On being danish

by haywardhelen

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A few days ago, walking passed the window of a favourite shop, a small wooden elephant caught my eye. Going back to take a closer look I saw that it was beautifully designed and made. And yet there was nothing special about this elephant. Its beauty was as much an effect of what the designer had left out, as included. And in so doing the essence of elephant had been captured. The owner of the shop quickly confirmed my hunch, the wooden toy was Danish. And the price tag? $280, a toy collectors item, the owner added with a laugh.

Before I left the shop I told the owner, who I know a little, that in my second life, my real life, I’m going to be Danish. While this is a fantasy, in my mind this makes it more not less real. It’s not that I want to be part of the EU. I don’t long to experience long northern winters. Rather I want to express a certain style in all things, a style that I recognise as Danish – choice of pen, heavy linens, strident paint colours, backlit interiors. Being Danish is shorthand for my longing for good design and such a deep sense of style that it’s not selfconscious. Nor is it a sign of wealth or status. It’s closer to common sense. A sense of style so embedded, so understated, that it just is.

We’re all familiar with friends who have come out sexually, surprising only themselves. Having identified this one true thing, and hugging it to themselves for years, they announce it to the world, like opening up their hands to free a bird within them. The development of our sense of style is a bit like this. Although I was brought up Australian, this never really spoke to the things that, on growing up, I found beautiful. This was something that I discovered for myself. I had to mouse around for quite a while before I stumbled on my own sense of style in my mid-twenties.

I lived in the UK for a long time, and still feel drawn to London, and to friends who lived there at the same time as I did. But I’ve never fantasised about being British. Perhaps this is because it’s too familiar to fantasise about. Perhaps it’s because a lot of tat goes with being British. But really it’s that British design doesn’t touch my soul in the way that Danish Design does. It speaks to me but it doesn’t touch me.

A couple of years ago a Danish town planner came to Hobart, the city where I now live, and gave his vision for its transformation. The City Council opened their doors to the town planner and his team, paying generously for their plans. However the planner’s vision never caught on. What was glaringly obvious to the Danish planner and his team – getting the cars off the waterfront, creating pockets of urban beauty in laneways, increasing the density of inner city living – was too difficult for the harried Councillors, fearful of losing retailers’ votes at the next election.

My fantasy that Danish style might be shared will probably remain just that. A longing, a blog, a fantasy. Which is a pretty good place to start.

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