A story about Jo's sofa

Everyone likes to pay as little as possible when buying new things.
Let me tell you a story about that.

Sometime in the 60's in southern Norway, a couple named Kirsten and Egil decided that they needed a new sofa. Quality-minded as they were, they visited the best furniture store in the area. The man that ran the shop was named Ove, and Ove knew just what they needed: They needed a daybed designed by the famous Danish designer Børge Mogensen. It wasn't cheap, and Ove didn't give discounts. Still, Kirsten and Egil were sure that this was a good investment and let the sofa take a big chunk out of their savings.

I don't know what the sofa cost back then, but today it is valued at around $10,000.

The sofa was placed in the middle of their living room, and for many years it served as a multi-functional piece that brought the family together. Kirsten and Egil had four crazy sons that used it as a playground and a soccer goal. Egil often took his afternoon nap in it. When it needed reupholstering in the 90's, Kirsten found a local upholsterer and included sons and daughter-in-laws in deciding the color and pattern.

When the big decision of buying the daybed was made, something else also happened. Kirsten and Egil had brought their oldest son to the furniture store. The boy probably wasn't so interested in the sofa, but he quickly became friends with the owners daughter. A few years later their friendship became more than a friendship.

The wedding reception was held in 1980, in the living room where the daybed witnessed the festivities. I was born the following spring. Kirsten and Egil are my fathers parents and Ove my mothers. My grandfather Egil is the only one who is still alive. The daybed and a PH lamp are two of the few things he brought with him to his retirement home. One day he too will pass and I will inherit the sofa. It will be nice and strange at the same time. Without it I wouldn't have been born, and having it in my own living room will make me think of my grandparents every day. But my existence isn't what is interesting about this story. What's interesting is the alternative world the daybed has created.

The world my grandparents helped create by buying the daybed instead of buying an IKEA sofa and replacing it every 10 years since 1960:

  • 6 times as little environmental emissions from production and transportation
  • 6 fewer sofas at the landfill
  • Grandpa Ove was able to take a small vacation that year, instead of an extremely rich Swede becoming a tiny bit richer
  • A furniture upholsterer was able to make a living and could continue the traditional craft, instead of mass production on the other side of the globe
  • The people who built the daybed were most likely paid fairly
  • I was born. Instead of scanning items at IKEA, the daybed created discussion and human bonds, and my grandparents became friends.
  • Money saved. The daybed is timeless and ages well, and is therefore cheaper with time. Really, we should measure cost per use when we buy things. That's how good design is cheap. It is easy to think that pricey designer goods are only for rich snobs. I hope this example can show a different perspective.

As you probably understand, the daybed has become an heirloom. It is an example of that when you buy something new you can already start to think about if the next generation can make use of it. It doesn't need to be a sofa. It can be a toaster, a bike or a jacket. Next time you need something: Buy quality and pay a little extra, and all of a sudden you have an heirloom on your hands.

Northern Playground started by developing smart products that we wanted to sell in large volumes to the entire world. That is no longer our mission. Now we want to do something completely different. The daybed is a direct source of inspiration and is really the essence of what we are trying to do. Next time you think of taking up a good offer, think about what a good offer really means. Think of what implications this good offer has for you and for the world. Maybe a good offer is buying something that you can see being passed down. And if not – do you really need it?

P.S. My uncles are a little upset that I am the one who gets to inherit the daybed. If you meet one of them you can greet them and say that it is a big source of inspiration for me and a small company I run.

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