Together with her sister Ellen (not pictured), Emelie Heden puts a new perspective on the Scandi obsession with form and function.
Together with her sister Ellen (not pictured), Emelie Heden puts a new perspective on the Scandi obsession with form and function.

Think Scandinavian design and, for many, the first thing that comes to mind is likely to be the spare yet cosy interiors that look right out of the pages of Kinfolk. That or Ikea – its latest tag line, “Designed for people, not consumers”, also underscores the focus on modest, purposeful design.

It’s a concept that can be traced back to the 1947 edition of La Triennale di Milano expo in Milan, where the understated wares from the Nordic countries were said to have first gained global recognition. Then came the ’50s, the era of mass-produced furniture (Ikea was founded in 1943). Closer to now, the birth of the design hipster (fact: Kinfolk was started in Portland, Oregon – by a Canadian).

Fast forward to today and the idea of Scandi style equating to minimalism-meets-functionality has become ubiquitous. However, that’s not what you’re going to find at Singapore-based furniture retailer Mobler.

Founded by Swedish sisters Emelie and Ellen Heden last August, the 2,200 sq ft space in Balestier (it also operates a web store) specialises in vintage furnishing from the women’s homeland that date as far back as the 1800s, and don’t necessarily fall into the clean, cool aesthetic. Think oversized, gilded Art Deco mirrors and medieval-tinged wooden chests that wouldn’t seem out of place on the set of Game of Thrones. Each piece is lovingly sourced from the countryside, then cleaned and restored by the sisters before being sent back to our shores.

If the artistry and exclusivity (most pieces are one-piece-only) don’t feed your appetite for design and culture, the history ought to. Entering Mobler is an education in “non-Zen” Scandinavian style. Ever heard of the 1700s-1900s Gustavian period (imagine a less fussy version of French Baroque and Rococo), allmoge (a Swedish word for the peasantry’s take on Baroque), or ’60s Swedish retro? They’re just some of the aesthetics you’ll find in store.

Yet, regardless of style or movement, the Scandinavian culture’s attention to utilitarianism remains. According to Emelie, it was common for villagers in the past to customise furniture to accommodate their small living spaces. The result: clever, multifunctional pieces like extendable tables. (Yes, the store carries them – we spotted at least two.)

And if you’re not convinced by how a visit could just put a new perspective on the Scandis’ time-honoured reverence of function-meets-form, Emelie – like a true Swede – puts it best. “Come by to view, try and feel our products. This physical component is especially important for cultivating an understanding of the value of design that’s made for living.”

Photography Vee Chin, assisted by Sherman See-Tho Styling Imran Jalal Art Direction Kim Wong Hair Christian Maranion/27A Makeup Benedict Choo, using Laura Mercier Dress Kate Spade New York

This story first appeared in Female’s May 2017 issue.

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