REVIEW – STOCKHOLM FURNITURE FAIR 2023
Without the previous addition "Light", slimmed down in the name, with a small but exclusive sum of a good 400 exhibitors as well as exciting offers, the internationally leading platform for Scandinavian design offered the industry an important meeting place in the far north at the beginning of the year. And not only for the "usual suspects", but further for many young designers and students – as on the "Greenhouse" platform or in the "Young Swedish Design 2023" exhibition. Frida McDavitt Wallin showed interiors made of architectural elements left over from the demolition of buildings, Axel Danhard transformed cement, bricks and plasters into ceramic glazes for filigree vessels. Martin Claesson and Luisa Wirth developed "ON/OFF Grid", a solar-powered outdoor lighting system that offers affordable manufacture as well as construction and showcases their industrial design with bright colours. Gaudy lacquer finishes and covers, often close to neon, were on show at many booths in general, such as Lammhults, Offecct, Skandiform, String or Studio Hampus Pentinnen. In parallel, Simon Mattisson opted for a deep cobalt blue for the first time for the presentation of his work "Granland", thus giving the sweeping structure of the furniture a new character. This consists in the base of damaged wood, caused by the infestation of the spruce bark beetle. By puréeing the beetle wood and mixing it with corn starch and cane sugar, Mattisson creates a new material that can be used to create free-form shapes in 3D printing. The results are sculptures that can be used as works of art as well as functional furniture. The recesses in the surface structure of the shelves or benches are inspired by the channels left by the Börken beetles as they make their way through the wood of the spruces.
Dynamic furniture forms created by 3D printers, for which new biomaterials are developed, were shown too by the Interesting Times Gang with the "Kelp Collection": for the material, the Swedish designers combine recycled fishing nets with wood fibres from the sawmill industry. At the end of the life cycle, both the furniture by Simon Mattisson and the Interesting Times Gang can be recycled again in the sense of a closed design cycle. Olle Sahlqvist, on the other hand, showed biomimicry furniture design made from the cells of fungi that grow with water, wood fibres and flour. His furniture thus inherently fulfils the dream of a negative CO2 footprint. Interesting material research was also offered by the "Waste as source" project of students from the Architecture Department of Hanyang University in Seoul, who use natural materials such as eggshells, coconuts or yellow earth for the creation of furniture and accessories. Bang Universe showed the "Bang Paper Collection", which is handmade from recycled paper and wood. Meanwhile, with "Now or never 1kg CO2", designer and sustainability strategist Emma Olbers focused on the invisible climate impact of our furniture: "Each material is represented in one kilo of emissions, CO2e, which makes it very easy to see the differences and how much material you actually get for one kilo of CO2e," she says. The visualisation of her research also made it clear how much CO2 could be saved in each case by choosing a different material. The "Rising Star of the Year" award of the Scandinavian Design Awards was awarded to the young Finnish designer Antrei Hartikainen.
Reducing one's own carbon footprint, rethinking supposed waste from cultivation, construction and consumption, and attributing a new use to natural materials were strong approaches in the works of the creatives at the Stockholm Furniture Fair. The products and research results are less experimental than one might expect. Instead, the will to find alternatives for the classic processes of the furniture industry is clearly visible in the works. And even the established companies did not have to search long for environmentally compatible products and concepts: be it airy stand architectures made of fabric panels or products made of recycled material, such as Charlotte von der Lancken, who further developed her "Tinnef" coffee table collection for Skandiform with the "Black coal" version made of recycled medicine and food containers. Pedrali, a sustainable company since its foundation 60 years ago, already calculates its corporate carbon footprint and has also obtained UNI EN ISO 14064-1:2019 certification in the process. "By analysing how much CO2 we produce, we can determine the impact of our entire production cycle on the environment. Based on concrete data, it is thus possible to set continuous, monitorable and thus achievable improvement targets," says Giuseppe Pedrali.
Object Carpet presented the first circular carpet made of mono-material at the Stockholm Furniture Fair: "NEOO". Developed in cooperation with the company Niaga, it consists entirely of polyester, even the upper and backing material is held together with a polyester adhesive developed in-house. After end of use, the carpet can be completely melted down and extruded to produce new fibres. "For a circular carpet, we had to think differently from the ground up and break away from conventional processes," says Lars Engelke, managing director of Objet Carpet. Among other things, Gärsnäs relies on short production routes, as for the "Ronja" chair by David Ericsson, which is made from birch wood that grows near the factory in Österlen. The robust chair is assembled from only three parts with plug-in connections – nothing is glued, the construction method remains visible. "Ronja is no ordinary new chair, but marks the start of a process at Gärsnäs to use more indigenous, locally sourced raw materials" says Dag Klockby, co-owner of Gärsnäs AB.
