Bosnia-Herzegovina is not known as a Mecca for furniture design. Nonetheless, furniture manufacturers from the Balkan nation have caused an international furore in recent years through the linking of traditional craftsmanship and modern formal language. The interplay of natural materials, solid wood and a high level of carving craftsmanship got the attention of the worldwide design scene and brought furniture from Bosnia-Herzegovina the attention it deserves.
The craftsman is the secret star of Bosnian design, because he uses his hands to lend the furniture a look that is unmistakable worldwide. Zanat is the textbook example of this. The roots of the company are in Konjic, to the southwest of Sarajevo.
Around 100 yas ago, the company founder Gano Niksic developed a simple hand carving technique, the so-called "Bosnian Konjic style", which was added to the list of immaterial World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in December 2017.
The committee was convinced to take this step by the long tradition, the visual identity and its significance for the community in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Patterns that make the products unique, sometimes like fish scales, sometimes like fine stripes – this is what the Konjic technique and Zanat stand for.
Today the company is not only known for its great artisanal skill, but also for its clear formal language. The basis for this combination was provided in 2015 by the Swedish designer Monica Förster, who is still active as a consultant for Zanat.
In design terms, the connection of Scandinavian expression and high quality Bosnian craftsmanship results in an exciting contrast that revolutionised the international design market. The "Unna chair", a dining room chair that is simple in its design, and is yet unusual, or the "Sana" console are only two examples of the development of Zanat design. Besides Förster, with Gert Wingårdh, Harri Koskinen and Ilse Crawford, three more design greats and several local creatives have designed for the label.
Not only companies that look back on a long history are reflecting on the roots of traditional furniture production. The young Bosnian company Gazzda also unites natural materials, modern design and proven craftsmanship in its designs. Whether lounge chair, dining room chair or barstool: everything in the current collection revolves around sitting.
Gazzda produces its furniture from solid wood and otherwise trusts in natural materials. Thus, the seat cushions of the new collection are of wool or cotton, and linoleum is also used in addition to wood. The current fawn collection, for which primarily oak was used, convinces with airy recesses and a clear formal language – nothing is reminiscent of oak furniture of the past.
Although the Balkans have not always really been a hotspot of furniture design, labels like Zanat or Gazzda prove that this has long since changed. Their bond with traditional craftsmanship from the region and their sense for contemporary design show clearly that they have understood the wish of consumers for individuality and authenticity.