Founded in 2002 by Rolf and Mette Hay in Copenhagen, Denmark, Hay is a home and lifestyle brand offering a wide selection of essential products from home and office furniture to accessories such as mirrors, hangers, and glassware. Firmly rooted in their design philosophy, Hay has collaborated with emerging designers and brands to expand their scope, infusing the latest technology into traditional Danish aesthetics. Hay’s design, pricing, and retail strategies have proven to be deliberate in advocating a unique Danish style suited for contemporary living.
I occasionally walk around and observe the state of our staff members’ desks. For most of us, our work desk is not only where we spend most of our time throughout the day, but it’s a personal space that’s not exactly private. Therefore, people don’t usually place precious and expensive objects or things that require a lot of careful maintenance on their work desks. But you still need something that says “me.” I think people who work in a creative industry, in particular, will agree with this to a certain extent. Using or looking at a certain object can help us momentarily clear our heads and give our brains a respite from work. The same is true for my work desk, from which I’m writing these very words. A lot of objects catch my eye: mini candles, decorative knickknacks that fit in the palm of my hand, chocolates and mints in well-designed cases, and local brand post-its and lip balms from my travels and business trips. Many of them are things I use every day yet are not irreplaceable. They offer a small morale boost in the same way a good cup of coffee does. But more importantly, they’re all objects that can be used within a communal office space without causing much distress.
That’s a bit like how I view the products of Hay, the living and lifestyle brand we’re focusing on in this issue. My first experience with Hay came in the form of a pair of gold-colored scissors displayed in a design shop somewhere in Europe. After that, I purchased various items here and there from different shops: clothes hangers in different colorful patterns, diamond-shaped steel trays, and toothbrushes where the bristles were the same color as the handle. Recently, I bought a few of their mini notebooks designed in collaboration with Design Miami and a polypropylene shopping bag. What’s interesting is that whenever I buy a Hay product, I don’t think too deeply about its price, practicality, or taste. This is probably because their designs are actually quite eye-catching without being excessive, and their products aren’t expensive enough to make you ruminate over the opportunity cost. This not only applies to their design products but their furniture as well. The inclusivity of Hay’s designs is what makes their chairs, tables, and shelves welcome in the homes of parents who have to make compromises for their kids or casual cafés and startups who have limited budgets for their interiors. The Copenhagen locals we met who use their products also talked about Hay’s inclusivity. The Hay products they own go well with other objects in their homes, whether they’re more expensive or cheaper than Hay’s. Their products don’t cower in the face of bigger names, but they also know how to lend the spotlight to the main character, making them like a friend you always want to have around.
“We’re not the kind of people who need to own all the things we love.” Of all their media interviews, this comment from Rolf and Mette Hay, Hay founder and creative director, is what hit closest to home for me. It also hints at many other things. In a life where we always have to use our time and money sparingly, we can’t always make the best decision or take first place all the time, because being first takes a lot of information and energy. The moments where we have to settle for second or third are much more common in life than we realize. This also means that a brand doesn’t necessarily have to aim for its product taking the number one spot. There are a lot or opportunities in being able to provide an appealing alternative. In the realm of lifestyle and home living, including furniture, the gap between high-end and mainstream brands has been especially large. Hay realized this and established itself as a unique alternative without imitating or supplicating to high-end brands; occasionally, that alternative has even surpassed the number one player. An increasing wealth of brands, spaces, and experiences that offer a second or third option after the number one equates to an increased quality of life. In this respect, I don’t think it’d be far stretched to say that Hay contributes to the happiness index, just like its home city of Copenhagen has. While exploring the last brand we’ll cover in 2018, we hope our readers will be able to reflect on the things and experiences that increase their own happiness index.
Content & Editorial Director