The Next Generation of Danish Design: Q&A with Maria Bruun

The Pioneer Low Stool, Fredericia Furniture.  

Characterized by clean lines, subtle details, and a focus on craftsmanship, Maria Bruun's work often explores the intersection of art and design, resulting in pieces that are both practical and aethestically alluring. Bruun's work came to prominence with her notable series of furniture and decor designs each featuring a sculptural silhouette, while highlighting the natural beauty of wood. A 2Modern favorite, the Islets Table received the prestigious Danish Finn Juhl Prize in 2021 followed by the Design Award's "Furniture of the Year Award" nomination for the Pioneer Stool in 2023. In conversation with Bruun, we highlight her practices and inspirations as part of 2Modern's celebration of Earth Week.

What's your morning beverage - coffee, tea, lemon water?

My mornings always start with a strong and good cup of coffee. It's not until then that I feel fully awake and functional.

How would you describe your own personal design style - including furniture, clothing, art, and home decor?

My design style seamlessly intertwines with my professional pursuits. We live with my furniture pieces, including early prototypes and samples, which I test in our daily lives with my children and family. Additionally, I enjoy surrounding myself with the fantastic works of art and craftsmanship created by my friends. Understanding the skilled hands and artistic ambitions behind the items we surround ourselves with brings me great joy. For me, design should be admired and utilized—whether it's clothing, furniture, or art.


How do you typically approach the design process for new furniture or lighting?

My design process typically begins with a fascination for a material, a technique, or a specific aesthetic that captures my attention. I always start by experimenting with the initial prototypes in the workshop and am not one of those designers who solely thrives sitting in front of a computer screen. I much prefer working directly with the materials and testing them thoroughly. This approach allows me to let the materials shape the process, often resulting in a more enriching and satisfying outcome for creating a new design. At other times, my process begins with a briefing from a collaborator who requests a specific type of furniture. In these cases, I often aim to infuse an artistic touch into a more commercially driven product.


What materials do you prefer working with and why?

I have a deep passion for working with wood. To me, wood is a material with superpowers. I adore receiving a plank of wood and immersing myself in its qualities—the unique grain patterns and its strengths and weaknesses. The subsequent process of cutting, planning, and shaping it into something new, and then infusing this process into creating a single piece of furniture, is magical every time. I believe wood is an accessible and democratic material available to everyone. We all have the opportunity to care for and nurture it over the years, and it only grows more beautiful with time.


What is your favorite piece you've designed, and what makes it special to you?

It's almost like choosing between one's children — an impossible task. However, one project I'm particularly proud of is my Pioneer series, which I conceptualized back in 2020. The small, stackable stool began as an artistic ambition—a precisely crafted design that is functional and sculptural. Early in the process, Fredericia Furniture recognized the project's potential, and together, we aimed to bring the stool into a commercial realm where it could truly live among consumers. Thus, we created a series of upholstered chairs, counter stools, and bar stools, which became our interpretation of a contemporary design classic, encapsulating the essence of Danish design.


Can you share any upcoming projects or designs you are particularly excited about?

I am working on a solo exhibition titled "Crafted Contrasts" at the non-profit gallery Umbrella West Coast Exhibitions. The exhibition will feature both old and new works. At the moment, I am specifically working on three new lounge chairs made of aluminum, painted pine, and curly birch. While these three chairs share the same design language, their material variation challenges the design's perception and interpretation. Furthermore, the exhibition presents the furniture in a gallery-like context, suggesting that the objects we surround ourselves with can embody great artistic ambition and quality.


And lastly, if you're listening to music while working, what song/band/genre is played most often from your playlist?

When I work, I prefer listening to podcasts over music. A generic stream of conversation serves as a pleasant backdrop while work unfolds. Other times, I thrive best in silence, especially when I'm in the workshop, where concentration and focus are essential. It's important to hear the machines and sense how the materials work, especially when significant forces are at play.


Designer Maria Bruun

Maria Bruun in her studio.


Meter Floor Lamp, Pholc Lighting.


Islets Coffee Table, Fredericia Furniture.