Interview with interior designer Irene Press.
How to turn an empty space into a cozy furniture showroom, and what one needs to create a great store, office or home inside four plain walls, discusses designer Irene Press, who worked on the interior design of our Aunman showroom.
Irene, where does one begin when designing a furniture showroom?
The creation of Aunman showroom started with finding the story, where I got much-appreciated help from the people behind the Brand Manual. One cannot just design a showroom out of nothing, there has to be an idea behind it: why you do what you do, how you do things.
The name Aunman is derived from the founder Erkki Aun’s surname. This is a story about a family, Erkki’s sons, sister, and wife work in the company as well. This is a story of how the business that was founded in Viljandi has been built up over years and become what it is today.
Once the story is in place and carefully thought through, the process of designing the interior flows smoothly. You stay in the room for long enough and at one point you just know how things should be.
The same is true of furnishing a home: people are very, very different, so their homes should look very different. The best ideas for furnishing a home come from people themselves, one just needs to find these stories.
Having taken the family story as the basis for the Aunman showroom, on one hand, the showroom features very modern solutions manufactured with the factory’s cutting-edge technology. There are very modern and exciting materials on show. On the other hand, there is also a sense of nostalgia in the air – something soft, homely and safe. There is no striking aggressive lighting, there is no noise.
I wanted people to feel comfortable in the Aunman showroom. No one needs to button up their shirt and put on a tie. Instead, Aunman’s designers offer you coffee and make the visit pleasant.
What is the difference between furnishing a showroom from designing a kitchen or a bathroom?
The logic is the same. Once you have found people’s stories and recognized their character, you try to adapt the stories to that space. It still takes work for the solution to click in place!
From a technical point of view, the most important question for me is how to move around in space. How can you move most comfortably, most logically, consuming the least time-consuming? The question of what color is a particular post in that room is a secondary issue. If the layout is bad, then neither eye-catching material nor a vibrant color can remedy that.
What limits were set by the owners of the Auman showroom?
There were no limits. However, the owners did wish that we introduced some new materials, which are still quite rarely used in Estonia. It is actually worth noting how the owners collaborated on the project. When I offered a new and exciting material in the evening, the following day Andreas Aun, who deals with the manufacturing side, was in his car halfway across Europe trying to get his hands on this material. Things move very quickly in this company.
The material I personally wanted to see in the room was natural concrete; we used it, for instance, for the floors. It’s modern, but also just friendly. It can be nicely illuminated and very well matched with other materials.
Some solutions immediately catch your eye, such as the “rotating” water taps, directional lighting and hangers that slide out of the wardrobe…
These solutions are very practical. Say, you have a boiling pot on the hob and you want to add some water. You no longer need to take the heavy hot pot to the tap, now you can simply move the water tap towards the hob.
Same story with the lamps – it is important that you can direct the light to where you want it. Safety and ergonomics are important to me.
I like things that are practical but have a twist. Things should never be boring.
How do you keep up to date with the latest trends?
When designing a room, I occasionally encounter a problem that cannot seem to be solved immediately. Then I ask myself whether I am really the only designer in the world who is looking for this solution. Surely, someone else has already thought of the same thing! And when you start looking, you will find a solution, often quite unexpectedly. It sounds cliché, but thanks to the age of the Internet, searching for solutions has become significantly easier.
And when I travel, others look at the sights, I – the floors. For example, I still think back to how colorful the concrete floors in Sri Lanka were. Including in the bathrooms, and no sign of damp damage! I did not get to learn how those floors were made, so this question is haunting me to this day.
I do not think about such details in daily life, but if I come across a similar situation when designing a room, then they pop up in my mind again.
I always visit showrooms when traveling too. I do not really like road trips, but a couple of years ago we went to Poland and Germany. And I was genuinely surprised with Polish DIY stores. We usually have four walls to present the material, but in Poland, there was always some additional solution. There were either some shelves installed, some protruding parts etc. It seems that countries that have a lot of money, knowledge, and opportunities have become a little lazy. But where the development process is still underway, there is a rather sincere desire to make things more exciting.
Did the factory keep up with the interior designer’s wishes?
Manufacturing specialists were all very helpful. I worked closely with Rando, who really had a big job. One thing is to imagine it, another thing to calculate everything with millimeter precision to start the process. With Rando, even the biggest challenges got a solution.
It is worth pointing out that many solutions in the Aunman showroom were not standard solutions in production at that time; they were implemented for the first time in the showroom and had not been tried out before. Which shows that the factory can provide very good quality in this respect.
What was the most difficult challenge with this showroom?
Functioning kitchen. We have a kitchen on show in the Aunman showroom, where everything functions – the cooker, the refrigerator, water running from the tap. Since there was no direct light falling on it through the windows, it was a tricky task to get the kitchen nicely lit. Then, when we half way through swapped the refrigerator for a bigger one, we were back at square one. Modifying one important element also changes everything else. The question now was how to re-balance the color, how to make the kitchen visually pleasing again. I kept moving the kitchen from one corner to another for several weeks until the solution was found.
What was the most exciting “eureka” moment?
There were a lot of exciting little details. For example, the wardrobe lighting on the second floor. Most commonly you find the laps on the ceiling, but I did not like that solution. I wanted special lighting panels, I found some by an Italian manufacturer. But it was incredibly complicated to deal with them. Then, one of the partners of the Aunman factory communicated that they have developed a method with light spots that illuminate a glass surface evenly. That how we got the situation very well resolved.
By the way, the salon is not finished yet, I want to keep adding interesting features to it over time. I would like to hope that those will be the kind of features that could become conversation starters.
What I liked the most about working on the Aunman showroom, in fact, was the teamwork. It was very smooth and everyone wanted to get involved. That’s always great! I would like to hope that the spirit of that atmosphere lives on in the outcome. But at the end of the day, it is the people that leave a bit of themselves in what they do. Precisely people’s ability to move forward together, that is what makes Aunman so awesome.
Click here to watch: What makes Aunman kitchen, bathroom and wardrobe solutions unique?
WHO IS WHO
Although she studied interior design, for some time Irene worked in other professions. However, several years ago, one Finn asked her specifically to furnish an apartment he had just purchased, and soon after apartments were followed by private houses and office spaces. Homes that she has furnished are located as far as Turkey.
To date the most complicated project for her was a tiny little home that had to fit a family with two children and a large book library. And in addition to being practical, it had to look nice too.
WHAT IS WHAT
Aunman is a high-end brand of the Viljandi-based furniture manufacturer BaltEst. At the end of 2017, a furniture showroom with the same name opened in Tallinn. It offers high-quality kitchen, wardrobe and bathroom furniture manufactured using a wide range of new exciting materials, solutions, and techniques.
BaltEst Mööbel has been producing high-quality kitchen furniture for over a decade, which is sold at BaltEst Mööbel showrooms in Viljandi, Tartu, and Tallinn. The company has also launched sales in Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and France. In 2017 the company was featured in the Äripäev Gasell list.