A Danish Design Kingpin Moves to NYC with a Shipping Container of Furniture in Tow

By Dwell and Arlene Hirst
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A purveyor of contemporary Nordic design expands his brand’s presence stateside—beginning with his new Manhattan apartment.

"My father-in-law always says that you can make any place look good with a coat of white paint and good art," says Jasmi Bonnén. She and her husband, Peter, took that advice to heart when they furnished their Tribeca loft, which they moved into in January. The couple and their two sons, 7 and 11, migrated to New York City from Copenhagen so that Peter could bring Muuto, the furniture company he cofounded with Kristian Byrge in 2006, to a wider audience. When the company was started 10 years ago, Scandinavian brands and consumers cared only about classics by storied names from the past like Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner. "No one wanted to manufacture new things," Peter says. The partners felt it was time to move the conversation forward and celebrate what they labeled the New Nordic, employing rising stars from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland to produce fresh work. "We felt our generation could put Scandinavian design back on the map," says Peter. He and Byrge have more than succeeded: Today, Muuto has 1,300 distributors in 52 countries. But they wanted to expand even more and saw their greatest opportunity for growth in North America.

The New York loft of Muuto cofounder Peter Bonnén showcases a shipping container’s worth of furniture from Denmark. His wife, Jasmi, relaxes among Muuto designs, including a Connect sofa by Anderssen & Voll and Airy tables by Cecilie Manz. The wall sculpture is by artist Anders Kappel; the painting is by Peter’s brother, Kaspar.

The New York loft of Muuto cofounder Peter Bonnén showcases a shipping container’s worth of furniture from Denmark. His wife, Jasmi, relaxes among Muuto designs, including a Connect sofa by Anderssen & Voll and Airy tables by Cecilie Manz. The wall sculpture is by artist Anders Kappel; the painting is by Peter’s brother, Kaspar.

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

"It made sense to be in the city," Peter remarks of Manhattan. "We saw the potential to be closer to our customers as well as to architects and designers. Besides," he adds, "I’ve always wanted to live in New York." Peter and Jasmi’s primary concern was finding a good school for their children. After scouting the city, in neighborhoods from Park Slope to SoHo, they decided that Tribeca best met their family’s needs. Only then did they proceed with apartment hunting, looking at dozens of places before settling on a two-story, three-bedroom condominium in a recent conversion of a row of old textile factories.


 In one of the living areas, an Oslo sofa by Anderssen & Voll for Muuto is upholstered in yellow fabric from Kvadrat, another famed Danish export.

 In one of the living areas, an Oslo sofa by Anderssen & Voll for Muuto is upholstered in yellow fabric from Kvadrat, another famed Danish export.

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

The loft has an unusual layout. The entrance from the elevator opens into a room that functions both as Peter’s home office and as a gathering area centered on the apartment’s fireplace. The kitchen, a long galley off a hallway, connects to another living space that also serves as a workspace for Jasmi, who recently founded her own cosmetics company, Nuori. Upstairs, a hallway feeds into three bedrooms. Inviting terraces—two on the first floor and one on the second—provide outdoor space for gardening and enjoying the views.


The setup around the fireplace includes a sister piece in a neutral gray, coffee tables by Thomas Bentzen, and a Visu lounge chair by Mika Tolvanen, all for Muuto.

The setup around the fireplace includes a sister piece in a neutral gray, coffee tables by Thomas Bentzen, and a Visu lounge chair by Mika Tolvanen, all for Muuto.

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

"We felt our generation could put Scandinavian design back on the map." —Peter Bonnén, resident

Peter and two of his U.S. colleagues gather around the Steinway piano.  

Peter and two of his U.S. colleagues gather around the Steinway piano.  

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson


A series of black Muuto chairs—Fiber, Cover, Nerd, and Visu—surrounds a 70/70 table and white Ambit pendants, both by TAF Architects for Muuto.  

A series of black Muuto chairs—Fiber, Cover, Nerd, and Visu—surrounds a 70/70 table and white Ambit pendants, both by TAF Architects for Muuto.  

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

Art is especially important to the Bonnéns. Peter’s father is a sculptor— one of his pieces hangs near the dining table—and his brother is a painter. An oil painting by his great-grandfather is mounted over the fireplace.


An opening in the kitchen wall allows a view of the terrace from behind the black marble counter.

An opening in the kitchen wall allows a view of the terrace from behind the black marble counter.

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

Owning a furniture company has certain undeniable advantages when it comes to decorating a home. Examining their new floor plan, the couple plotted out what pieces would be needed and packed a container laden with their favorite Muuto designs. The only major piece they purchased was a grand piano for Peter, who is a musician. (His guitar can usually be found at the ready by the fireplace.) Otherwise, says Peter, "We did nothing, just painted everything white," heeding his father’s advice.


A neon vase by Michael Geertsen contrasts with a gray Base table by Mika Tolvanen and coordinating Nerd and Visu chairs, all for Muuto. 

A neon vase by Michael Geertsen contrasts with a gray Base table by Mika Tolvanen and coordinating Nerd and Visu chairs, all for Muuto. 

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

The couple were initially unhappy with some of the building’s detailing, and Peter had ambitious plans for making changes, such as replacing baseboards and trim that seemed too fussy and reconfiguring the entrances to all of the outdoor rooms. But in the end, they decided not to do much more than add coats of Benjamin Moore. That’s how they solved the problem of the drab brown cabinets and the garish backsplash that awaited them in the kitchen, which now looks pristine.

In the opposite communal area, which is separated by the kitchen, a Reflect sideboard by Søren Rose holds a white Cosy lamp by Harri Koskinen and a vase by Andreas Engesvik. 

In the opposite communal area, which is separated by the kitchen, a Reflect sideboard by Søren Rose holds a white Cosy lamp by Harri Koskinen and a vase by Andreas Engesvik. 

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

Instead of fixating on the minutiae, the Bonnéns enjoy all the outdoor spaces the new apartment has to offer, a precious luxury in Manhattan. They’re already growing tomatoes on one terrace and herbs, cucumbers, and arugula on another, in containers that Peter built. "It’s the only furniture I’ve ever made myself," he admits. 

The Bonnéns have planters on each of their three terraces, which provide them with tomatoes, herbs, and more. Their outdoor dining area includes
a Porcelain table by Richard Schultz for Knoll, Round chairs by Christophe Pillet for Emu, and a wool Ply rug by Margrethe Odgaard for Muuto.

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson


A Muuto Unfold pendant
hovers over one of the kids’
beds.

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnnson


"Good furniture takes you a long way. We’ve seen so much bad furniture in really expensive apartments."
—Peter Bonnén


The top terrace, outfitted with Eos lounge chairs from Design Within Reach, has an unobstructed view of Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard Street.

The top terrace, outfitted with Eos lounge chairs from Design Within Reach, has an unobstructed view of Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard Street.

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson


In the hallway, a yellow Raw chair by Jens Fager for Muuto pops against the white staircase.

In the hallway, a yellow Raw chair by Jens Fager for Muuto pops against the white staircase.

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson


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Arlene Hirst

@arlene_hirst

Deputy director of design at Metropolitan Home magazine until it closed in 2009, Arlene Hirst is now a freelance journalist. Her byline appears frequently in New York Times Magazine as well as Surface, Modern, and Interior Design magazines and Elle Decor Italia.

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