PS Heggen and the Einar Barnes waste bins the true story of a mid-century design classic

PS Heggen and the Einar Barnes waste bins a mid-century design classic , the true facts .It’s amazing how stories start and soon become considered to be true and get continuously copied . For some unknown reason somebody seems to have decided that these waste paper baskets or bins were designed in the 1950s and this is repeated wrongly in many descriptions . Luckily that wonderful London design store Skandium found the true story and that the design was actually from around 1965 apparently , although we found that they were first on sale in the UK in 1963 !

We’ve long considered these lovely pieces to be the most beautiful ” waste bin ” of all time and have managed to buy them occasionally . In around 2015 a Norwegian company called Utopia Worshop managed to re-issue the most commonly seen oval version in oak and walnut veneers and Skandium discovered the true history as they must have offered some in their London shops . So thanks to Skandium here is the story .

Einar Barnes was a Norwegian Missionary working in Manchuria , China , from 1935-41 where amongst other things he was in charge of the missionary building projects . He then took his family to Addis Ababa in around 1945 where he worked for the Mosvald Shipping Group , again with some building project work . Between 1957 and 1961 he was manager of the Aase Dreiri furniture company back home in Norway , and this apparently self taught designer was designing chairs and other furniture . In around 1962 he contacted another Norwegian furniture maker PS Heggen with his designs for the oval wastebin which was made for a number of years along with a rarer circular version . Assuming he was in his early 20s when he went to China , he must have been in his mid to late 50s when he designed these bins which are now sought after as mid-century design classics .

They were imported for the first time in 1963 as we’ve found them mentioned in an original trade paper of that year . Only the teak ones are then shown , with the suggested approximate retail price of £3 15 shillings for the circular single handled ones and £3 19shillings 6pence for the 2 handled ones . In today’s money allowing for inflation that is around £80 . The single handled ones are rarer today so they must have been considered to be not such good value , or less aesthetically pleasing perhaps !It’s one of the few pieces that would be great to travel back in time to buy as today the teak ones are often priced at £300-£400 online today although if you are lucky you will find them for less , but you can find them offered for much more on sites like First Dibs and there have been some stunning prices achieved for groups of them in design auctions .

In 1963 £10-£12 would have got you 1 G Plan teak dining chair that can be bought today for £50-£80 ! In the 1960s a dining suite would have been considered a necessity in most British houses whereas a designer waste bin would have been an extravagant luxury so relatively few will have been bought back in the day , and so today with supply limited and demand high prices can be staggering compared to their original cost .

The bins are made of teak or rosewood ply laminate with solid teak or solid rosewood handles and sides . The new re-issued versions are still smart but oak and walnut can never compare favourably with teak or rosewood !

Of course you can also use them for holding magazines , but if you want the sexiest most stylish waste bin ever designed you have to go for an original PS Heggen design by Einar Barnes . No doubt PS Heggen made some great furniture in the 1960s , but if you make a google search you’ll mainly come up with the bins , although we did find one teak sideboard also ! It probably was considered to be only a small side-line back in the day , but now that is what they’re known for .

There are variations as to the wood used in the sides . Some of the teak ones have teak sides but others have stained beech ones . The rosewood one I have at home ( not for sale ! ) has dark stained beech sides . Few of the sellers online that we’ve seen mention this detail , but the contrast with the lighter beech and the teak can look good .