – exuded calm and cool through its sleek, straight lines, charcoal grey finish, and barely-there design.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have presence; it’s hard to miss the sheen of the floor-to-ceiling windows when the sun hits it just right. It’s almost magical. But everything about the shelter speaks to a strict, minimalist philosophy, designed specifically to allow the occupant(s) to “go offline and connect with nature”.
The Vipp Shelter is an ‘untraditional hotel’, announces the website. “Instead of having many rooms in one location, we offer unique rooms at various destinations. As soon as you check in at the Vipp hotel, it’s fully booked.”
The designer behind this peaceful getaway is Morten Bo Jensen. He’s a graduate of industrial design, current chief designer at Vipp, and his clean, practical aesthetic shows in every aspect of his work at Vipp. The website proudly proclaims that the design has stripped all unnecessary features, where even “every screw serves a purpose.”
“The idea behind the shelter was to design the perfect plug ‘n’ play getaway, a space where nature is omnipresent. A space for people to recharge their batteries,” explains Jensen. “It’s also a place that gives people an idea of what Vipp stands for as a brand and as a company.”
The Vipp brand has a long and storied history, beginning with a single product: a waste bin. Designed by a husband for his wife’s salon, it was a product that was never intended to be sold, but the practical, efficient design led to custom orders, until there were enough requests to begin production on a larger scale.
Today, Vipp sees itself ultimately as “tool builders”, measuring the quality of their products by function and longevity. Their philosophy is quality over quantity, not for design elites, but for ordinary people that appreciate design quality and longevity of things.
Is it minimalism? I ask Jensen, perhaps naïvely thinking of classic Ikea-esque Scandinavian design.
“Only in the sense that I prefer less, but better, things. We aim to develop products that you would like to keep forever, and with that mission, we, for instance, have to disregard elements that are very much a result of the zeitgeist in favour of assets based on longevity.”
It’s refreshing, a company with this philosophy. I say so.
“It’s simply the process of finding the essence of a product,” says Jensen. “Filter and disregard what is not necessary. It’s essentially rooted in Danish culture and upbringing, but this is basically also how I prioritise as a customer.”
The thing is, he says, that design isn’t just about how things look, but how they work and how they make you feel. “Design is often confused with style, but I believe design must take its origin in basic questions. What do we aim to solve with this product?”
The Vipp shelter was designed in the exact same way as any other product. It’s just another tool, housing the Vipp kitchen, and other Vipp tools designed for everyday life. And, yet, either despite this philosophy or because of it, by all accounts, people are amazed.
“The mix between the hard materials of steel and glass, and the natural elements of the forest and lake seem to be a good combination. Most people really enjoy the light and the silence.”
Does Jensen’s own home reflect this philosophy? What does the home of an industrial designer look like, with chops like his?
“I personally prefer muted colours that make my eye relax when I’m at home, and I like things with a personal history to them, so I like to surround myself with them. I organise these instead of completely hiding them away according to strict minimalism.”
It’s a brief conversation, but an enlightening one, and I can’t help but ask what I can do to make better use of my own space at home. And his answer is one that sums up everything we’ve just discussed: buy less but better, keep it simple, and make sure to surround yourself with things that make you happy.