Design Undefined: How foreign creatives fit into their new environment in Denmark

How is design defined? One could argue it’s everything from constructing a website and haute couture, to deciding on the interiors or architectural plan of a whole building – and everything in between.

For me design is about expression of feelings, culture and impressions, but how do these expressions come to life? For many of us, it is based on our experiences sprinkled with our creativity.

Having been fortunate to travel and live around the world over the years, embracing cultures, local architecture, styles and ways of life has shaped the way I design and shape handmade jewellery.

Using an extraordinary palette
When I moved to Denmark in 2012, I fell in love with the old architecture and the vibrant colours.
Coming from San Francisco, California, where everything is bold and bright, I was surprised to see the array of muted colours that existed amongst the apparel and interior design.

Since then, much has changed, but my first impressions have played a significant role in my approach toward my own jewellery design work ( .

I am naturally influenced by the signature bright yet laid-back California style, and I am simultaneously intrigued by the simplistic, minimalistic Scandinavian approach.

Creating unique experiences
It has become apparent to me that somewhere along the way I have been able to marry the two through my own creative expression at home and with my jewellery design.  

My beads are sourced globally. I use recycled glass beads from Ghana, which are unique, colourful and bold, along with bone beads from Nepal, which are simplistic and minimalistic. Merging the bright, vibrant and bold colours from California and Ghana with the simplistic Nepalese beads and Scandinavian designs has enabled me to fashion  unique creations.

In the end, design is about allowing us to express ourselves. My goal is to bring different cultural designs together, creating a unique experience for women who wear my jewellery to express themselves through my creations.

It is not about fitting in or following a specific colour or template, but about helping create that unique feeling that allows us to thrive with confidence.

Melting pot of cultures
So, what happens when a group of foreigners move to a new country and immerse their international experience, history, culture and design ethos into a new culture?

How does it evolve and fit into this new environment? I went straight to the source and spoke to three entrepreneurial expat businesswomen in Copenhagen.  


When Joanna Mugford ( moved to Copenhagen from Poland, one of the first things she did was take a deep breath of the fresh air and hop on a bicycle. She remembers being in awe of the  thousands of cyclists making their way around what is one of the greenest cities in the world.

“It is fascinating how cyclists in Copenhagen can carry anything and anyone on their bicycles the whole year round – regardless of the weather. It started to reflect in my artwork and resulted in the design of a digital illustration, ‘Cyclists of Copenhagen’,” she recalled.

Bee inspired
The Danish influence and inspiration didn’t stop there. She began volunteering as a local honey producer at Bybi in Copenhagen, where she designed a series of paintings featuring her creation, Geoffrey the Beekeeper.

Invited to take part in the Garden and Flower Festival at Tivoli in the autumn of 2021, she painted a photo stand-in, which kids and adults enjoyed by taking photos of themselves as a beekeeper or a bee.

Busy bees
The inspiration continued with Little Square Bee, which later turned into the ‘Bee Friendly Badge’ sticker. Its simple design reflects Danish directness.  The Bee character also took part in a NFT project, @bees_and_the_city, which included a design of animated bees on top of pictures of Copenhagen – all in collaboration with photographer Natalya Tarankova.

Walking, flying and honey-drinking bees took part in Copenhagen-themed exhibition ‘Bikes and Roses’, and Geoffrey will also be on display at Art Escape Studios (Blegdamsvej 68, Cph K) for a solo exhibition, opening on April 1.


As an interior architect who has lived and worked around the world – in Poland, Switzerland, the US, the UK, Denmark, to name just a few – Maja de Silva ( has learned about and experienced different cultures while working with many internationals.

Today, she has settled in beautiful Copenhagen, where she designs homes, combining all the styles that influenced her living abroad.

A playful approach
“Living in a country with such a history of design is a big challenge, but that’s what I love most. I’m very passionate about interiors and I’ve created a style where I mix and play with various trends, colours, furniture, fabrics and more,” she explained.

“I bring together the Danish classic, simple, timeless style by adding pops of colour in accessories, wallpapers, art, furniture and accent walls. When designing spaces for my clients I want them to feel comfortable, to reflect their personality and to make the designs feel cosy and practical.”

Last, but not least: Hygge!
Maja helps her clients to create beautiful spaces at their homes or businesses, finding the right balance of colours and proportions to bring unique style to the surface.

“Afterall, in Denmark and design, there must be ‘Hygge’,” she concludes.


Born and raised in San Diego, California, Janet Grech founded GRECH & CO ( in Denmark in 2015 – a family lifestyle brand where Nordic simplicity meets California dreamin’.

Now raising five children in Denmark, she sees fashion as a means of merging the nostalgia of her 1980s and early ‘90s California childhood with a Nordic experience of family-hood.

Familial influences
“Fashion is so much more than expression. GRECH & CO is inspired by the modern family. It is solid colours in simple form, timeless patterns and prints.  Sunny, playful, bold – yet simple and transitional,” she explained.

Janet designs with a ‘less is more’ philosophy, and a ‘being kind to our environment’ approach is woven into the threads of each design. Raising multiple children is also a large inspiration behind the designs of the brand.

Making an impact
Style does not need to be compromised for function or practicality, she contends. The idea that one single item, such as a water bottle, can be equally loved and used by both mother and son, for example, can be quite impactful for both our personal economies and our environment.

And so, it is with great pleasure that Janet would like to welcome you into the GRECH & CO universe where practical pieces of magic meet everyday life.