Ask og Eng, also known as Kine Ask Stenersen, Kristoffer Eng and their team, design and build pristine, pared back kitchens and furniture by hand. The brand has a happy congruence at its core. Kine’s background is in environmental geography and climate change and Kristoffer’s is in architecture. The bottom line for their business, sustainability, also occasions their design aesthetic, with bamboo their chosen material. Their collections include custom made kitchens, and, temptingly, doors ready made to fit IKEA units. The list of colours reads like a Zen poem – stone, soil, coal and snow to name a few. They set up their studio in Drammen, Norway, about a year ago, in an airy, industrial space with crooked floors and large windows, which they love for its atmosphere and sense of potential.
Kine, your studio was founded in 2016 – how’s it going as a new business?
We must admit it’s not as we expected. We love it more than we hoped and it’s more work than we imagined. But there is a special joy and privilege in making something that is special to you. We value that so much.
What prompted you to set up the studio?
We decided to build our own kitchen because we had such difficulty finding beautiful, functional products that were also environmentally responsible. So it began as the desire to make something special, different, and sustainable for our own home. One day we started talking about making bamboo kitchens and furniture for others, and once that seed was planted there was no going back. We were so intrigued and excited, we had to give it a try. I suppose we were a little naïve going into it, but I think that helped us to take the risk.
Why do you use bamboo?
We love bamboo because it is so beautiful, and is one of the fastest growing plants in the world; the stem matures in 4-6 years, compared to over 50 years for other trees. We think it’s the perfect alternative for making sustainable furniture and kitchens.
How do you approach design?
It is very important to us to understand how our clients live and use their kitchens, and that they remain involved throughout the whole process. We bring a project together holistically, giving careful consideration to space, function and aesthetics. When designing we think about functionality and material efficiency, and often end up stripping away all unnecessary details.
Is there a Japanese influence in your approach to design?
For sure! We love the organic quality of Japanese design and carpentry, and Kristoffer’s favorite movie is You Only Live Twice. We are strongly influenced by the Japanese aesthetic of many modern Scandinavian classics.
What else influences you?
Bamboo itself is very interesting to investigate, and that influences us a great deal. It’s extremely versatile because the grain can have a classic line structure, or another entirely different pattern. Developing the color variations has been a challenge, but after much trial and error we have found a way to underline the material’s natural qualities. Nature, organic shapes and minimal schools of thought influence us too. But we also sense what is right for us, and go with that feeling.
You make other furniture too. Is this a natural progression from what you were already doing?
It’s fun to make something new, but it also comes from wanting to use as much as we can of the bamboo panels. We try to think about sustainability in every step of the process, and throwing away as little as possible is a key part of that. Later this year we will officially launch a new set of shelves and dining room tables, which is going to be really exciting.