“We wanted to make the best for the most for the least,” Charles Eames famously said about his foray into mass-produced furniture. The statement is one that designer Petrus Palmér, CEO of three-year-old Swedish furniture brand Hem, holds dear. “It’s a very Modernist idea, but it’s still very relevant today,” he says. “People are getting watered-down versions of the best.”
Like Everlane and Warby Parker before it, Hem attempts to decrease costs and simplify distribution by cutting out the middleman: The online retailer keeps an inventory of its some 300 products in both the U.S. and Europe to ensure that customers receive its top-tier, original designs fast. Today, Hem opens its first pop-up shop in New York, allowing visitors to experience the charming, tactile objects from its latest collection firsthand.
Palmér has worked hard to steer Hem—the Swedish word for “home”—on a path that’s about more than just e-commerce. The 35-year-old was previously creative director of One Nordic Furniture, which was acquired by design start-up Fab in 2013. Together with Fab’s founder, Jason Goldberg, Palmér relaunched One Nordic Furniture as Hem the following year.
After about two years of feeling like Hem’s online platform was merely an end product, Palmér bought his company back with help from Ormand AG, the private investment firm that owns Vitra. He established Hem’s headquarters in Stockholm, and set about rebuilding the brand. Palmér commissioned designer friends like Max Lamb, Oki Sato of Nendo, and Philippe Malouin to create pieces for Hem, which works directly with factories across Europe to manufacture its pared-down objects, all marked by rounded silhouettes, blue-chip materials, and muted hues.
Open through Nov. 30, Hem’s New York shop attests to Palmér’s broader ambitions. “I want Hem to be a mainstream design brand,” he says. “There’s a place for mass-market design brands that don’t compromise on quality, sustainability, or originality.”