People associate many wonderful qualities such as simple, clean lines, attention to detail, the perfect combination of functionality and design, and timeless elegance with Scandinavian design. Many get excited about objects labeled "Scandinavian Design", which is why Stockholm Design Week filled me with very great expectations.
I started off with a visit to the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair, the world's largest Scandinavian furniture and lighting design exhibition where many established companies as well as young designers, colleges, and universities were present.
Arguably Sweden’s most prominent export - the flat pack - was however not invited to the Stockholm Design Week. Instead one could find a fantastic range of Nordic designers representing the world of Scandinavian aesthetics.
Clear, modern lines, white paint, lots of birch and ash wood, and colorful fabrics form the basis of Scandinavian interior design. Graphic patterns and bright colors break through Nordic melancholia and create warmth and comfort. This trade fair feels really good, but maybe it's just the great contrast to ordinary German homes that makes me believe everything on show is so much superior.
That is not to say that you can’t find some awful design in Stockholm too. I saw French country house style forced together with Shabby Chic in one exhibit. Others made me wonder if the iconisation of the beanbag as an adequate piece of furniture is ever going to stop. I wonder who these people are that are supposed to buy the horrors created by Middle-European interior designers. Who is still buying cupboards made of veneered chipboard? Then again, alleged home trends for 2012/13 have to stem from somewhere.
Young talent can be found in the so called Greenhouse area where one could find a mix of ready-for-production pieces, as well as somewhat odd and conceptual installations. I really wonder what impact a chair covered in plants could have on Swedish design, but Andreas Färding, founder of Design House Stockholm, enlightens me very soon. Young Swedish designers are trying to show their personality; they are creating their brand and showing their point of view – as excessive/ly as possible. A chair, a lamp or a shelf, these things can be designed later. Maybe this is the real secret of Scandinavian design.
Stockholmsmässan is not very big, so I make my way back to the city. Snowﬂakes turn a grey, wintry day in Stockholm into something magical, but there are still many Design Week events waiting to be explored. Similar to other design weeks around the world, there are many small, peripheral exhibitions going on across the city. And if it is just for one week, the Swedish capital becomes a little more important than the current design capital Helsinki.
I end up on the new premises of Design House Stockholm (DHS) where I’m welcomed warmly. A few signs in the shop and ofﬁce are reminders of the 20th Anniversary, which was celebrated with a lavish party just recently. DHS is a publishing house for design and some of their products are already considered design classics. Their new collection confirms that Scandinavian design still is nowhere near its end. And somehow it’s reassuring to see the superior standards of good Swedish design compared to what you find inside the well-known blue and yellow furniture super-stores across the world.
I have to admit I was trying to ﬁnd a some real design sins. Products that make you think it’s just a bad joke. Other than the non-Scandinavian examples mentioned already I found absolutely nothing really shocking - the combination of elegant simplicity and timeless elegance is everywhere. In all honesty, I find it wonderful to have my love of Scandinavian design confirmed.
Kai Petermann lives in Berlin and covers product design from across the world in his blog Stilsucht. For MONOQI he travelled to Stockholm to worship the Norse gods of timeless design.