The power of three.

Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ola Rune in their Stockholm office. Photo by Alexander Kusak.

Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ola Rune met on their first day at university, shared a worktable rather than each opting for his own and created great work together. Twenty-eight years later, they still share a worktable, plus a Stockholm-based architecture firm with a team of 12, projects all over the globe, dozens of awards and recognitions and one email address. Yes, they – and the rest of their team – all share a single email address.

There is a comfortable fluidity to how these three collaborate, as if they’re three different versions of the same person or, more specifically, the same mind. Their first project was a bar when they were students at Konstfack (University College of Arts, Crafts and Design) in Stockholm. The bar was built out of materials donated by vendors – demonstrating the trio’s early powers of persuasion – and the money earned selling beer to other students funded several trips to Europe to experience architectural masterpieces by Le Corbusier and others.

A magical wall in the workroom, where 3-D printed models, toys, found objects and other inspiring treasures live. Photo by Alexander Kusak.

The college bar is no longer standing, but the experience helped launch their careers. Notable Claesson Koivisto Rune projects include a gallery in Marfa, Nobis Hotel in Stockholm, Sfera building in Kyoto, Swedish Ambassador’s residence in Berlin, countless residences in a handful of countries, furniture and lighting for various vendors, prefab structures and one yet-to-be-produced pencil. “There are a lot of pretty horrible pens and pencils,” says Eero, “because the person designing it is thinking only of the object. Whereas we think about how the pencil looks on a table, how it exists in a space.”

“I think if you’re trained as purely a product designer, you might not even imagine a space at all,” says Ola. “You’re just looking at the product as it is. Then there’s always the risk of over-designing it, not realizing that this is a part of a greater reality. It’s the same for furniture. When you design furniture from an architectural standpoint, it will work well in space.”

Architectural models in the Claesson Koivisto Rune office. Photo by Alexander Kusak.

This thinking is one of the many reasons why Design Within Reach approached Claesson Koivisto Rune with a request to design a sofa collection. We also sought them out for their ability to bring a comfortable luxury to everyday objects. “I think we share in Scandinavia and in America the importance of ergonomics, practicalities and function,” says Ola. “And to be able to marry that with the type of elegance that, more often than not, discards those other qualities in favor of just aesthetic elegance – that was the real challenge in this project.”

Eero, Mårten (behind screen) and Ola at their shared worktable. Photo by Alexander Kusak.

Like everything they create, the sofa began with the three of them sketching, often sharing a single piece of Xerox paper. “We’ve always liked working on this type of paper,” says Eero. “Our team gets irritated with the three of us working on one sheet, especially when it starts as one project, and then there’s a question about something on a house we’re designing, and we’ll sketch that, and then they’re like, ‘Is this for the sofa project, or is this a house project sketch?’”

The sofa coming to life in an early sketch.

The sleigh base, proportions and cushions were the focus of many of the sketches. “Every little detail was explored, from the shape to the stitching, and this sofa became really different from what we’ve seen before,” says Mårten. “The upholsterers are true craftspeople. They understand how a flat piece of fabric can transform into something three-dimensional, and we worked with them to invent a special technique for stitching the corners so they’re beautiful and not too sharp.”

“In many ways, this project is a beautiful example of how we can communicate across the big ocean and how design transcends national borders and variations in culture,” says Ola. “Design is its own culture.”

Explore the Lecco Sofa Collection at Design Within Reach.