Last fall, the Stockholm city center was crisp and cool, as daylight waned by mid-afternoon. The occasion was Volvo’s newest vehicle unveiling of its first all-electric seven-seater SUV, the EX90. A large dome was illuminated in soft tangerine hues where the vehicle was under wraps. These were the same typical seasonal conditions that served as a prompt for Scandinavian designers to build a philosophy and a movement that ultimately influenced modernism in the twentieth century.
Scandinavian design shows up in the clean lines, neutral hues, and functionality in modern furniture, architecture, and cars. As designers strive to balance new technology and sustainable materials, the design movement that originated across five northern European countries provided a framework that is enduring. As director of interior design for Volvo Cars, Lisa Reeves and her team of 23 interior designers incorporate Scandinavian aesthetics into the next generation of vehicles the Swedish automaker designs. Volvo is headquartered in Gothenburg, a two-hour train ride from Stockholm, and where Reeves works.
The exterior of a car may leave the first impression on the viewer, but the form and functionality of the interior are where design is the most thoughtful. The inside of a car is a physical space where people spend a good portion of their time. Designers pay close attention to the use of light, space, and how the materials harmonize, while constantly considering every element of passenger safety. Volvo has incorporated a large screen, a clean approach to graphics, and the Google system that guides the user experience to be intuitive. The UX will continue to evolve as the software is updated automatically. To balance out the tech bits, the EX90 interior is smooth and sculpted and every detail is carefully considered. Reeves pointed out her personal favorite element the way the lip of a vent is shaped and the etched metal pattern covering the Bowers & Wilkins speakers that create a subtle glittery effect.
What’s also distinct about the new generation of automotive interior design is the increased use of sustainable materials. “Our ultimate goal is circularity in 2040,” Reeves said. Recycled plastics and bottles, and material made of pine resin from the forest are used throughout the interior on door handles, paneling, and surfaces. “That’s the element of Scandinavian design, texture, and duality and balancing them in a really beautiful way,” she said.
To find solutions and inspiration, Reeves spends time considering architecture, furniture design and fashion. “We look for a very precise language, softness mixed with hard precision to contrast it.”She favors classics such as Arne Jacobson’s egg chair. “What I like about it is the comfortable shapes, but at the same time, it has elegance and a lightweight feeling. It’s a classic one.” She also looks to more contemporary sources such as Danish furniture designer Bolia. In the current collection, the company uses a palette of light wood similar to the ash wood in the EX90 interior. Reeves points out the wool and polyester blend used on the seats that is intended to conjure a Scandinavian living room. “It’s about the purity,” she said. The Volvo EX90 will be available for the 2024 model year.