Karen Noeberg works in the field of sustainable concepts and corporate interior designs.
Her work area covers from creating valuable working environments over to more explorative projects with a strong, scenographic approach to spaces which challenge behaviour, functionality, branding, materials and people.
“For the better”, she says. The challenge is to change for the better. Not simply for the change itself. To Karen Noeberg, challenging change in an interior design begins with defining the need and the wish from the client’s perspective. She works by the simple rule of creating a good working environment starts with focusing on the people working in it. The actual human beings and the utility need they have to fulfil the tasks given when at work. The human nature and the social behaviour are being studied. The building and the bigger picture are taken into consideration. One of the more important questions to ask before going in solution mode to Karen Noeberg, is if the people should be adapting to this room or should the room be adapted to the people.
“Diversity is a key element for me to mirror in my interior design concepts. The including factor of diversity makes the space successfully come to live. Some people will thrive in chaos and should literally have their desk placed by the copy machine and some people are introvert and unfold at their best in quiet spaces with the option of a closed door. The individual behaviour and need of the people working in the space, those factors are exactly what forms the space. How the space visualises itself is not prior to the utility factor for a good working environment”.
Karen Noeberg approaches her working field with a highly academic but straight to the point method. She is on a keen and well-defined mission. “Every person and even every company have an individual working profile. My job is to reveal the core of this undescribed source of option and creativity and define it with a concept of interior design that makes the users of the space play each other better.” Karen Noeberg adds with a true passion revealed “It is not about me forcing my concepts of good taste into a company environment. But fact is that bad working environment combined with wrong light and loud sounds drain us more than we are aware of on a daily basis”.
She points out that it is important to find the best possible solution, always, even though the costumer might have another end-solution in mind. “This is why costumers hire me. To explore and find the pain points in the current situation, and then add to this, my knowledge and creative approach in the process to come up with a result they could never have imagined”.
Karen Noeberg is multitasking the perfect creative mix of craftsmanship and philosophical design thinking and she definitely has a clear vision when it comes to why and how to work with space. Key elements are good quality light and good quality elements in shape of a designer’s item, or an item designed and built from scratch. A soft spot she often revisits is the reuse of existing furniture. She points out that an investment in good quality furniture and the daily operation in a company can go hand in hand. The demand for sustainable interior design goes by the same principles as the rest of the consumption and the negative issues in modern day market supply. It is too easy to buy cheap items worldwide for quick replacements. But if a client chose to invest in good quality pieces is more likely that this interior design project will give a higher return on investment both in terms of durability and in terms of having chalked up the lane to show stakeholders that this a quality working environment where we put people before profit.
“Humans will always be performing at their most in the balance between Light and Shadow”.
When working in the field of sustainable interior design, as Karen Noeberg does, the light sources are very important. To her, it is a holistic approach to create an office space for productivity and everyday well-being. “Our brain will continuously be compensating for not being able to decode the naturalistic nuances of objects when exposed to bad light”.
Sun light is the most pleasant light to us human beings. To an interior designer the task is to create working light similar to sun light even though the working environment is placed in a basement. Or the opposite could be to create the muffled light on a sunny day for an office where all the employees are working from screens.
To people living in the north, the right working light is extremely important to be productive and motivated during the day. “Here on these latitudes, we have the concept of Winter depression or Winter Sadness. And we are very influenced by the light during the seasons and during the day. So light is a big issue for us”.
When asked about commercial ideas of reuse and recycle within interior design with a short outlook, it is not difficult for Karen Noeberg to hold an opinion. One can tell that she actually cares. Cares about the process. Cares about the outcome. Mostly, she cares about the people. From costumer to end-user and the people she co-works with.
“I always ask myself what the actual project is about. Who are the end-users and is the initial project idea beneficial to this segment? Is it a project with a pure branding motif or is there a defined wish to actually change for the better? From the customer it demands so much more than an economical goodwill. It has to founded by a genuine desire for changing the visual part of the organizational culture for the better”.
