Despite the fact that they have been around since 1893, Gärsnäs considers itself a young company. For them, age is just a number, because a willingness to explore and take risks is their insurance against getting stuck in their old ways. A big part of this exploration and curiosity is owed to the designer-turned-owner Åke Axelsson. Since 2004 he has had joint ownership of Gärsnäs, which is based in Österlen in southeast Sweden, but since beginning with the company in the 1960s his relationship with them was centred on being one of their main designers, and it is estimated that 80% of the company collection is designed by Axelsson. At 83, he still works every day and continues to design both for the company and his personal enjoyment, and he has had undeniable influence over contemporary Swedish furniture design. For the bulk of his projects – he has over 200 chairs in his portfolio – Åke Axelsson prefers to use beech, a slow-growing tree that takes about 120 years to completely mature. The wood has strong and stable properties that make it good to work with, because as Gärsnäs suggests “quality is an excellent form of stewardship”.
United by belief in their mission and its importance in an evolving society, all of the Gärsnäs designers share an intuitive knowledge of materials, forms, and processes and they are dedicated to preserving it. Beyond tradition, environmental concerns are also deep in their DNA, and the company operates on the premise that even with the best technologies, humans could never produce a substance as remarkable as wood. Therefore it is in everyone’s best interest to work with respect to the forests and nature as a whole, and they take care to make sure every choice regarding the design and production process is justified. This attention to their regional handicraft traditions and reverence for the environment keeps Gärsnäs firmly rooted in their Nordic history, but with their focus always set on the horizon.