It is spring in Copenhagen. A wind blows in from the Øresund channel over the Baltic Sea beach in front of the suburb of Klampenborg. For true Copenhagen locals, there are two attractive options for passing the time in such weather: sipping a coffee in quiet comfort or defying the blustery drizzle on a bicycle ride. Søren Rose has opted for both on this day, which comes quite close to being his perfect weekend. This brings us to meet at Cranks & Coffee, a stylish bike shop with a café and boutique.
The 47-year-old has only recently returned to his home town on a permanent basis after spending more than ten years commuting between the Danish capital and Manhattan. The attic of his spacious town house has been repurposed and transformed into a design studio for him and his employees, with his family life – his wife and three children – just one flight of stairs away.
The perfect family car: Rose test-drives the EQC with his children.
His design firm’s studio is located in the house that he lives in.
What catches the eye up here are the furnishings from the “Gymnasium Collection”, which kick-started his furniture design career, rescuing old wooden gym floors from the scrapheap and producing tables and cabinets from them. “I believe that sustainability means saving resources and avoiding waste,” says Rose.
Incorporating a new product’s ecological footprint from the outset was for a long time just another option for designers and brands; now this is increasingly becoming one of their most important tasks. The fantastic ideas and forms that can be created in an era of limitation and scarcity can be seen in the impressive development of modern design in Scandinavia since the 1950s. The furniture from this era is straightforward, functional and steady while its bright and neutral colours maximise light in living spaces. Thanks to their elegant, timeless style, the classics of Scandinavian design are today more sought after than ever.
Rose is also a disciple of this school of design with his designs for lights made of brass, kitchens featuring curved wooden surfaces, and coffee tables fabricated from tree trunks, developed for brands such as Ferm Living, Menu, Muuto and Unoform that are all beloved by furniture enthusiasts. “The reserved style was something I had to learn first, though. I started my career as a more materialistic person,” recounts the designer.
Indeed, before the boom of the “new economy”, Rose founded the media agency Charlie Tango in Copenhagen in 1994, developed Denmark’s biggest app for mobile payments with it, and sold the agency in 2017. In 2004, he established Trunk Archive with investor support, today a renowned photography agency that represents the world’s most well-known photographers. Alongside that, says Rose, he collected so much designer furniture that he needed a warehouse to store it all.
Collecting design classics inspired Rose to come up with his own designs.
The Danish design star Søren Rose.
Then, seemingly overnight he decided to sell this collection and start designing his own furniture, founding Søren Rose Studio.
This eagerness to innovate and try out new things is the driving force of his way of living. It also explains his good mood when he gets in the EQC, as it is his first time driving an electric car. Naturally the first thing the designer does is closely survey the design of the EQC. “This is the first electric car that I actually like. It doesn’t have any excessive, futuristic elements and instead has a great design that suits the times. Mercedes-Benz has walked this fine line well.” We set out on our journey almost silently. A gentle and ultra-comfortable ride that also offers powerful torque if desired.
“The quality of the finish and surfaces is also crucial to me with our designs; you notice if someone has been producing first-rate objects for decades, or for over 130 years in Mercedes-Benz’s case,” the designer says effusively. En route towards the city centre, Rose surprises us with another facet of his personality. “I’m a huge car lover and have had over 20 different models,” he explains. “My family owns a company that supplies off-roaders, including the G-Class, to organisations in Africa like the UN or Red Cross. I came 25th at the Paris-Dakar rally in 2002 – not bad, don’t you think?”
So, what does he see as the future of transport? “I’m certain that my grandchildren will one day have trouble believing that grandad once sat behind the wheel himself. I think it would be great if Denmark became a test lab for autonomous driving.” And why not? The city of Copenhagen has set itself the ambitious goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2025. It is considered a particularly sustainable and forward-looking city, which regularly prompts surveys to rate it one of the world’s most liveable. However, even though the city offers exemplary living conditions, Rose has noticed that Generation Z, today’s 20- to 30-year-olds, increasingly desire to move out into the country.
This former industrial zone is today one of the city’s most hyped neighbourhoods, with galleries, shops and Kaffeedepartementet, Copenhagen’s best coffee roastery.
The global social trend of more and more people crowding into cities may well reverse. “Cars will then turn into self-driving, personal transport hubs,” he says. “We will be able to work and relax in them.” Rose is already working on products for this future. With his new business, Klein, he designs what are known as “tiny houses”, which enable a nice life in just a few square metres.
The first design is the work of a friend, star Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, and is a boldly planned summer cottage that should soon be available.
We drive towards another of Rose’s favourite places. At first glance, this ensemble of cottages made of pinewood looks a bit like what you would imagine tiny houses to be. However, it is in fact home to a swimming club directly in the capital’s harbour. Thanks to strict environmental regulations, the water in Copenhagen’s harbour pool has been outstandingly clean for 15 years.
If it were a few degrees warmer, a dive into the water would top off the Rose family’s perfect weekend. On this day, however, the EQC – from the fully digital dashboard to the large boot – also offers a spacious environment for the Rose children. And not just them, either. Søren Rose has discovered a new candidate for their next family car. After all, he has never hesitated to try out new things.
A quick game? The family is nearby during daily job life, too.