Straight lines, environmentally friendly connections and a construction that also saves space and resources for logistics were to be explored on many chairs and stools at the Stockholm Furniture Fair as well as the Stockholm Design Week that took place at the same time: From Hem with the outdoor chair "Chop" by Philippe Malouin, Joy Objects with the "Stool One", made of aluminium and recycled acrylic glass, to the archetypal "Tagada Chair" by the design and architecture studio Stamuli, the throne-like "Align Chai" by Reeta Laine, the brutalist interpretation of the "Crown Chair" by Lezan Lurr for Massproductions, the wooden "Otama Chair" by Ted Synnott, the modular sofa "Ark" by Normann Copenhagen or the upholstery collection "Pauline" by Pauline Deltour Studio for Offecct. Camira also presented "Revolution", a circular product – a fabric made of recycled wool woven from yarn waste from its own production processes. Fermob showed ideas for the prudent use of resources, such as with the rocking chair "Surprising" by Harald Guggenbichler, which is formed from a single steel wire. Baux, a provider of acoustic sound absorbers, furthermore worked with students for their exhibition "The Bright Future of Wellbeing" to develop ideas on how buildings and workplaces can promote well-being, creativity and productivity without compromising on sustainability. The bio-based collection "Acoustic Pulp" was also part of the presentation. Even for urban furniture, ideas were to be discovered at the fair, such as the new "Ypsilon" series by Daniel Rybakken for Vestre with angled wooden supports and a base of galvanised steel, with both straight and circular shapes can be realised. Vestre received two honours from the Scandinavian Design Awards this year: "Sustainability Award of the Year" and "Architecture of the year" for its new factory building "The Plus" designed by Bjarke Ingels Group.
In addition to clear forms and sustainable materials, flexible furniture was high on the agenda of the manufacturers - such as the modular upholstery system "Bau" by Note Design Studio for Lammhults. The Swedish furniture company also showed the modern interpretation of a serving trolley called "Inez" in collaboration with students Johanna Ringqvist, Sofie Krüll and Olivia Ståhl from Beckmans College of Design. At Skandiform, visitors could see a room divider on castors that can be fitted with plant pots, Bla Station presented, for example, the small side tables "Turn" and Bolon's "Made to measure" carpets can be individually customised. With the "Sideways Footstool" by Rikke Frost, Carl Hansen & Søn offered not only the ideal complement to the "Sideways Sofa", but also an independent piece of furniture that, with its comfortable upholstery, is an elegant and space-saving lounge element.
Even though the word "light" has disappeared from the name of the fair, numerous luminaires could be seen on the exhibition space, such as "Hepburn" by Claesson Koivisto Rune for David design, the "Kori Collection" by Artek and Taf Studio or the "Knuckle Chandelier" by David Taylor for Hem. It could also be spotted at the stand in the form of a dimmable table lamp – a function that enjoyed new popularity at the Stockholm Furniture Fair: Pedrali so recently provided one of their popular classics, the "Giravolta" cordless lighting by Alberto Basaglia and Natalia Rota Nodari, with a dimming function. An unusual design was also to be discovered in the "Jelly Lights" by Yellowdot Design", the "Sprinkle family" by Note Design Studio for Zero Lighting and the "Pleated for Frank" collection by Folkform for Svenskt Tenn. The jury of the Scandinavian Design had the same opinion, as Chandra Ahlsell and Anna Holmquist from Folkform were awarded this year's "Designer of the year". Crème Atelier received the "Interior detail of the year" award for their "The Soft Serve lamp". And a glimpse into the future of service technology was not missing either: at the stand of Nevotex, a supplier of fabrics, leather and accessories for public spaces, a human hologram greeted the guests and the further installation, where selected textiles and leather samples were hung over the surface like a mobile, quickly attracted the attention of the visitors. Few exhibits, but modern technology for visualisation and communication – it will be interesting to see to what extent companies choose this approach for their presentation at trade fairs in the future.
