John Lewis Design Collective
Ebbe Gehl

Award-winning Danish designer Ebbe studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and set up his first studio with Søren Nissen in 1970. He's worked with us for 15 years to create timeless wood furniture – here we ask about all things design

How did you become a designer?

I wasn't very good at school but loved drawing, especially as I had a fabulous teacher who encouraged me. When I left shcool I trained as a cabinet-maker and I feel like I have wood in my blood.

What makes good design?

When function and materials fuse together to create inviting pieces with character. I think eveything should express its purpose very clearly. Sustainability is important, too. Furniture shouldn't be made as something to buy one day and throw out the next. I want people to still have my furniture in 70 years or more. Then perhaps someone will find it in the attic and say, 'This is fantastic,' and bring it down again to get more use out of it.

Ebbe Gehl
Ebbe Gehl for John Lewis Mira Sideboard
Ebbe Gehl life style

Why do you think Danish design is so coveted?

We never really had the tradition of going out to the local pub or café. When we had guests, we invited them home. You'd have candles all around and a good dinner on the table, so everything is designed from that welcoming point of view.

In the 60s and 70s the work of brilliant designers including Hans J Wegner, Arne Jacobsen and Verner Panton became better known as people travelled more. Everyone was seeking new ideas and ways of being, which all helped the region's design and living traditions spread.

Ebbe Gehl for John Lewis Mira Round Dining Table

And how do you design?

By studying how people sit, hold their hands and open drawers, and then I think how products would help them.

Design isn't a nine-to-five job – you're observing all the time, but everything begins with a new sketch. I find experimenting with a new method or technique might instantly solve a problem you've had for years.

Do you enjoy collaborating?

I work very closely with John Lewis developing new pieces. We have great fun together and, importantly, there's a lot of respect for what each of us do. We always listen.