Nordic design gallery Modernity London opens in Pimlico’s Newson’s Yard

Modernity London opens in new design hub Newson’s Yard with 200 sq m of the finest Scandinavian design. Discover the highlights

Modernity London interior featuring mid-century Scandinavian furniture
(Image credit: Courtesy Modernity)

Nordic design gallery Modernity is first over the threshold at London's Newson’s Yard, the eagerly anticipated new design hub in Pimlico. And what an entrance it makes. Stretching to 200 sq m across two floors, Modernity London is brimming with elegant Danish furniture, Finnish lighting, Swedish textiles and art. 

Modernity London: the design highlights

Modernity London gallery first floor interior

(Image credit: Courtesy Modernity)

As you would expect for a trailblazing gallery that has specialised in Nordic midcentury design for 25 years – both from its Stockholm base and, more recently, London showrooms in Cavendish Square and Westbourne Grove – superstar works with plenty of 000s on the price tag are on offer. 

Centre stage are some Alvar Aalto plywood works, created for the Paimio Sanatorium in Southwest Finland between 1928 and 1933 (it’s now a museum). ‘Many of Aalto’s signature pieces were made for Paimio,’ says Modernity founder and director Andrew Duncanson. 'He used plywood because [the sanatorium] was full of tuberculosis patients, so furniture had to be easy to wipe clean.’

Modernity London gallery interior

(Image credit: Courtesy Modernity)

Less practical but more fun is the ‘Sleigh’ chair (£145,000) by Danish designer Börge Mogensen. Made in 1953, it sits on Brazilian rosewood ‘skis’ (while the Swedes and Finns opted for local woods, the Danes favoured exotic woods). A mahogany smoking table by Danish designer H Brockmann Petersen offers a throwback to a bygone era. With storage for tobacco, lighters and pipes, and equipped with wheels, it can be positioned right next to an armchair before one lights up.

Finnish master Tapio Wirkkala had an extremely delicate touch, as marquetry and bowls from the 1920s and 1930s reveal. ‘Wirkkala came across two elderly men in Finland who were making airplane propellers from plywood, and he started making sculptures in what he called aeroplane veneer. It’s very fine and very hard to work with.’

Modernity London interiors with chairs and cabinet

(Image credit: Courtesy Modernity)

Duncanson started collecting international design while he was still living in his native Scotland, but switched to Scandinavian midcentury when he moved to Sweden, opening Modernity Stockholm in 1998. He professes to have no emotional attachment to the pieces he sells. 

‘But there is one piece that intrigues me the most right now. It’s by Stig Lönngren, who is a new discovery,’ he says pointing to a serving trolley. Designed in 1947 by the Swede for his own use, it’s a delightful assemblage of artful joinery and has a slide-out glass surface and a removable rattan basket. ‘Lönngren is not known outside Sweden, but his workmanship is equivalent to that of Danish designer Peder Moos, who was, and still is, the most highly prized of Danish designers.’

Modernity London interior with dining table and chairs

(Image credit: Courtesy Modernity)

When it comes to lighting, Finnish maestro Paavo Tynell led the way, and a 1940s ceiling lamp with star-shaped brass and rattan shades made from window blinds throws dazzling shadows across the gallery. ‘Tynell hated seeing bulbs, so he spent his years producing pieces that hid them from the naked eye.’

Plain English,  And Objects, The Lacquer Company, and Nina Campbell are among the next arrivals to move into Newson’s Yard. They will need to impress, because Modernity London has set the bar very high.

Newson's Yard, 57 Pimlico Rd, London SW1W 8NE

Emma O'Kelly is a freelance journalist and author based in London. Her books include Sauna: The Power of Deep Heat and she is currently working on a UK guide to wild saunas, due to be published in 2025.