Soren Rose is, in all senses, an artist and architect by nature. Whereas most people appreciate good design from afar, Rose acts on any opportunity to create, and then builds teams around concepts to bring it to life. He is partly an accidental serial entrepreneur: he has founded a string of successful companies over the past twenty years —including Denmark’s top digital creative agency, several tech startups, a design studio with an interior design practice and his own collections of lamps and furniture — based on a simple philosophy to create what he wants to see in the world.
Rules of Impact // Soren RoseMute/unmute
Most recently, Rose partnered with Danish superstar architect Bjarke Ingels on Klein, a new project to reimagine cabins, tiny homes and sustainable living in nature. Like all of Rose’s companies, Klein started with a passionate conversation about ideas. The pair began reflecting on their own notion of space and relationships to home: “What is a home? What defines what you need?” Beyond the basics, the conversation led to changing dynamics of a city like New York, increased cost of living, the interrelationship of design and nature, and a need to make home ownership attainable to younger generations.
“What is a home? What defines what you need?”
With the tagline “A big step for small” — a play on Ingels’ internationally recognized architecture firm BIG — Klein plans to represent leading architects and license homes with a six-month lead time all over the world. “Our goal is to democratize the real-estate market. There is a huge responsibility,” Rose says. To achieve its vision of building a more sustainable future, Klein is experimenting with solar panels, irrigation systems, and integration of cutting-edge technology. To do so, Rose divides his time between New York City and the Catskills, where the company is currently developing its first prototype cabins and tiny homes before launching commercial projects in the future.
His rich understanding of design started as a boy in Svendborg, Denmark; his mother, a painter, was instrumental in shaping his way of questioning how things are made. “I was brought up with design,” he explains of his early childhood. ”I remember being in Italy and my Mom dragging me into a Alessi flagship store and showing me all these objects. I would see a Michael Graves teapot with a bird on it and go like ‘Oh, I hadn’t even thought a teapot could look like that!’”
His mother helped Rose develop his creative process: “she always said it was super scary when she got into a studio with a blank piece of canvas…It’s scary until she got started.” He doesn’t wait to get started: Rose gets an idea, immediately grabs a sketchbook, goes to the hardware store, and begins to imagine exactly how to invent what he needs. “Things have a tendency of just happening when they are good. Inspiration can come from anywhere,” he says. Over the years, he has discovered that the creative process will happen naturally without resistance, or it won’t happen at all. “As soon as it becomes too complicated, I move along to some other idea.”
Our goal is to democratize the real-estate market. There is a huge responsibility. tweet
Beyond his own processes, Rose’s real genius is his understated way of attracting incredibly talented people to work with him. “I love building culture,” he says. “I’ve always had a team around me. Even being 12 years old, my house, my room, that’s where everybody was. I always had 4 to 5 guys there hanging out for the weekend. We would watch scary movies, hide out under the same blanket. Then I started playing music and there was the band. I moved away and got my own place and started my own agency, and had a team. I understood it’s not fun to play music by yourself, but it’s really fun to play with a band.” He speaks as the kind of leader whose success is in many ways a function of being a catalyst for drawing the best work out of the teams he leads.
Although Rose acts as Klein’s Creative Director, he simultaneously executes so many projects at any given time that he strikes just the right balance between oversight and delegation, ideation and empowering team members to do their best work, the way a star musician inspires a band to perform great music. ”I love being around other people and that interaction. Every time you build a new company…you get a chance to build a new culture, which is super inspiring.”
I love being around other people and that interaction. Every time you build a new company…you get a chance to build a new culture
He got his start co-founding several startups in the tech and fashion space, though there was no real pattern to the evolution of his businesses beyond following his curiosity and creativity. From 1994 to 2005, Rose established a successful career in advertising, launching In2Media, Copenhagen’s leading digital creative agency. During that time, the company built nearly 400 websites for premier brands across multiple industries and acted as a pioneer in video content. “We launched something like YouTube before YouTube, and were the first company doing video like that in Europe.” It was an early example of Rose’s trademark approach of following his ideas to manifest what he wanted to see in the world.
Rose fell in love with photography and launched Trunk Archive, a photography archive with the world’s highest-paid photographers. With creatives working at Gucci, Chanel, Vanity Fair, Vogue, the brand became like a “Dean & DeLuca of supermarkets.” To grow the business, Rose moved to New York, the center of the world for photography, fashion and design, and fully immersed himself in the concept. His transition brought about far more change to Rose than his career: he downsized from a 6,000 sq. ft. loft in Copenhagen to 1,600 sq. ft. in TriBeCa, which he built from the ground up, motivated by his personal aesthetic and design preferences.
Rose’s TriBeCa loft embodies the business values he designed his career around: sustainable, thoughtful, tactile and curated. Nothing about it is ordinary or arbitrary: The shelves are brimming with color-coded design books; the planters for his at-home garden and frames for his children’s bunk bed use the same wood as the floor boards to ensure no elements go to waste. The single framed photo of his daughter, thoughtfully hung above two guitars, launches him into a story about the precious moment it was captured, when she laid spontaneously under the table at a sushi restaurant. This home — laden with nature, open space and natural light — represents Rose’s ever-expanding vision to manifest better creations into the world.
Rose’s New York City loft embodies the business values he designed his career around: sustainable, thoughtful, tactile and curated.
The design sensibilities that inform both his home and his work are informed by his Scandinavian upbringing, which he draws upon intuitively without any formal training. “It’s like if you know many languages, you can just speak them,” he says. “Many Americans know who Eames was and what Herman Miller is, but they don’t necessarily understand one was a manufacturer and the other one is a designer.” In Denmark, this is common knowledge. Everyone knows who Anna Jacobsen and Fritz Hansen are, the interrelationship between the design of everything in their living rooms.”
Collectively, conscious design will become increasingly crucial for humanity to co-evolve with the demands for work, limited space, and ubiquitous technology.
His own understanding of design language sits at the intersection of innovation and functionality, by way of experience as both a Creative Director and tech entrepreneur and has led Rose to take on increasingly more ambitious projects across multiple industries. These efforts have cultimated with the launch of Klein, which in part is motivated by his desire to find balance among a busy city and a busy career. Conscious design is becoming increasingly crucial for humanity to co-evolve with the demands for work, limited space, and ubiquitous technology.
“There is a whole shift happening now. I’m 44, and our parents lived in big houses.” He recalls with nostalgia his father getting off work everyday at 5 pm and moving the lawn every weekend. In contrast, in New York, everything revolves around the work: “Even when you meet someone for a drink, you are really there somehow about work.” That’s why his apartment is open — it brings the entire family together. “All of the walls are cabinets. There isn’t a single wall partition.” When you are out, you are working; when you are home, it is intimate, special, communal.
“Jumping into the unknown is always going to be challenging. I always had a dream that I would not belong to something, but continuously go on a journey.”
Rose envisions a future where we are always mobile, and the freedom afforded by the Airstream life of the open road will be available to anyone with autonomous vehicles. “What is commuting if your car is an office? If your car is a comfortable lounge?” He advises people to embrace the direction that the world is heading and do what they’re most passionate about. “Follow your interests and what you really like doing.” Rose remembers again the example of his mother with painting.