“We want to do something that’s fun, accessible and reconnects people with objects,” says Danish art dealer Nina Hertig. And it’s impossible not to feel an old-fashioned shopping rush when you step into Ælfred, a 300m² treasure trove of mid-century Scandinavian finds in east London. Rows of ‘PH’ pendant lights hang from the rafters and shelves are stacked with ceramics from Royal Copenhagen, lamps from Louis Poulsen, glassware and vintage silver cutlery. Familiar names – Børge Mogensen, Haslev, Alvar Aalto’s Artek – add up to a delicious mix of Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish classics all under one roof.
Inside Ælfred: London’s vintage Scandinavian design emporium
Ælfred couldn’t be more different from Hertig’s first venture. In 2005 she co-founded her gallery Kings’ Road Sigmar, where pedigree pieces from Scandinavian masters include Finn Juhl chairs for £6,500 and clients are Manhattan penthouse owners who employ her interior design services.
At Ælfred on the canal in Hackney Wick, prices range from £15 to £2,500 and almost nothing is cataloged. Also, nothing is available online. There is no time for this, with carefully selected containers of stock arriving regularly from Denmark. “We can make things accessible by scaling the business, which is what we need to do now in London,” she says. “We base Ælfred on a high turnover of things. We will have a truck here every two weeks.
For those who don’t want to buy a complete dinner service including pieces they will never use, huge sets of glasswaresilver cutlery and crockery can be mixed and matched.
As Hertig points out, many items such as glasses and cutlery do not need to be purchased new. “They’re so well made that they’ve lasted for decades and still have plenty of life left in them.”
The name Ælfred is a joke; Alfred “The Great”, King of Wessex, held off the Vikings for much of his reign in the 9th century. This Ælfred, says Hertig, is more welcoming to all things Scandinavian and will also welcome visitors and locals.
Next door, Moro is opening a new restaurant. (It’s no coincidence; Hertig’s friends Nina Tolstrup and Studiomama’s Jack Mama designed it) and the two spaces hope to attract weekends “to come for lunch, have a good day and celebrate the dying art of discovering treasures in real life”.
Unit 2, Fall Yard