In Person: Inspired Upholstery Design

Studio B onboard Oasis of the SeasAs a weave designer, Pia Bjornstad has created some “800 to 900” upholstery designs and is brimming with energy for more. Interviewed by Cruise Industry News in September, she said she was working on various projects, including Viking Ocean Cruises’ new ships, but that is all she would say, keeping the designs as secret as the cruise line is.

Based in Oslo, Bjornstad has worked independently for the past 14 years, taking on assignments from various design and architectural firms. Prior to that she worked for Gudbrandsdalens Uldvarefabrik for 28 years.

Her first big project was for Architect Njaal Eide for the original Royal Princess, which she started working on in 1980. “I was 32,” she laughed, “and jumped in with both feet. My job was to design upholstery fabrics for the entire ship. Some of the fabrics I constructed then were used for another 20 years. Eide was demanding, but easy to work for. He would tell you right away whether he liked it or not.

“Some years later an architect client gave me sample of a fabric he liked and asked if I could copy it. Turned out, the sample was a copy somebody else had constructed from one of my own previous constructions for the Royal Princess. Yes, I said, I can do that.”

Bjornstad’s involvement starts with the architect showing her sketches, giving her the names of spaces and telling her about the artwork and decorations.

“I listen very carefully,” she said, “and try to translate the sketches into upholstery designs which we discuss and I try to ascertain, for example, whether they want a small or large design pattern. Once I am sure I understand what they want and have their feedback, I go to work. And usually, I am able to work very independently.”

She continued: “I design upholstery to reflect the name and the intended ambiance of a room. I also pay attention to the artwork; I want my designs to support the artwork, not to compete with it. Art is art, upholstery is something you use.”

Today, using computers allows her to place designs and patterns where she wants them. Thus, on Hurtigruten’s Polarlys she developed a Viking ship design that covered the full width of chairs.

Working mostly with wool, her work starts with spinning the yarn and constructing the fabric. She said: “Half the job involves the construction with the pattern of the fabric, its looks and durability.”

Her upholstery constructions and designs can be found aboard a number of ships, ranging from Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas to Hurtigruten’s intimate coastal vessels.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2014

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