Swedish design is known for its clean functionality, modern style and nature-inspired craftsmanship.
Heavily influenced by the functionalism movement born out of Berlin, the Swedes added their own signature stamp of light appreciation, nature and a long heritage of crafts to create an aesthetic they call “lagom” - meaning “just right”.
Here’s our guide to immersing yourself in Swedish modern design:
Understanding the concept of Folkhemmet
Folkhemmet - home for the people - is core to the Swedish aesthetic and contemporary visual culture. First recognised almost a century ago, when the Social Democratic Party rose to power, the underlying ideology is that good design should be accessible for everybody, no matter of their status.
Equality, functionality and everyday living were important.
This really underpins the minimalistic style and design language that we know of Sweden (and Scandinavia) today with the modern benefit of technology being added into the mix to make the product cycle more sustainable.
Malmo - vibrant regeneration
Sweden’s third largest city - originally known for its port as well as its bridge connecting Sweden with Denmark - is now a design destination with a reputation for a vibrant, burgeoning creative scene.
1930s functional, compact living
Only a short walk from Malmö Folkets Park you’ll find a 1930s functionalists apartment that includes an original, renovated 1930s kitchen - a great example of the Swedish ‘standardised’ kitchen. Walls are decorated in the beloved String Pocket Shelves and the ‘Cocoa Eyes’ poster designed by Olle Eksell.
"Modern Since 1949" is the strapline; String Shelving is one of the most well-known Swedish design brands. In 1949 Nils Strinning and his wife Kajsa answered a competition callout by the Bonnier Group (a Swedish publishing house) who realised most Swedish homes were devoid of bookshelves and therefore people were not buying books. String, a timeless and versatile modular mid-century storage system was the competition winner.
Whilst in Malmö you might want to check out Jenny Nordberg - a designer combining brutalism and minimalism who creates unique objects in “3 to 5 seconds”, her response to contemporary mass production. It is possible to arrange to watch her in her studio, by appointment only.
Also, for fans of swimming in nature, something the Swedes are famous for, explore the Ribersborgs Kallbadhus (cold baths). The buildings are soft green and blue hued that match the surrounding water; as well as cold bathing and saunas you’ll get an incredible view of Malmö and the bridge over to Copenhagen.
Eat at Malmö Saluhall, an old warehouse that has been reimagined into a food destination by architects Wingardh.
Once an old industrial wasteland, Västra Hamnen, has been turned into a sustainable, innovative live, work, learn, play area.
Known for the neo-futurist twisted skyscraper Turning Torso by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The area, with its seaside, skate park, beach, coffee shops, is popular with the creative community, is carbon neutral. The energy is self-sufficient and based on wind, solar and biogas.
Umeå - where nature and design meet
Located in the middle of a forest and with the Umeå Institute of Design attracting global design talent, is part of one of Sweden's oldest univeristies and home to some 35,000 students.
Often described as the world’s most beautiful university museums, the contemporary art museum, Bildmuseet is next to the river. Designed by Henning Larsen Architects there are six floors of contemporary art, photography, painting, graffiti, videos and installations.
Stockholm and surroundings
Stockholm, perhaps the ultimate city on any tour of Scandinavia. A city filled with cool, coffee and creatives, there are so many superlatives to use.
We took a visit to Stockholm Design Week a couple of years ago. It was cold and we visited the Vasa Museum, crunching through the snow to get there. If you are in Stockholm and have kids then Acne Junior is an excellent visit. Our son Harry made a Koseshi Doll - you can check out their family-friendly workshops online.
Heritage company Swedese, home of the famous ‘Lamino’ chair designed back in 1956, are focused on sustainability and their showroom is an excellent visit to fill up with design inspiration. Designed byYngve Ekström, part of the generation of designers who created the concept of ‘Scandinavian Modern’, Swedes’s vision is to create beautiful furniture for the future, built on the foundations of Scandinavian modern.
“I enjoy the full experience of sustainable design in a broader perspective. Artipelag is a good example of a place where the Swedish archipelago, modern architecture, organic food and enjoyable exhibitions intertwine as a unified event of high quality.”
photo from : https://artipelag.se/en/at-artipelag/skulptur-i-natur/
Visit Sculpture in Nature, a park designed to make one think and smile, is all about the interaction that occurs when art is placed in nature and not a conventional white cube.
Bigert & Bergström’s Solar Egg is a permanent sculpture on a rock by the waters edge, designed to become a landmark for Artipeleg’s visitors arriving by land or boat. The sculpture was a social sculpture used as a sauna for the inhabitants of Kiruna to discuss the transformations the city was facing.