The necessary change of the classic fair structure in favour of a more environmentally friendly offer was addressed in detail by the Stockholm Furniture Fair with the "Nude Edition": In cooperation with the material partners Recoma and Tarkett, the pilot project showed eleven prefabricated stands made of recycled and recyclable material on a small scale. Thus, away from elaborate backdrops, the curated space offered visitors a quick overview of the products on display, which are ideally intended to be just as sustainable. "We listened to our exhibitors. Many of them were seeking a scaled-down alternative to an ordinary exhibition stand, with less effort in planning and, above all, to reduce their climate footprint", says Project Area Manager Hanna Nova Beatrice, who took up the challenge in 2021 to give the Stockholm Furniture Fair and Stockholm Design Week a new boost in the midst of the pandemic.
Other exhibitions at the fair included the Gallery Edition, which built a bridge to the parallel Stockholm Design Week: products from the city's showrooms thus also got a chance to be seen by the fair's visitors. This year's guests of honour and the designers of the installation in the entrance area of the halls were Anna Lindgren and Sofia Lagerkvist from Front Design, the first time that this programme point was created by a Swedish studio. For the presentation of their work, the duo created a mystical experience space that illustrated how diverse Swedish design can be. Their pebble-shaped "Pepple-Rubble-System" upholstery collection, conceived for Moroso, was thus covered with projections in a cave-like space that turned inspiration from nature into a sensory experience. The accompanying programme of the Stockholm Furniture Fair was also worth attending – this included talks with designers such as Raw Edges and Sabine Marcelis as well as architect Anders Lendagar. The temporary "Underbar" by Jonas Bohlin and Christine Ingridsdotter was equipped with recycled objects that can be reused after the trade fair has ended – from white men's shirts that served as wall decor to borrowed chairs or rescue blankets that made a glamorous appearance when formed into a ceiling sculpture.
Not far from the exhibition halls, a new platform for experimental, research-oriented and collectible design could be explored in Älvsjö Gard, one of Stockholm's oldest mansions from the 16th century. Exhibitors included galleries, architecture and design firms from all over Scandinavia, such as Pyton Gallery from Oslo. Likewise, the "New Narratives" exhibition was dedicated to the work of Swedish designers and artists. Meanwhile, in the city, the effective exhibition "Massproductions – Sculptures from the Factory" can be explored until 19 March 2023 in the Sven Harry's Konstmuseum, in which the team of the Swedish furniture manufacturer translate the aesthetics of industrial processes into the context of an art museum. The museum couldn't have chosen a better time for the show, as Massproductions won the "Producer of the Year" award at the Scandinavian Design Awards. In addition, the "4PM chaise lounge" by Chris Martin from Massproductions was awarded "Furniture of the year".
In general, the importance of the Stockholm Design Week showrooms, exhibitions and events in the city increased, a trend that was already apparent at similar trade fairs in recent months. Hanna Nova Beatrice thus actively promotes cooperation between the two events and shows what a flexible trade fair can offer beyond the halls. Walking through the workshops, exhibitions and showrooms in Stockholm, for example, you could feel a new upholstery textile made of recycled yarns by Giulio Ridolfo called "Steelcut Beat" at Kvadrat as well as "Aaren" and "Einar" by Kvadrat/Raf Simons. Also special was the visit to the Neko Health Center by Note Design Studio, a health centre that uses AI technology for proactive health care. The Swedish auction house Bukowskis presented the exhibition "Fundament" in collaboration with Stockholm-based architecture and design studio Taf. The posh department stores Nordiska Kompaniet and Nordiska Galleriert offered space and display windows for design exhibitions, including the work of students from Linköpings Universitet. Monica Förster created an atmospheric light installation in Sofia Church. On view until 27 August 2023 is the exhibition "Tham & Videgard – On: Architecture" at the ArkDes Museum of Architecture and Design, which makes the architecture firm's projects walkable in a unique way. And after sunset, the light installation "Shelter" by Daniel Rybakken on the water in front of the idyllic island of Skeppsholmen offers a homage to the scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Fridtjof Nansen.
The Stockholm Furniture Fair and Stockholm Design Week thus not only presented proposed solutions for the changing concept of the trade fair, but also showed numerous exciting products such as prototypes for sustainable design. At the same time, new ways of communicating and meeting with international guests were opened up, linking the fair more closely with the creative spaces of the city. The organisers see the turn of the times as an opportunity. Their concepts were characterised by fresh ideas, new networks, nordic coolness and a palpable optimism, which is indispensable for the industry at the moment.