German beds, Swedish sofas, Japanese tables – how to create a global home

Image of Tyler Brûlé

There’s a very good chance that at some point over this holiday weekend you’ll look up from reading this article and assess your surroundings. You may well be sitting at home and conclude that your reception room no longer works and is in need of a complete overhaul. In a more radical diagnosis, you might also decide it’s time to trade in your three-bedroom apartment for something a bit more free-standing with a rambling garden.

A lifestyle rethink could also hit you if you happen to be out of town this weekend. You might be enjoying a nice bottle of wine in Bolzano and soaking up the modernist Südtirol architecture. As you look at the solid doors and windows and the handsome mix of concrete and wood, you just might think about demolishing your current residence and building the house you’ve always wanted but never quite had the reference points.

Over the past decade I’ve done up a few houses and apartments (London, Stockholm, St Moritz, Zürich and almost Beirut – my furniture is still supposed to be sitting in storage and not, I hope, furnishing a refugee camp) and, no matter what direction the winds of design trends are blowing, I have a few constants I’ll always turn to for sorting out the basics. As I’m currently eyeing up some new projects, I’ve got a shortlist of some craftsmen, ateliers, manufacturers that I’m keen to commission. Should you find yourself in a similar position by the time this weekend’s out, here’s an international list of designers and companies to conquer the most challenging environments.

1. Truck – Osaka, Japan

If your interior design tastes veer to the exquisitely crafted, slightly industrial and exceptionally solid then you might need to book a ticket to Osaka and pay a visit to Kise-san at Truck furniture. More a complete lifestyle than just a furniture range, Truck makes everything from chunky dining tables to elegant wooden beds to comfy, tweedy sofas.

2. USM – Switzerland, with dealers around the world

There’s a good chance you work in or frequent a business that uses the steel USM office and storage system. Designed to work equally well in domestic interiors, USM is modular, hard-wearing and perfect for collectors of vinyl, CDs, magazines and books in all sizes. Don’t be put off by all the white and bold colours – they also do wood veneer tops and have some lovely, toastier tones.

3. Schramm – Germany

More readily found in Germany and Switzerland than elsewhere in Europe, Schramm makes beds the good old-fashioned way with natural materials and offers a simple line-up with good-looking headboards and basic legs.

4. Zug – Switzerland

Most readers see Zug and they think tax-haven. Serious chefs and people who know their way around a kitchen recognise Zug as one of the best companies for appliances. You might be swayed by nice brands from Germany and Italy but, for service and no-nonsense design, Zug’s the way to go.

5. Johanna Gullichsen – Helsinki and Paris

If you like your cushions hard-wearing, with strong graphics and the tiniest nod to Japan, Gullichsen’s shops in Helsinki and Paris are perfect venues for losing hours while deciding on linens and wools for seating, pillow covers and curtains.

6. Svenskt Tenn – Stockholm

Should you ever arrive at the place where you want to go totally Stockholm bourgeois meets Upper East Side circa the late 1940s, then Svenskt Tenn can organise everything from beds to lighting to one of the most inviting-looking sofas ever created. The store recently had an overhaul and is a good place to base yourself for a Stockholm shopping weekend.

7. Vitra – Switzerland

Like USM, Vitra is perhaps better known for its massive office contract business but it also does a broad range of pieces for living room, study and bedroom. If you’ve ever thought you’d like to live like Halston, then Jasper Morrison’s Place sofa system is an ideal building block around which to build your penthouse.

8. Kasthall – Sweden

Perhaps not a household name when it comes to exceptional ways with wool but Kasthall does a varied range of ready-made rugs and a bigger business in custom orders for palaces, chalets and compact pied-à-terres.

9. Maruni – Japan

Ever wondered why Japanese food tastes so good? It might have something to do with how you’re seated. Japanese dining tables tend to be a centimetre or so lower than western tables and, at 178cm tall, I think they are the perfect height for finer dining. As for the right table for kitchen or dining room, Maruni of Hiroshima does a lovely range of chairs and tables from Naoto Fukasawa.

10. Agape – Italy, Dornbracht – Germany, Toto – Japan

A combination of these three leading bathroom brands is pretty much all you need to sort an en suite, guest loo or sprawling onsen. A shower enclosure and tub from Agape, fixtures from Dornbracht and Washlet from Toto and you’re all set for a stunning day.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

Read Tyler’s Fast Lane column on the Milan Furniture Fair

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