HAY ya: The Danish furniture company’s joyful design for all

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The grand launch of Design Story Inc. this week celebrated the arrival of the Danish furniture company with a joyful yet minimalist design sensibility, HAY. Photo courtesy of HAY

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — HAY, the Danish furniture brand, turned 14 years old this year, after launching its first furniture collection a year after it was founded in 2002. Since then, HAY has made its way to the Philippines and is carried by Design Story Inc., a luxury furniture company, which held its grand launch yesterday, October 21, in Taguig. HAY is one of its two main brands, the other being Stellar Works, which is also of a similarly straightforward design sensibility.

After setting up what turned out to be a wildly popular sample collection of a few HAY pieces in a “test showroom” in Ortigas Center about a year ago, the team behind luxury furniture store Casa Bella Home and Living decided to bring the brand in. The crux of HAY’s design philosophy rests on the desire to make beautiful and functional pieces — a mark of Danish modern design — that make use of innovative technology and quality materials, paired with a joyful and uncomplicated aesthetic available to as many people as possible. HAY starts with minimal and functional design, but lets you play along, too. Their starter chair, “About A Chair,” for example, allows for countless configurations such as a variety of different leg styles, one- or two-sided upholstery, the addition of wheels, chair arms, and even a more shell-like shape of the standard seat.

Although the prices may be a little higher than your average furniture retailer, HAY has maintained a global price point, which means that you can get your HAY fix here for relatively the same price as you would have had you bought them in other countries. Design Story Inc. has also brought in select items from HAY’s Mini Market so that you don’t have to fork out a fortune to be able to enjoy good design. One of their bestsellers, to their surprise, is a pair of scissors made of brass.

In the age of potentially boring minimalist furniture, HAY has continued to breathe life and fun into well-designed pieces that go together a thousand different ways. CNN Philippines Life talked to business partners Joseph Tay and Stephanie Coyiuto-Tay of Design Story Inc. over email about the Danish brand. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.

The crux of HAY’s design philosophy rests on the desire to make beautiful and functional pieces — a mark of Danish modern design. Photo courtesy of HAY

When did you discover HAY?

Stephanie: We have already been in the luxury furniture business for nearly ten years through Casa Bella Home and Living, but I really wanted to offer something for a younger and wider demographic. It was a conscious effort on my part to search for a furniture brand that is well-designed, of good quality, and most importantly, at a more affordable price point.

One day, Joseph came across an article in a design website called “Is Copenhagen the New Milan?” This intrigued him greatly as we have, after all, been selling Italian furniture for quite some time already. There was a great write-up on the Danish brand HAY. More research led us to conclude that HAY is the market leader of what we can term as the “affordable luxury” segment. Because of this, we quickly flew to Singapore where HAY is already being distributed. The collections and prices were so compelling that we contacted HAY immediately and expressed our interest to distribute them in the Philippines.

Can you describe the HAY aesthetic? What about it do you think would appeal to a Filipino audience?

Stephanie: HAY is a Danish company and has Scandinavian roots. However, it is continuously developing products that create an international/cosmopolitan and eclectic feel while still retaining its Scandinavian identity. The Scandinavian furniture trend has always been very well-received by the Filipino audience, especially the younger demographic. In addition, HAY's selection of products and finishes is so wide that just by changing the colors and finishes, the products can easily blend in with all sorts of different design concepts.

Aside from their in-house design team, HAY also works with a lot of different up-and-coming and established designers globally, such as Hee Welling, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien to name a few. This is of course aligned with the goal of HAY to be able to provide everyone a chance to enjoy excellent design at a democratic price.

"HAY is the market leader of what we can term as the 'affordable luxury' segment," says Stephanie Coyiuto-Tay. Photo courtesy of HAY

There are so many well-designed furniture and interior brands out today. What about HAY made you decide to bring it to Manila?

Stephanie: Aside from the current breadth of the collections, the good quality and price points, HAY stood out as a great partner for three reasons. First, it has a very unique strategy of retailing accessories, furniture for homes, and pieces for the contract market. Our group of furniture companies has that strategy: we are in the business of high-end furniture, the affordable luxury section, and have a contract company. HAY and our group of furniture companies have a good synergy.

Second, HAY is developing new products and signing up with international dynamic furniture designers at an unprecedented pace. We have been working with furniture brands for many years and follow the works of these designers. With this pattern, HAY is establishing itself to be a truly great global furniture company with a strong design vision and strategy. We would definitely want to be part of the growth of such a company.

Third, HAY has a strong price parity system. They impose on their distributors to have more or less the same price (after taking taxes into account). Thus, a HAY piece in Singapore will cost more or less the same as that in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and in Manila. We would like to give young families that assurance that they are paying a fair price for HAY products that they buy in Manila.

HAY starts with minimal and functional design, but lets you play along, too. Photo courtesy of HAY

What are the key or classic HAY pieces?

Stephanie: The classic pieces would be the About A Chair family. It is composed of different chairs — dining chairs, office chairs, bar stools, lounge chairs, and sofas. All of these with a common design theme available in so many different options of finishes and materials to choose from. They can be combined to create a unified look, but they can also be mixed and matched with different furniture and finishes for a more interesting interior set-up.

We also have the Mags sofa and Mags Soft sofa, both of which offer different levels of comfort. They also come in a wide range of finishes, whether it be fabric or leather.

Another interesting collection would be the Palissade, the latest outdoor collection of HAY designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. The collection is composed of 13 different elements designed to fit a variety of outdoor environments. The best part about it is it offers excellent comfort even without cushions.

HAY is continuously developing products that create a cosmopolitan and eclectic feel while still retaining its Scandinavian identity. Photo courtesy of HAY

Which ones are your personal favorites?

Joseph: I would say my favorite would be the sofas, specifically the the Mags and Hackney sofa. I like simple design, and I think the style of these sofas is very simple and relatable. You can put them in any space, and just use the different finishes to come up with different looks. It's also a huge bonus that they are very comfortable.

Stephanie: My favorite is actually one of the new products called the Uchiwa. It's designed by one of my favorite design duos, Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien. It's actually inspired by the traditional Japanese hand fan, hence the name and the shape. I love it because it's such a nice statement piece that will stand out in any space. You can also play around with different finishes for the front and back too!


HAY is available at Design Story Inc., 3/F Uptown Place Mall, 11th Ave. corner 36th Street, Bonifacio Global City. A second multi-brand showroom in Karrivin Plaza (Chino Roces Extension) will be open by February next year.