Kim Dolva is to handmade furniture what Battista Pininfarina was to coach built cars; an understated, affable perfectionist. He cofounded his Copenhagen-based design studio and furniture-making workshop, Københavns Møbelsnedkeri, in 2006 – fresh from a career changing course in cabinet-making. Today, Dolva oversees one of the most influential furniture and interiors studios in Scandinavia, known for its contemporary, understated aesthetic, responsible use of natural materials and peerless craftsmanship. We sat down with him to learn more about his approach to design and how he’s shaped his studio over the past 15 years.
“I’ve always been a naturally curious person. I became fascinated in materials and in hand-making objects when I was young, and originally I made guitars. I wanted to be a musician and decided I’d like to learn to make guitars, as well as play them. I also studied as a graphic designer. I crossed over into cabinet-making following a few years in graphic design. I met my business partner Søren Bech Jespersen while studying and we decided to open our own studio together on the day we graduated.
“I realised early on that I only wanted to make the finest of the finest. That meant by default that the objects we produced became pretty expensive – our furniture took a long time to make from the off and used the very best materials. In turn, that got me thinking about the kind of design I wanted us to be known for, and I realised I wanted our design to be robust enough that it wouldn’t age. I didn’t want us to make very intricate, delicate furniture that would lose its relevance in a few years time.”
“We also didn’t want to fight with the ‘golden era’ of Scandinavian furniture design. Today, many Scandinavian brands look back to the ‘50s and simply recreate or reissue archival pieces. Instead, I wanted to take the best of that to create something new and contemporary.”
“Materiality is super-important. We always use pure materials that age elegantly. We choose stone that is very old and carries a lot of history, and we source solid wood only that is of the very best quality. We also take care to use local materials. We work very closely with a saw mill on the other side of Copenhagen, just an hour or so into the countryside from our workshop. In fact, we purchased half of the mill last year mid-pandemic. We use the mill to ensure we’re working with local timber and that we’re harvesting timber in a responsible way. Københavns Møbelsnedkeri is the only company in Denmark that can say we have domestic furniture production in Danish wood. We don’t ever stain wood either. We only use the natural colour of the material in the finished product.”
“A lot of our focus right now is on our relationship with the climate. We’ve changed all our company cars and the transporter vans that we use are now all electric. We’ve also started to install solar panels at the workshop and we’re changing any fibreboards we use to hemp products, which is a much better ecological alternative. We’re revisiting all the paints and colours we use too, in favour of sustainable options. The biggest question I have right now – which is almost impossible to solve – is how we can ship furniture around the world in the best way possible. I think in the coming years we’re going to focus much more on the domestic and European market.”
“The biggest challenge in building the business has been managing growth. I’m a creative person, not a businessman, and never wanted a big studio with 20 people or so. It just sort of happened. The moments when I want to quit it and start all over again always relate to business admin, not the actual design or making of our furniture.”
“I don’t take much inspiration from the furniture industry. Instead, I tend to look towards art, architecture and sometimes music. I also don’t find much originality in Scandinavian furniture. Københavns Møbelsnedkeri’s design ethic draws much more an inspiration from Japanese, Italian or even American furniture design. American art deco is something we’ve been looking into, as well as Japanese joinery. I’ve been travelling all my life, so I’m not looking out of my window for inspiration – I get it from all over.”
“We have only one principle in the studio: everyone is treated the same. It doesn’t matter whether you own half of Dubai or are living in a 10-metre-squared flat in the suburbs. That absolutely applies to our projects too – we approach our clients in the same way and our design ethics remain the same. No matter the project’s size or scope, we think about our responsibility in the design process, use pure materials and create timeless objects.”