“I don’t want to live in a museum,” says Marie Worsaae in her passionate, thoughtful way. A partner at Aiayu, a Danish lifestyle brand with its ethos rooted firmly in sustainability, is speaking about her home, an elegant, light-filled townhouse on a cobbled street in Copenhagen’s central Frederiksstaden district.
Aesthetically restrained and with a colour palette that reflects the earth — forest greens, earthy pinks and gunmetal greys — the space is, Marie says, “full of what matters”, and carries traces of her work, travels, friends and family.
“Things are here to be lived in and used,” she says.
“I like to buy pieces that become part of my everyday, and stick with me for a long time. Not only classic furniture and great designs of high quality, but things with a little story that is dear to me. I like mixing Danish design with more rustic pieces — I’m not an either/or person. I think Aiayu is the same.”
The story of Aiayu (meaning ‘soul’ in native Bolivian) began in 2004, when founder Maria Hogh Heilman developed an idea to produce beautiful, sustainable knitwear that was as easy on the planet as it was on the eyes. The brand was only ever meant to be a “case study”, a design endeavour to prove sustainability, quality and aesthetics could coexist, but it mushroomed, creating jobs in Bolivia, becoming part of the UN’s Global Compact, and branching into eco-luxe homewares while expanding its stylish range of womenswear.
“We still have to fight against the prejudice that sustainable clothes are too ‘homegrown’ looking, but we’re lucky that other great brands have helped show the way,” says Marie, who has been involved in Aiayu’s journey from the beginning.
“Our ethos is to live with positive restrictions and boundaries. We’re as good as married to the factory in Bolivia, and this gives us a boundary — to only produce in the llama wool they work with — but it also makes our work a great creative task: to be able to make the best out of what they are best at.”
Recently, the team asked the skilled female hand knitters Aiayu works with in Bolivia to stitch their initials into each piece they create to “connect her to the consumer”. These emotional links are at the heart of the brand, and the attention Marie pays to making Aiayu’s products precious spills over into her life at home, as well.
“I think it’s a circle,” she says with that trademark thoughtfulness, when asked if Aiayu influences her home or vice versa.
“When you love what you do, it becomes you, and there is not really a sharp line between home and work.”
Marie divides her time between the townhouse and the Aiayu studio, which is a fifteen minute walk from her home. During the long Danish winters, she starts her days at home with candles, music and coffee before heading to the studio (“I work well in the mornings, so they are dear to me”) and lately, has been focussed on approaching things with patience and mindfulness.
“So doing the coffee, I try and do it with care, and slowly. I don’t always have the time, but when I do, it unwinds me. Making dinner unwinds me too; in the kitchen, listening to the radio, that’s something that I love. I actually love to do my laundry as well, and hand writing letters. All those things relax me.”
Marie says while she cherishes her nearby work space (and her easy, harbour-side commute) and appreciates travelling, she also treasures being home, especially in the evenings.
“During my travels I get inspired and free my thoughts, but in my home I gather my inspiration and my thoughts,” she says.
“I love spending nights alone here. Sometimes I meet friends for dinner, but often I come straight home, watch a movie and catch up on work. My house allows a life to be lived in it. I want it always to be comfortable and to make people feel comfortable, never stiff. Everything in it brings warmth into my everyday life.”
Her most precious things, all of them steeped in personal meaning, are what make the house Marie’s home.
“Some of them are of value and others of no value at all,” she says.
“The old Gustavian chairs for example belonged to my late uncle. They mean a lot to me, and to carry his memory on in my life through the chairs is important, just as it’s important to use them. I think usage is actually where things come alive. Using things doesn’t mean I don’t care for them though— really, it means the opposite.”