Where I Work: Thomas Lykke of OEO Studio

Thomas Lykke is a founding partner, creative director, and head of design at the multidisciplinary OEO Studio which launched in Copenhagen in 2003. His award-winning Danish firm, which also includes Lykke’s managing partner Anne-Marie Buemann, is best known for their branding, product design, architecture, and interiors projects, two of which have been featured on Design Milk (here and here). Their diverse portfolio includes Michelin-starred restaurant interiors, innovative showrooms, and objects that have landed in permanent collections of London’s V&A museum. Now, Lykke gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the studio where they make it all happen and his peek at his process, in this month’s Where I Work.

What is your typical work style? Regimented and scheduled? Haphazard?

It’s a bit of both… The studio requires our presence and it’s easier to work from where our team, tools and workshop are located, but we can literally work from anywhere in the world.

I work somewhat haphazardly and jump from project to project at all hours of the day. I am very intuitive and spontaneous – mentally always at work. I do what I love to do. I like the buzz of a busy studio and the creative process as well. But I also like to withdraw to focus and concentrate.

What’s your studio/work environment like?

Our studio is above all inspirational – I guess you can call it “organised chaos”. We are surrounded by objects of inspiration: prototypes, materials, small finds, etc. We have created a workspace that represents the way we work and a zone in which we feel comfortable and at home. It is a relaxed environment that allows us to think out of the box and which nurtures our creativity.

How is your space organized/arranged?

My business partner Anne-Marie and I each have our own space. We sit at a big, long table (designed by our friend Todd Bracher) facing each other. The table is most of the time full of stuff – papers, drawings, tools, parts of prototypes, materials, models, etc. Somehow, Anne-Marie’s side is always a little bit tidier than mine. My side is slightly more chaotic and messy, but don’t get me wrong. I know where every little thing is at the studio. It is my library of inspiration.

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

We have been located here in the habour area in Copenhagen for the past 3 years. We have had OEO Studio for 14 years now. I guess we are becoming an institution :) Originally, my background and training is as a fashion designer. And back in 2000, I took the step into the world of interiors when I became the Interiors Editor of Wallpaper* Magazine.

If you could change anything about your workspace what would it be?

That would be to expand the studio and access the attic just above.

Is there an office pet?

Yes, I have my dog. Her name is Mille. (Danish/Swedish farm dog)

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some of your favorites?

No I don’t. I love music, though. I listen to all kinds of music from reggae and electronic to jazz, etc.

How do you record ideas?

Paper napkins and notes to self.

Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

Yes, I have an inspiration board. It’s a mix of everything – visually pleasing and fun rather than trendy. I don’t follow trends. It has a more personal touch and has been collected over the years where everything bears reference to an individual person, a moment, an event or a country.

What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change for every project or does it stay the same?

Over the years, we have developed our own methodology and work method. Our mantra is “Reason for being.” We have to live up to this mantra. Our goal is always to create meaningful experiences, products and solutions that offer more than just being yet an other product. We focus on the vision, final result and experience and use it all as our directional guidance and our tools in the creative process.

What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space?

The studio is full of art and design objects. From bespoke objects to crafted pieces from Japan and elsewhere, e.g. Kaikado Objects Collection, a bespoke vase ‘Seasons 1/12’ by Asahiyaki and ‘Beyond Nishijin’ by HOSOO – all designed by OEO Studio.

Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

We have a small workshop that includes a more than 100-year-old workbench from the iconic Rud Rasmussen Snedkerier given to us as a gift from Brdr. Krüger. In the workshop you will find everything from Japanese saws and chisels to more heavy machinery for making prototypes. I am very passionate about crafts and we also want that to be reflected in our work.

What tool(s) do you most enjoy using in the design process?

Brain, pencil and my Leica, visuals as well as tactile materials and samples.

Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

MacBook Pro, iPhone 6+, iPad Pro, Leica Q.

What design software do you use, if any, and for what?

I cannot draw on a computer so I only use regular kinds of software.

Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?

I have many favourites. But my heart especially goes out to my Japanese kinsmen from Japan Handmade (a collaboration of six Kyoto cratfspeople). We are very proud of the work and the results we have achieved together.

Do you feel like you’ve “made it”? What has made you feel like you’ve become successful? At what moment/circumstances? Or what will it take to get there?

That is not really something I go around considering. When I think of what I do and see the impact our work has from a wider perspective than that of the individual objects I feel honoured and happy. Being part of something that makes a difference is reward enough in itself.

Tell us about a favorite project you’re working on or have worked on recently. What was the inspiration behind it?

Currently, we are working on many types of projects spread out across the world map from America to London and Shanghai to Tokyo. It is really difficult to pick just one, but I would like to highlight the new Sticks’n’Sushi penthouse restaurant that recently opened at the end of 2017 in Copenhagen. Sticks’n’Sushi is somewhat of an institution when it comes to sushi in Denmark. They are great people and it was been super fun. Sticks’n’Sushi is a 25-year-old brand. The new restaurant we created is a tribute to them and to their DNA. Our inspiration was taken from their approach to Japanese cuisine.

What’s on your desk right now?

Samples, papers, pens, pencils, measurer, books, my computer and a model of the Sticks’n’Sushi restaurant.

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

Yes I do. Not too much, though, since it isn’t a showroom of our work. To highlight one piece I would choose the Ferdinand Lounge chair which we designed for Brdr. Krüger.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.