Now that I’ve finally come around to doing some design posts every now and then, I thought it would be fun to share a handful of classic Scandinavian design pieces. These are the items that I have noticed again and again in people’s homes. In fact, I dare say that if you walk into almost any home in Sweden you will find at least one of these pieces, and more likely, several of them.
The ubiquity of these pieces is undoubtedly due to their excellent balance of form and function; but I’m also inclined to say that it’s also due to a culture that is relatively homogeneous. I intend to write a post about this in the future, but one fascinating thing about Swedish culture—especially to an American living here—is how uniform taste tends to be. Fitting in is important here, so it’s not uncommon to see a restaurant or cafe full of almost identically-dressed people, parents all pushing the same brand of stroller, and houses decorated in similar styles with the same pieces (just spend 5-10 minutes browsing on Hemnet and you’ll see what I mean).
So, here are some of the classic pieces that we’ve now seen dozens of times when visiting friends.
Louis Poulson Lights
One of the first things I noticed again and again in Swedish homes was the Louis Poulson pendant light and its many variations. I’ve always found it to be rather funny-looking, but I will admit that it emits great light. It manages to be bright but not glaring, producing a wonderful ambient glow. Our first winter in Sweden, I remember walking the streets of Stockholm after dark (so, anytime after 2pm), and seeing this light glowing in so many apartments.
(Photos via Svenssons)
Midcentury Modern Armchairs
Another staple of Scandinavian design, one that has spread far and wide, is the midcentury-modern armchair. Hans Wegner’s Cigar Chair is one of my favorites, but honestly, I love most variations of it.
Ikea temporarily rereleased some of its midcentury modern collection a couple years ago, and we snatched up this chair. I can’t find it on the US or Swedish Ikea websites anymore, but I found it on the UK site.
Photo from Ikea.
Something you may not have seen abroad is the string shelving collection. String was first designed in 1949, and it remains incredibly popular today (no doubt due to their gorgeous marketing materials and styling!). We considered using it for our study, but ended up with something significantly cheaper (from, you guessed it, Ikea).
Once you learn to spot string shelving, you’ll start seeing it everywhere you see Scandinavian design.
And now for some smaller, easier-to-afford pieces.
Rosti Mepal Margrethe bowl
I see this Rosti Mepal Margrethe bowl at every furniture or design store I walk into, and in the kitchen of nearly everyone we dine with. Designed in 1955 in Copenhagen, it was named after the Queen of Denmark. Every year it comes out in new colors, and it’s available in a variety of sizes, all of which nest together. The small handle and pouring spigot are quite helpful, especially when baking, and are vital elements to the bowl’s enduring popularity.
Stelton Coffee Pitcher
Sitting down for coffee with friends—having fika—is a HUGE part of Swedish life. And almost every time we’ve been invited to someone’s house for fika (or invited someone to ours), this Stelton coffee pitcher, designed by Erik Magnussen, has been on the table. I actually think it’s a little clunky to clean (the opening is so narrow that you can’t reach your hand inside to wash it), but I couldn’t resist buying one anyway. As with the Margrethe bowl, each year it comes out in a variety of colors.
Swedish Grace porcelain
And now we come to one of my favorites, the Swedish Grace porcelain collection from Rörstrand. The design was launched in 1930 and continues today. I usually don’t like glossy finishes, but there’s something about this set that I find so compelling. The first set I saw, on our first visit to Stockholm, was cobalt blue, and I’ve been in love with it ever since.
Photos from Rorstrand.
Do you have any Scandinavian design favorites? Any that drive you crazy? What did I miss?