Sitting in his studio in an industrial part of Brooklyn, New York, designer Magnus Lundström is painting a walnut peppermill. Around us we can see the new Brooklyn arising. Gigantic steel-and-glass skyscrapers dominated the skyline, with further evidence of gentrification in the form of luxury restaurants and microbreweries.
Around Lundström’s studio, however, small artisanal workshops still line the streets. He’s been here for three years, primarily making kitchen products, which started as a hobby until food writer Ruth Reichl included his peppermills in Gourmet and he was inundated with orders. The prestigious Cooper Hewitt design museum has even exhibited a mortar he created.
In spite of this success, Lundström spends much of his time on a greater vision: helping people breathe. For 20 years he’s worked with Blueair, for whom he developed one of the world’s most popular and effective purifiers.
It was Blueair’s founder, Bengt Rittri, who commissioned Lundström to develop the shape of the new purifier: ”The goal was to create a product that combines elegance with function,” he says. “It was to be elegant without being trendy. Because trends come and go. One moment you’ll be edgy and the next, gone. We wanted to make a product that would survive the cycles.”
Blueair’s air purifiers have won many international awards, and have been sold to over 60 countries around the world. Lundström believes that it is their pure, unadorned design that appeals to customers.
“Many of our competitors only made giant plastic boxes that were ugly,” he says. “We concluded that if we made an air purifier out of bent sheet metal, it becomes a smaller product that is also incredibly durable and long-lasting. About 70 per cent of all the metal is recycled, which is a much higher figure than for plastic. Here in New York we can see how people just put old plastic products out on the sidewalk when they don’t work any more. Then they end up in mountains of rubbish or in the sea. I think it has to be possible to take responsibility for our consumption so we don’t poison the earth.”Which, of course, is a global problem.
“Something has to be done. There are cities in the world where the smog levels sometimes are up to 40 times higher than recommended. Especially alarming when many of those who die from pollution are children.”
According to the World Health Organization, purifiers are likely to have saved lives. In 2013, the US was so alarmed by the air quality at their embassy in Beijing that they invested in thousands of Blueair purifiers. The French, Dutch and Finnish embassies have also ordered Blueair purifiers.
Is there a solution?
A pioneer such as Magnus is proud to take inspiration from Tesla which produces electric cars and batteries.
“That’s just where we have to go,” he says. “We need to scale back our entire consumption so we don’t poison the earth. The faster we do it, the more successful we can be.”