x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Swedish minimalism gets a radical makeover

Cult shop The interior design store features the designer Josef Frank's classic furniture, lamps, gift items and eye-catching textiles.

Thommy Bindefeld, the marketing director for Svenskt Tenn.
Thommy Bindefeld, the marketing director for Svenskt Tenn.

Think Swedish design, and minimalistic probably comes to mind. Yet most of the well-established Swedish Svenskt Tenn designs are anything but that. Located on Stockholm's fashionable Strandvägen, the interior design store features the designer Josef Frank's classic furniture, lamps, gift items and eye-catching textiles that are so boldly patterned, yet warm and welcoming. "Many people gladly choose Svenskt Tenn items to warm up strict Swedish minimalism," says Thommy Bindefeld, the marketing director for Svenskt Tenn. "We have a unique place in Swedish design and a niche in Sweden in this regard."

Svenskt Tenn was started in 1924 by Estrid Ericson, an artist and teacher who worked mainly with pewter. Her interior design philosophy was to combine old and new items, and mix styles for a more personal and inviting home. Shortly after opening her shop, she teamed up with Josef Frank to launch an original style that feels remarkably fresh and appropriate even today. Although the store's two visionaries have passed on, their Swedish modern design legacy continues to flourish at home and abroad. Ericson's pewter candlesticks and flower pots and her Elephant-patterned textiles are big sellers even today.

In addition to giftware, furniture and lighting, Frank designed more than 160 textile patterns for Svenskt Tenn. The Strandvägen store carries about 40 different patterns at a time, and has transformed lampshades, placemats, seat covers, cushions and even matchbox covers with his eye-catching designs. Frank's textile designs were influenced by an interest in botany and his many travels. His patterns often contain blossoms, birds and butterflies, but are anything but mundane. Take for example his 1941 Below the Equator, with vibrant flowers that glow on a jet black background, or the more delicate and subtle Mille Fleurs, which has a freshness about it and feels like a celebration of spring.

Frank's freewheeling designs dominate the Svenskt Tenn store, but there are some high-quality treasures by contemporary designers as well, like Tina Hellman's mulled wine glass or Sissi Westerberg's pewter Flow candlestick. The store, which today is run by a foundation, donates its profits primarily to scientific research and to supporting young designers and Swedish interior design. The bulk of Svenskt Tenn's products are produced and designed in Sweden, but Bindefeld is also on the lookout for products from other parts of the world as well - providing they don't compete with what is undeniably Frank's showcase. "The new items have to inhabit the same sphere as the Frank goods. They can't be too hard or cold and must fit into our magical world of things."

When you visit, don't be intimidated by the formality of its exclusive location or its strictly attired staff. Svenskt Tenn welcomes browsing and lingering, and many people, including young designers, come to the store for inspiration. "In dark, cold Sweden, it is nice to come into an environment where you find warmth and inspiration. It really is a part of our Swedish heritage," says Bindefeld, who started his career as a designer.

Svenskt Tenn is open seven days a week, and will ship to anywhere in the world. You may not find too many bargains here - a Frank-designed sofa runs from SEK25,000 (Dh10,974) and up excluding material, and most lamps cost around SEK6,000 - but there are plenty of items for all pocketbooks, including Ericson's SEK135 Acorn Vase or trays, tablemats and coasters graced by a selection of Frank designs.

If you do decide to splurge on furniture, you can rest assured that it will be built to last. Auction houses are selling vintage Svenskt Tenn goods at higher prices than what they sell for new, says Bindefeld. And Svenskt Tenn design has undisputable staying power. It has been around for 85 years and its worldwide fan club is growing. Says Bindefeld: "Svenskt Tenn on Strandvägen is Mecca. You can find everything here."

www.svenskttenn.se, + 46 8670 1600