Claesson Koivisto Rune integrated electric sockets for smartphones and tablets for their new sofa „Gate“ for Offecct. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Flaunting a new feel for life
by Martina Metzner
Feb 10, 2015

Right on cue for Stockholm Design Week it has snowed, although in this dry cold the snow seems really light and friendly, indeed even warming. The warm reddish glow of the streetlamps adds to this impression, and so you dash elated through this winter setting from one showroom to another, from one design studio to the next.

There is no shortage of things to marvel at, such as the trumps that Monica Förster, the new art director of the Croatian brand Zanat, lays on the table and how she forms lanterns from the mineral material Dekton by Cosentino. Or how Claesson Koivosto Rune arrange wooden boards with beveled edges and other little household gadgets in their office, and how the three men, who at the start of their career had sworn never to launch their own brand, admit that this is the first accessory line of their own. How things change. The fact that accessories can also be a good sideline for designers – as demonstrated by fashion designers who branch out into perfumes and bags – is something Alexander Lervik has also discovered. For the premiere of his Tingest line he asked designer friends such as Färg & Blanche, Broberg & Ridderstråle and fashion creator Astrid Olsson to design appealing items like candlesticks, throws for sofas, necklaces and coat stands.

Indeed, when visiting Stockholm Design Week you cannot help repeatedly feeling like you were invited by friends. There is a focus on conviviality and so you are already in a good mood the day before the fair proper. And thanks to the uncomplicated layout of the exhibition halls you soon feel at home there. Everything is bright and open and you don’t need a hall plan. So does the North truly offer a different perspective of the world? Does the Stockholm Furniture Fair present a good opportunity to look and find out what constitutes the essence of New Nordic design? What trends are there? And how does it respond to international demand?

Quiet, please!

Just as outside the exhibition halls the snow serves to mute most sounds, indoors in Halls A and B every effort is made to reduce noise. Noise absorption is the most obvious common denominator at this year’s Stockholm Furniture Fair. Using great powers of imagination, manufacturers such as Offecct, Kinnarps, Blå Station and Abstracta make acoustic panels for ceilings, walls and tables that are by no means only intended for the office, but also for the bedroom. The fact that such panels can also be given a fashionable design is demonstrated, say, by the table “Avant” by Materia, whose generous sheathing is thickly upholstered and stitched such that you cannot help but think of a luxurious French bed – and the women standing around it immediately begin to gently stroke it.

It stands to reason that when it comes to reducing noise high-back sofas should be pushed again. And it is not only Lammhults that decided to make a model of the sofa “Portus” with an extra-high backrest. Skandiform goes one step further, presenting a high-back chair with “Petals”, praised as the most attractive “flower” of all the chairs at the show. The fair’s guest of honour, British designer Ilse Crawford, asks fittingly in her exhibition: “Do we need another chair?” If we do need another chair, then perhaps one on which you can not only sit, but which also absorbs noise to boot? Meanwhile it is already a success, the “Akustic Chair” by Swedish designer Åke Axelsson for Gärsnäs whose seat combines sound-absorbing material and plywood. You might say the Swedes have been addressing noise for some time.

Of course you can also resort to completely different means to reduce noise – as evidenced at a small booth on the periphery. Under her label Okko, Marja-Iiisa Okko is showing thick strands of wool, which she lines up along the wall. A welcome change from all the sound-absorbing panels and which once again emphasizes how much textiles can contribute to enhanced room acoustics.

Not without my smartphone
Elsewhere Richard Hutten sits on his new “Satellite” chair for Offecct and raises his legs, causing the small table attached by a bracket to circulate. This table is intended to accommodate smartphones and tablet PCs – today, the indispensable digital expansion of the self. “Shima” by design trio Böttcher-Henssler-Kayser for Johanson Design takes a similar approach: It is a lounge chair you can relax in for a short break and to quickly check your emails. It works in the office just as well as at home, says designer Moritz Böttcher. Admittedly, this is not a Scandinavian invention, but it makes sense to show such hybrid seating, as people in the Nordic countries would seem to know how to successfully fuse work and leisure, duty and pleasure.

Nordic and New Nordic

Anyone who comes to Stockholm also wants to see “New Nordic” – the design for which, among others, Danish suppliers such as Hay, Muuto and Normann Copenhagen stand. What exactly constitutes this kind of design? What about Sweden? Is its furniture also classed as “New Nordic”? And what is actually new about “New Nordic”?

