Timber: American red oak
With family roots in Norrland, in the north of Sweden, Pia Högman became fascinated by birch bark, a cardboard-like material traditionally used to create everyday objects. Although the material is seldom used today, Högman’s grandfather was a carpenter, so many of the items she encountered day to day – from tableware to backpacks – were things he had crafted from it. “It was the go-to material in the forest, you could use it for anything you wanted,” she explains.
This led Högman on a voyage of discovery into how birch bark might be used today. She has used the material to create small-scale objects including bowls and serving platters, furniture objects and even as roofing tiles for an architectural structure. “When I find a material that I find interesting, I want to dive into it and see all of the possibilities,” she says.
Applying the same research-driven thinking to American red oak, Högman discovered that this wood has equally untapped potential, due to it being frequently overlooked in favour of white oak. Keen to change this perception, she set about exploring how various surface treatments might offer new visual and tactile experiences.
At Three, Högman presents a set of five matching chairs, each treated with a finish that enhances the open-grained structure of the oak in a different way. Arranged in a satisfying spectrum of colours, the chairs incorporate both linear and curved panels, with details that highlight both the long and end grains of the wood. The designer hopes her experiments will help red oak to be seen in a new light. “My goal as a designer is not to simply produce products that anyone could make; it’s more important to me to contribute to something bigger, like giving materials new life,” she says.