Profile - Thomas Lykke


Thomas Lykke, head of design and founding partner of OEO Studio, elaborates on his firm’s unique take on minimalist design.


Words by Emily Martin

THOMAS LYKKE is head of design and founding partner of OEO Studio, the Copenhagen-based interdisciplinary design studio working in the fields of interiors architecture, product design and strategic design. Set up in 2003 with business partner Anne-Marie Buemann – who he met 19 years ago and has a working relationship with described by Lykke as ‘a match in heaven’ – it has delivered projects for a long list of notable names. There is two-starred Michelin restaurants Inua in Tokyo and Kadeau in Copenhagen; a luxury condominium apartment in Tokyo for Japanese property developer ReBITA, the global retail concept for Danish cycling apparel brand Pas Normal Studios, as well as designed products for brands such as Gubi, Mutina, Brdr. Krüger, Starbucks Reserve and Stellar Works to name only a few.

Lykke says: ‘Our mantra is “reason for being”, and this goes across all our projects – no matter if it is an interior space, a design strategy or a packaging for NOMA Projects. Our sensibility and our design language we describe as “compelling minimalism”. We are passionate and driven by creating meaningful experiences with purpose and heart and are known for challenging the status quo and for our passion and integrity.’

OEO Studio designed the interior for Tokyo’s Michelin-starred Inua Restaurant. Image Credit: MICHINORI AOKI
Luxury apartment renovation project OEO Studio worked on located at the Opus Arisugawa Terrace & Residence in central Tokyo. Image Credit: MICHINORI AOKI

Step into a OEO Studio-designed-space and you’ll be met by a sense of calm. Spaces are designed to ‘embrace people and make them feel appreciated’, with richness in materiality, tactility in design, and thought-out details. While embracing its Scandi-cool roots, this Scandinavian design studio makes a claim to ‘Japandi’ or ‘Japanordic’, fusing Scadinavian heritage with Asian aesthetics.

‘Japan has always been a huge inspiration for me. The rituals, the aesthetics, the architecture, the crafts – I could go on and on,’ says Lykke, who, along with Buemann, first visited the country in 2008. With a project office in central Tokyo, the duo takes their love for Japan to a professional level. ‘We have [now] been on more than 50 trips to Japan … We are influenced by the sensibility of Japan and that it is visible in our design vocabulary and style.’

The Aya dining armchair, designed by OEO for Stellar Works, is both minimalist and highly complex, blending Scandinavian and Asian design styles. Image Credit: CHRISTIAN HOYER
The Aya dining armchair, designed by OEO for Stellar Works, is both minimalist and highly complex, blending Scandinavian and Asian design styles. Image Credit: CHRISTIAN HOYER

Lykke describes both Scandinavian and Japanese cultures as ‘humbIe’: there is a subtle richness without the obvious bling of extravagance. Both share an aesthetic of sophistication and craft, elements brought into the design aesthetics of the studio’s work. ‘[Both cultures are] not afraid of patina,’ explains Lykke. ‘Think Wabi Sabi or Kintsugi, the art of repairing and refining broken pottery – literally transforming something broken into a beautiful and unique piece of art – that to me is beautiful and more relevant than ever. Think about that for a while and let it resonate – there is so much learning in that. I think we can take that to a new level with more than broken pottery.’

Originally training as a fashion designer, Lykke moved into interior design early in his career working at Wallpaper Magazine as an editor between 1990–2003, before co-establishing OEO Studio. Devising a unique concept narrative for each project is fundamental to the design process, which is driven by a passion for creating bold products and warm spatial experiences that connect with people. From the big picture to the smallest detail, the story informs and drives the design.

Copenhagen’s Design Museum Denmark resdesign was spearheaded by OEO Studio, paying homage to iconic Danish designer Kaare Klint. Image Credit: CHRISTIAN HOYER
Copenhagen’s Design Museum Denmark resdesign was spearheaded by OEO Studio, paying homage to iconic Danish designer Kaare Klint. Image Credit: CHRISTIAN HOYER

OEO Studio’s distinct aesthetic translates between interiors for retail, residential and hospitality projects, furniture-making and beyond. Each project is enhanced by a particular sensibility to working with materiality and textures, which are often applied in novel ways and framed by their cultural context to offer a compelling sense of minimalism.

‘We try our best to create exceptional yet honest experiences, linking both people and planet,’ says Lykke. ‘We push the people we work with, and we also like to push ourselves. We do not feel comfortable being put in a box – we like to be in constant movement and to continuously evolve and refine our approach.’








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