The director of Stockholm Furniture & Light fair between 2002-2008, Charlotte Wiking, sadly passed away in November last year. Thanks to her efforts, the fair in Stockholm surpassed the fair in Copenhagen and became what is described as the worlds largest meeting place for Scandinavian design. It’s an achievement that Sweden is eternally grateful for since the personalities associated with the term mainly are to be found in Denmark. Today, “Scandinavian Design” is a label that is used and misused all over the world, and for that reason, it’s more relevant than ever for Swedes to manifest its relation to it.

That’s why the most important exhibitor, out of this years 700 exhibitors, was the originator of 20th century Swedish furniture design, Carl Malmsten (1888-1972). Designs from the Carl Malmsten archive which consists of over 20 000 drawings and sketches, have been brought to life by the Carl Malmsten foundation in an attempt to revamp the brand and the new collection featured pieces that have aged remarkably well, such as the wooden cabinet “Jönköping” designed in 1956.

Carl Malmsten. Photo: Stiftelsen Siv och Carl Malmstens Minne
This years guest of honour, the Chinese architect office Neri & Hu (Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu), was a great move by the fair in order to get the attention of its target audience, the architects. Neri & Hu’s installation in the entrance hall was named “The unfolding village” and it sought to adress the issue of the rapidly diminishing village culture in rural China. This message however seemed lost on the visitors who instagrammed themselves next to the beautiful objects in the installation designed by Neri & Hu for high end producers such as Porro, Fritz Hansen and Offecct.

The unfolding village by Neri & Hu Photo: Mathias Nero

A nobel intention, but one that only further establishes the fact that furniture fairs are and always have been a poor choice of venue to raise social issues on. The fair is strictly business. One new product with seemingly huge commercial potential, shown in exhibit hall B, was the acoustic panel “Sky” by Swedish designer Stefan Borselius. A product that belongs to Sweden’s favourite segment, design for office and public spaces. The Swedish producer Abstracta has together with Borselius managed to create a product that meets the strict fire regulations needed to mount sound absorbents on ceilings. An investment in product development that surely will pay off and a product that we will see more of in Milan in April. Another highlight from the fair was the lamp “Curve” by Swedish design duo Front made for Swedish lighting producer Zero.

Curve by Front for Zero Belysning Photo: Zero Belysning

The classic clerk lamp with its emerald green shade has been given a familiar Front twist and transformed into a sleek and playful pendant, table and floor lamp. “Curve” was originally made for the new interior at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, a 150 year old institution that was re-inaugurated in October last year after five years of extensive renovations. Nationalmuseum which has a collection of art and design dating back to the middle ages has drawn huge crowds since the re-opening and it was also one of the big draws during the design week.

 Nationalmuseum exterior Photo: Anna Danielsson/Nationalmuseum

How the city of Stockholm has failed to capitalise on its well known design and architecture scene is a mystery. While the fair has flourished, the adjoining “design week” has never evolved past a couple of open showrooms, something that the neighbouring Helsinki Design Week has benefited from. But for those who take the time to do the research, there are gems to be found such as an exhibition orchestrated by Swedish designer Samir Alj Fält. Samir works towards widening the definition of design and the role of the designer in the same spirit as Italian maestro Alessandro Guerriero. During the design week, Samir had set up shop in an co-working space in the city center for tech entrepreneurs called Norrsken. Here he presented “Design Lab S”, a self made design institution for children aged 9-13, and visitors could see some of their work from 2013 up until today beautifully portrayed by photographer Sanna Lindberg.

Design Lab S. photography by Sanna Lindberg.

In another part of Stockholm called S:t Eriksplan, Swedish architect and design office Claesson Koivisto Rune premiered their latest interior project called Portal Bar, operated by celebrated Swedish chef Klas Lindgren. The ambience is that of a cool bar in Tokyo rather than the archipelago styled bistros that dominate Stockholm.

 Portal Bar by Claesson Koivisto Rune. Photo: Åke E:son Lindman

The architects engaged Swedish artist Jesper Waldersten who have made graphic artwork on the walls and ceiling that intensifies the experience of the rooms, and custom made furniture and lamps have been created in collaboration with producers Swedese, Wästberg and Design Of. To celebrate the opening, Maurizio Stochetto of Bar Basso was flown in to mix and serve wonderful Negroni Sbagliatos and the advantages of being a small design week definitely became evident in the queue to the bar.

 Snowtopped by Note Design Studio for Tarkett

In an ambitious installation namned “Snowtopped”, Swedish Note Design Studio had used resilient vinyl flooring from French company Tarkett to mimic snowdrifts. This was a continuation of Note Design Studios and Tarketts much celebrated collaboration at the fair last years and it sought to spark the visitors imagination about this most ordinary material. The installation was well situated on the roof terrace of new hot spot Hotel At Six in a redeveloped area of the city center and it ultimately served as a fun extension to the snow covered Stockholm skyline in February.