Designer Gesa Hansen on her passion for future vintage

The coveted designer talks about her personal style and why her passion for wood and vintage is the epitome of sustainable design

In an interview with Gesa Hansen, founder of "The Hansen Family"

Gesa Hansen
Source & Copyright by Gesa Hansen

Author: House of Eden

The Paris-based German-Danish designer stands for New Scandinavian Design and Future Vintage. Her handmade designs are launched under her label “The Hansen Family”, founded in 2009, and have won multiple awards. A brand with a strong sense of craftsmanship. Gesa Hansen's studio is located in the green heart of Paris, the Fontainebleau Forest, and once again demonstrates her love for wood as a material. Her designs are influenced by her studies at the Bauhaus University, the NZU Nagoya University of Arts in Japan and her work experience in France.

Today she works for well-known furniture, gastronomy and design companies such as Villeroy & Boch, Pierre Frey, ORSO Hotel Group, Bauwerk, Sid Lee, Dom Perignon, Le Mont Saint Michel and Armani. She recently designed the “Café Compagnon” in Paris for her husband Charles Compagnon. Inspired by the sketches of his grandfather, the sculptor Carlos Ferreira de la Torre. The mother of three talks to us about her personal style and why her passion for wood and vintage is the epitome of sustainable design.

"There are certain things in the future that make other things better, but you also lose something through this progress - I stand for tradition because I don't want to lose certain values"

Gesa Hansen

Source & Copyright by Gesa Hansen

What does sustainable design mean to you?

I think sustainable design includes a lot: from the production process to direct sales and shipping to the longevity of the product. I discovered early that wood is a wonderful material. It can be sourced locally, has many characteristics and can be molded into anything. Ten years ago I also decided to only work with certified solid wood. I wanted a small production where I can control everything myself. Therefore I always source my wood locally, from my own production facilities; one in Germany and one in Lithuania at my brothers.

Overall, I think sustainable design means that things last for generations. I live with a lot of furniture from my grandfather and great grandfather. For example, I have a bench that my grandfather made himself. The fact that a design survives every trend and generation is sustainable for me. I try to work with vintage as much as possible in my interior design projects. There is so much vintage furniture that is of incredible quality and that is very rare to find these days. For me, it doesn't get any more ecological than that.

Source & Copyright by The Hansen Family

What is your design message?

As a German-Danish I have a clear Scandinavian style. Every time I try to design differently, it becomes Scandinavian again. I design for people who love solid wood and buy a table that stays in the family for several generations. The designs can also be customised because of their timelessness. You can work with color or change the compartments at a table. That's what I call Future Vintage. It is mainly about the high quality of furniture. I also collect and process vintage furniture for my home privately. It's a great passion of mine.

What was the last piece of furniture you bought?

An incredible piece of furniture: A Børge Mogensen Chair by Fredericia - namely the Spanish Chair. I love this Danish furniture label, they are incredibly sustainable. I bought it vintage and that's probably why I still haven't designed a chair myself. I think to myself: "Does this world need another armchair?" Someday I'll probably do it anyway. But it will be difficult to create a counterpart to my design icon.

You are multicultural in every respect, how are all these influences reflected in your designs?

The work that goes into making a piece of furniture has incredible value for me. I learned that mainly in Japan. The time and devotion that is given to the manufacture of furniture there and the process of eternal repetition has a completely different meaning in the Japanese craftsmanship. It is looking for perfection. I find it very important to recognize these skills and craft techniques as a value in the product in the spirit of New Luxury.

I also find it nice to recognize a patina, because I see the traces of the past and find them beautiful. Audrey Hepburn once said in an interview that you shouldn't touch up her wrinkles, because she had worked hard to earn every single one. This way of thinking helped me immensely. People slowly accept this patina and that a material ages. Personally, I think furniture gets more beautiful with age.

Source & Copyright by The Hansen Family

How would you describe your personal style?

On the one hand I have this Scandinavian DNA. For Scandinavian people, furniture is incredibly important. I see that in my family too. The inheritance of furniture and also of lights has just always been there. And also my time in Japan and the rustic minimalism there strongly influenced me. Therefore my two influences are Scandinavia and Japan. I studied at the Bauhaus and there we learned to design in a minimalistic and clear way, in relation to German minimalism.

German minimalism is characterized by steel and smooth surfaces. Japanese minimalism, on the other hand, focuses on natural materials that age and have structure. Another great source of inspiration for me was the Goethe House. Because every room had a different color there. I realized that colors can be incredibly timeless. When I was at the Bauhaus, I got to know Josefs Albers' color theory. So the most important thing to understand is that you perceive colors completely differently depending on which other colors they are placed next to.

Each color can be completely reinvented in context. That's why I love my work as a color designer at Villeroy & Boch. My parents always let me paint my room myself. When I was a teenager I painted everything red. Then I went through a phase where I was very irritated, angry and annoyed. Now I laugh about it: red is a very strong emotional color.

Source & Copyright by The Hansen Family

Where do you see the limits of sustainability in the design industry?

On the one hand, designers have to take on a certain responsibility. I am therefore also very limited when it comes to new products. Every time I ask myself: "Does it have to be now"? I think as a designer you really have to think about whether the product is really necessary. On the other hand, I also see the responsibility for consumers. If consumers would buy less, then of course that would change a lot.

The world just doesn't need so many products anymore and it doesn't always have to be new, you can also use older things. Personally, I always produce sustainably. Those are just things that I think are worth it. I'm also fortunate to have my own production and always be able to produce locally.

Craftsmanship vs. innovation, how do you connect that?

I think every era needs its future designers. There are many who work with ingenious and new materials, like Bjarke Ingels. Great new resources are created in the process, but personally I tend to go in a different direction. There are certain things in the future that make other things better, but you also lose something in that progression. That's why I stand for tradition, because I don't want to lose certain values. There definitely have to be these innovative designers and I admire them as pioneers, but I just love the soul of wood. It's like poetry to me!

How do you master life as a designer with three children?

My husband works a lot as a restaurateur and is almost never there. I get a lot of support from my parents. I believe you have to make space for yourself and not feel guilty about including others. Otherwise it becomes a creativity killer. I also never stopped working and kept going. I have taken this right for myself. I think that's my secret.

Thank you Gesa Hansen for the interview

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