Music is playing, drinks being served, the young women have carefully varnished finger nails and have put their hair: the opening of the Stockholm Furniture Fair, including Hall V, the Greenhouse, the place for design colleges and freelancers. Here the designs are more daring, more experimental and not yet so profit-maximizing. The prototypes by the young designer are compelling not only in formal terms but also for their high-quality craftsmanship. For example, the presentation by Sweden's Linköping University old crafts techniques are used as if they were special inserts. Indeed, wood as a material is used playfully and decoratively. Here, historical shapes such as cords and product typologies such as chests of drawers, dressing tables, small cupboards for small things such as keys or buttons. For one work, a stack of wood has been stuck to the wall, a real puzzle that one. Is it a functionless sculpture or a secret hiding place? Does one of the pieces of wood move and reveal what is inside? After several attempts, a section of square timber moves forward and a drawer opens.
The outstanding quality of the Stockholm Furniture Fair stems from the fact that it focuses firmly on Nordic design. While many foreign companies save their new products for Milan, almost all the Scandinavian design companies showcase their wares in Stockholm - the latest fair was the jubilee 60th edition, meaning it could celebrate being one of the oldest trade fairs in Sweden. This focus on local designs, ideas and products kindles much interest - and is quite simply fun. The speech by guest-of-honor Arik Levy at the press conference likewise bore witness to the relaxed mood. At the very beginning he chose to describe himself as a "fair cookie". During his one-man-show on stage, and he definitely has a comedian's talent, he hardly even mentions his Lounge design for the trade fair, and doesn't even discuss his other pieces. Instead, he talks about the tasks of the designer, about the fact that designers are only specialized to a limited extent and not with regard to the shape of products. Designers, he suggests, are above all persons who view actions. And in the best of cases transpose their observations onto good product designs.
Arik Levy justifiably does not like trends, as trends cannot count for designers, as they have to live in the future if one bears in mind how much time is required for product development. Yet the products on display at the fair did have some things in common. For example, there were an astonishingly large number of pastel colors, as with the long-since classic shelving system "String", the "Morris" side table by Original Habitek Works, the "Grasshopper" standing lamp by Gubi and the "Project Francis" luminaire by young designer duo Dmoch. Moreover, many designs in wood were on show, such as Inga Sempé's Österlen" chair and table for Gärnäs, the "Bit" side table by Chris Martin for Massproductions or A2's "Collect" furniture series.
&Tradition presented Victor Wayne Vetterlein's "Trash me" luminaire - completely in bright gray and making no attempt to hide the materials used. "Trash me" involves papier mache being injection-molded and dried outdoors. Once the luminaire is no longer used it can easily be recycled and turned into a new product.
Another luminaire that only reveals its origins in paper at second glance was presented as a prototype in Milan last year. In Stockholm, it is now on show ready to roll as a mass-produced item. Swedish designer trio Claesson Koivisto Rune's luminaire "W101" was developed in collaboration with Wästberg and Södra Cell over a period of two years and is expected to cost three hundred euros. The "Durapulp" luminaire is made of a fiber material and PLA, a biodegradable polylactide. The robust Durapulp materials was first presented publicly at the Milan Furniture Fair 2009 in the form of the "Parupu" children's chair.
Claesson Koivisto Rune are designers who are truly omnipresent in Stockholm (they have authored product designs by 11 different makers and galleries) and have created an outdoor series for Berga Form, a table with a top made of artificial stone and a wooden chair named "Matilda". According to Marten Claessonm he had the idea for the furniture series one summer's day in his garden, where a couple of plastic chairs stood around disturbing the feel of the idyllic countryside surroundings. At Muuto, Soren Rose's "Reflect" sideboard attests to his playful use of wood, as the doors have faux wooden planks that render handles superfluous.
On balance, the Stockholm Furniture Fair is really beautiful, in all senses of the word. The booths are unobtrusive, well thought out and designed to great effect; the products are showcased attractively, one is welcomed cordially at the booths, and the little balls of chocolate wrapped in silver-colored paper satisfy your hunger. Moreover, with 40,000 square meters of exhibition space spread across four halls, the fair is not too large. (Milan's Salone is five times the size.) In Stockholm, the trade fair and the city bring good design to life with that matter-of-fact Scandinavian manner which is so refreshing.