In Hall B people are milling about like ants on the enormous booths of “New Nordic”. Its recipe is as simple as it is successful: A holistic, lightly youthful living concept featuring unspectacular models in light colors conveys a pleasant sense of freshness. The items are produced worldwide on a contractual basis. And we mustn’t forget the highly effective marketing these firms employ – no other goodie bag was such a must-have at the fair as the mottled fabric bag by Hay.

In addition, the “New Nordics” are slowly growing up. Fittingly, Hay is also showing in Stockholm “New Order”, its modular office system designed by Stefan Diez and presented at Orgatec. Rolf Hay sees a niche here that has not yet been filled: an attractive office system for small firms and agencies that responds flexibly to methods of working and staff fluctuation. Muuto is showing a simple table as a complement to its chairs and only “Fiber Chair” by Iskos Berlin, which was long in development and is made of 100-percent recycled material, has anything ‘new’ about it.

Hem is now taking the stage as the Swedish answer to Hay and Muuto. Founded around six months ago and based in Stockholm and Berlin, the firm aims to grow exclusively via its own distribution channels, primarily via Internet and its own stores. The first store is soon set to open in Berlin. And there is a great deal of design expertise behind Hem: Petrus Palmér of One Nordic is creative director, with investors including the British online mailing company Fab. The portfolio is similarly steady to the competition – but appealing and sufficiently different to be able to offer an answer to a clientele that grew up with Ikea.

Traditional, modern, sound

The “New Nordic” label can barely be applied to the old-established Swedish brands such as Bruno Mathsson, Gärsnäs, Källemo, Kinnarps, Johanson Design, Lammhults, Offecct, Skandiform or Swedese. Rather, they could be grouped under “good–traditional–modern Nordic” or traditional, modern and sound. One thing they have in common is the careful artisanal style of the furniture, which is mostly made in company-owned production facilities in the region of Småland in southern Sweden. Contemporary Swedish design continues to be pragmatic, solid, but also imaginative, yet unlike the “New Nordics” it does not radiate a “new feel for life” – if that is at all the name of the game and not just a clever marketing trick. The ingredients are, and will continue to be: wood, solidly processed and ideally with pin joins, attractively designed textiles primarily made of natural materials and soft, brightly colored upholstered furniture, often with a humorous note and a certain childlike playfulness. Swedish furniture is generally a far cry from the strictness and elegance of the Danes or Finns.

A visit to the centrally located “Kulturhuset”, built according to plans by architect Peter Celsing and inaugurated in 1974, reveals that Swedes often seek to engage with their own traditions. A branch of the National Museum was opened there just in time for the Design Week devoted exclusively to design. For “Selectivities”, Swedish designers including the creative minds at Note Design, Anna Kraitz and Anton Alvarez went into the museum’s archives and chose their favorites, which are now on show next to their own designs. Just like that. “Selectivities,” explains Alexis Holmqvist from Note Design, “is a good attempt to give Sweden a space for its design history.” Even if it is for the present only temporary and as a collection of “Old” and “New Nordic”.

MORE on Stylepark:

Scandinavia x 12: Even though the makers of the Stockholm Furniture Fair have completely revised the hall layout we managed to glimpse the 12 most exciting innovations.
(06 February 2015)

Behind Swedish curtains: In his book “Ett Hem” painter Carl Larsson talks about the way that Swedes used to live about a century back. What has remained of their predilection for adorning their homes? A trip to Stockholm provides some answers.
(24 December 2014)

Acoustic panels, fashionable: “Avant“ by Materia. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Absorbing, different: by wool yarns from Okko. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Gärsnäs boss Dag Klockby presents the “Akustik Chair” by Åke Axelsson. Photo © Stylepark
Suitable for smartphones and tablets: Richard Hutten for Offecct. Photo © Stylepark
Coffee break: “Shima“ by Böttcher-Henssler-Kayser for Johanson Design. Photo © Stylepark
Muuto is growing up: “Base table” by Mika Tolvanen. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Soft and coloured: Monica Förster on her Retreat“ for Fogia. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Cool: thanks to Nudie „Lamino“ has put on the jeans.
Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Hem is the Swedish answer on Danish “New Nordics”. Photo © Stylepark
With humour: “Tornado” by Alexander Lervik for Johanson Design. Foto © Stylepark
In the dialogue with Sweden’s design history: Anna Kraitz with her „Mama Look“ for Källemo. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark