Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair 2018
On the bright side
The Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair is a phenomenon. With just three halls and 70,000 square metres of exhibition space, it is far behind rival events such as the Salone del Mobile and imm cologne. 80 percent of the exhibitors also came from Scandinavia this year. All these are facts that actually suggest a provincial event without much charisma. Alone - it wasn't like that at all.
On the one hand, trade fair organisers and Scandinavian manufacturers naturally contributed to this. The word has long been circulating that there is no better place to find out about developments in Nordic design, which is both dynamic and influential. The attractiveness of the Swedish capital with its renowned design scene and the combination of the trade fair with the Stockholm Design Fair, which takes place at the same time and is spread all over the city, do the rest.
On the other hand, the 20 percent of non-Scandinavian exhibitors included a large number of heavyweights from the Italian furniture industry. In particular, the major lighting manufacturers were represented in large numbers - including several who had left out the Cologne trade fair, for example. Of course, it is also true that many exhibitors will be packing their stand and innovations at the imm cologne in January and putting them back in Stockholm more or less 1:1. Those who had already attended the event in Cologne did not necessarily have to travel to Stockholm.
An arena as a showpiece of Scandinavia
This year, the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair awaited with a whole series of innovations, especially the new "Ratatouille-Arena", which has everything it takes to make a name for itself. Because the "Greenhouse", the fair's newcomer section, has moved to Hall C, the large Viktoriahallen conference hall has been given a new use. The new concept brings together two current Scandinavian export hits: Design and culinary delights. Two of the leading creative minds in Sweden's capital city have developed it: designer Luca Nichetto and Lina Ahlin, who cultivate a highly ambitious regional cuisine in the "Agrikultur" restaurant. The arena functioned as a restaurant, lecture hall and event area in one. Nichetto had put together a large number of different seating groups for this purpose, which he partly shielded from each other with sideboards. With table and floor lamps, he created additional intimacy in the large conference hall. Nichetto was also one of the participants of the Design & Architecture Talks in the Ratatouille-Arena, which were extended from four to five days this year. Other top-class guests included OMA partner Reinier de Graaf and India Mahdavi.
Everyday life with Paola Navone
Another big name: Paola Navone was this year's guest of honour at the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair. In the shape of their large room installation in the entrance hall, visitors to the fair experienced a surprisingly colourful prelude to their stay - colours were otherwise not the dominant element at the fair. Promoting greater use of colour was also a declared goal of the designer. The colour formed the connecting bracket of the at first glance playful as well as summary collection of objects. The title of the installation was program:"Tham ma da" in Thai means "everyday" or "ordinary". Navone wanted to create the impression of an interior in which what has been found and taken over naturally finds its place alongside what has been acquired and chosen - a form of sustainability that goes against every perfectionism.
Review in the Greenhouse
The "Greenhouse" was also the stage for the next generation of designers, universities and young design studios at its new location. But they also looked back on the move. The centre of the new area in Hall C was an exhibition that is reminiscent of the numerous success stories that the Stockholm Fair's young talent format has written in recent years: Nendo, Front, GamFratesi - for all of them, the Greenhouse was an important stage in their career. This documents the significance of this forum for young designers in Scandinavia and beyond.
Golden times for Scandinavia's furniture industry
The halls clearly showed the effects of the Scandinavian boom of recent years. The wealth of novelties with which traditional companies such as Fredericia, Carl Hansen and Brdr. Krüger, but above all the young successful brands such as &Tradition, Muuto, Design House Stockholm or Menu expanded their portfolio, was impressive. This also applies to (still) lesser-known brands such as Bent Hansen or Massproductions. The worldwide heavyweight Fritz Hansen showed himself to be quite restrained and left it in the main with a special anniversary edition of the Egg- and Swan-Chairman of Arne Jacobsen as well as a re-edition of the "Pot"-Chair, which Jacobsen designed like the two other chairs in 1958 for his epochal SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.
The booming market for Scandinavian design consequently also allows new market participants to sense their opportunities. Brands such as Møbel Copenhagen, Northern or the lighting manufacturer Nuura celebrated their premiere in Stockholm and presented their collections on stands of sometimes considerable size. They are all committed to Neo-Scandinavism just as much as most of the competition's innovations. Unfortunately, this is also where the downside of the boom comes to light: the paths to success are being taken further and further. The pressure to innovate is apparently lacking at the moment. As long as the tried and tested forms sell like sliced bread, safety is the order of the day. It will show how long this wave will last.
The Scandinavian office furniture suppliers presented many products in Stockholm, which try to keep up with the trends towards ever more flexible office landscapes and changing work positions as well as the apparently everywhere expected breakthrough of the residential office. Particularly with a view to flexible solutions for meeting places, some original solutions can be found, such as rollable conference tables from Materia (rectangular) and Form2 (round), which simultaneously carry the entire necessary infrastructure with them.
A heart for nature
Meanwhile, environmental friendliness and sustainability have become concepts that manufacturers all over the world are committed to. Nevertheless, the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair gave the impression that "green" production methods and resource-conserving business practices are a real concern of many companies here. For example, there is the seating furniture manufacturer Albin i Hyssna, whose furniture can be found in numerous Swedish churches and community centres and who advertised at the fair that 30-year-old chairs from its own production should be reworked in its own workshops for further use. Kinnarps, the Scandinavian market leader in office furniture, however, announced at the trade fair that in future it would be possible to provide each of its products with a kind of environmental certificate at which customers can find information on the consumption of resources, climate protection, recycling and social responsibility. With this kind of documentary, Kinnarps hopes to stimulate competition in a positive sense. Swedese has chosen another approach. There, renowned designers - among them Swedese's creative director Monica Förster and the design studio Front - were asked to think about how to use the wood waste produced in the production of the design classic "Lamino". The result is a series of surprising, sometimes more, sometimes less suitable for everyday use prototypes from the chair's characteristically curved blend, some of which could have what it takes to actually be mass-produced. Last but not least: The four-member jury of the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair Editor's Choice Award jury awarded the chair "Jin" by Jin Kuramoto to Offecct for a design that was developed with special emphasis on sustainable producibility in mind.
Ruins and residences
Finally, a brief look at Stockholm Design Week, which took place parallel to the trade fair and set up its tents all over the city - sometimes more visible, sometimes more hidden. Despite some secrecy, numerous designers and visitors to Design Week had found their way into the pop-up location of luminaire manufacturer Wästberg. He presented his products in a spacious upper middle-class apartment, which, however, was in a state between renovation work that had not yet been carried out and the beginning of renovation work. The guests liked the carcass ambience, which the Wästberg luminaires bathed in atmospheric light. Foscarini was far more dignified. Designer Andrea Anastasio had built up various installations around his "Filo" luminaire and other Foscarini products in no other place than the residence of the Italian ambassador. On the other hand, the future showroom of Kvadrat could be found without any invitation or intuition. Here, Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec not only presented their new curtain fabrics "Rennes" and "Chainette" for the Danish textile label, they had also designed an installation with their new designs. Kvadrat was thus one of the manufacturers who were represented both in the city and at the fair. The focus was on the new acoustic curtain fabrics "Drops" by Patricia Urquiolas and "Melu" by Petra Haikonen. This expenditure illustrates the importance of the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair and Stockholm Design Week in the calendar of Scandinavian manufacturers. The events are the showcase for a branch of industry that is currently bursting with energy, for which regionalism and adherence to traditions and locations have become a recipe for success.