Concepts of interior design founded by sustainable ideas have led a to a certain point of a circular value chain. The idea of using the existing processed material rather than process new, is a key issue to Karen Noeberg. “To me, an interior design concept needs to have its own visual identity to obtain the element of sustainability. Sustainability is more than just circular products with an easily decodable storytelling on the mainstream idea of this issue. It is more about creating long-lasting interior designs in a given space with features of furniture, light, shade and sound as integrated elements. “The pallet look has never been sustainable in terms of being a long-lasting visual outcome. Users get tired of the monotone look and it does not feel comfortable at all. Sustainability in interior design to me is when the elements bring a functional durability and a visual durability over time”.
Conference Room, Spinderihallerne in Vejle (picture above)
Spinderihallerne was renovated by Danish architect company Schmidt Hammer Lassen and was transformed from a cotton mill to an innovation centre for creative growth in start-ups operated by Vejle Municipality.
Karen Noeberg explains how the first and huge assignment was to create the overall interior concept and wayfinding to match the industrial buildings and then later she was assigned to implement the scenography in the Spinderihallerne over a period of several years. This conference room is one of last spaces she completed. The huge dark green conference table is complimenting perfectly the stable chairs in many red nuances. From bright coral to dark aubergine. It is impossible to choose a favourite version of the chair. After a long process the chair was chosen from the Danish design company Howe Furniture. “I chose the chair named 40/4 designed by David Roland, because this chair is a perfect match between sustainability and beautiful design”.
Cafe and lunch canteen, Spinderihallerne in Vejle (picture above)
In 2010 Karen Noeberg was asked to redesign the lunch canteen in Spinderihallerne. The main subject of the assignment was to create a public meeting point which could also function as a start-up café and hub spot for the people using Spinderihallerne.
Karen Noeberg did the interior design in a collab with Gudmundur Ludvik Gretarsson, Industrial Designer and Dea Simonsen, Art Director. Ten years after, the interior design of the cafe still has a certain topicality with its long tables in light wood encouraging the conversation across seats during the lunch. The large shelving wall makes the room feel homely to the users. A counter made of acrylic tiles. Over the long tables lamp shades cut from various cardboard boxes provide a warm light along with a graphic and tactile atmosphere.
“The main concept of this interior design was to facilitate conversation. To create the feeling of a space, open to new conversations, and where time is set out just for the better part of 25 minutes. Where you, as a guest, can meet new acquaintances and interact in a set-up where the topics are not given in advance. Anything can happen. This is the magic of good interior design – to set the stage”.
Culinary Institute in Vejle (picture above)
The Culinary Institute is a co-creation space with focus on the food industy in Denmark. The creative food laboratory is part of Food Innovation House and forms a triple helix with founding partners Dandy Business Park, Vejle Municipality and Gastronomic Team Manager Per Mandrup. The Chef Per Mandrup is the drive force and brings along specialist knowledge from his huge network within the food industry. The Culinary Institute offers facilities and knowledge on how to create workshop experiments and events within the food industry. The key object of Culinary Institute is to share knowledge and insights from these explorative workshops. Karen Noeberg had the assignment to create the interior design with an extra eye on the technical light in the laboratory. “Working with food in a communicative way demands a certain extra amount of technical light equipment to ensure food appeal every hour of the day”, she points out. The way she tells about this light reconstruction, it is clearly that to Karen Noeberg an interior design project is so much more than just decorating with furniture. Nevertheless, the joy of finding the perfect piece of furniture is always present to Karen Noeberg.
“In the beginning of a new interior design project, I always build a small prototype. I call it a doll house. In this project I was creating a design with a sofa which was sort of waving out in the space, and by chance, I discovered that this sofa design had a resemblance with an existing designer’s sofa. I looked online to purchase the vintage item and I somehow managed to get it. The furniture workshop gave the sofa a new upholstery in red. Per Mandrup had expressed a wish for a ferrari red element in the interior design, so he is thrilled with the end result. “And I too”, adds Karen Noeberg laughing. “It is perfect! And the sofa now looks like a million.”
Karen Noeberg started up her business Noeberg Bæredygtig Indretning (Sustainable Interior Design) in 2005. She has a background as a Scenographer from theatres and holds a Master of Arts in Dramaturgy and Visual Art.
Noeberg Bæredygtig Indretning
Schmidt Hammer Lassen
Gudmundur Ludvik Gretarsson
Link to Culinary Institute
Photography and words by Dea Simonsen