We Love

Swedish Style and Design

On a recent press trip, Tommy and I had the incredible experience of getting a sneak peek into the architecture, design and style of Sweden and Denmark. Our brief tour was orchestrated to provide a glimpse into the culture of Scandinavia, and left us feeling inspired, excited… and hoping for an excuse to return before too long! 

by Sarah Richardson,

sweden ikea

You might consider having an infamous cinnamon bun or a plate of Swedish meatballs in the IKEA cafe while shopping at your local store, but did you know that there's actually an Ikea hotel in the town of Almhult, Sweden (where Ikea was founded in 1943) http://www.ikeainalmhult.com/

I said hotel…as you can imagine with the frugal pricing at Ikea, it's more like a motel. But a pretty chic one. I love the simplicity and graphic appeal of the read and white scheme against the lush grass and crisp May sky.

Located on the site of the original store (which was founded by Ingvar Kamprad when he was only 17), is an IKEA museum filled with original pieces from the early years. I wish I could have brought this chair home as a souvenir - the sleek lines and button tufting are so cool, and the shapely profile looks comfortable.

You probably wouldn't associate IKEA with red chenille wing chairs, but a version of this snazzy number graced the cover of the first ever catalogue. At the time, I thought it was pretty groovy, which apparently wasn't a novel idea since they relaunched this very chair last year http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/90251659/

Tommy and I were both awed by this table, which was the first self-assembly product sold (in 1956). Made of Rosewood veneer and shaped like a leaf, this piece is delicate yet contemporary, even by today's standards. If you ever find one at a garage sale, buy it! 

sweden ikea

Seeing decade themed room settings provided a glimpse of IKEA over the years (and a vivid flashback to some of the bestselling items from my childhood)

sweden ikea

It's a short hop flight to travel from Copenhagen to Stockholm, and the terrain from the sky is beautiful

copenhagen canal

The canal systems in Stockholm and Copenhagen (shown here) allow you to take in the sights from a tour boat while enjoying the water. While I'm not normally one for organized tours and love to move at my own pace, hopping on board a boat will enable you to get a great first impression of the history and  architecture of the city without walking for days. 

illums bolighus

Since our tour of Denmark and Sweden was design and style focused, a stop at Ilums Bolighus was a must. As the flagship of modern Danish design (and by appointment to He Majesty of Denmark), the store is filled with floors of fabulous modern products. Too bad these draped tables couldn't be folded up like a tablecloth and tucked in my suitcase. http://www.illumsbolighus.com/shop/illusion_table-_frosted.aspx

Piece of advice…leave yourself lots of time to explore, and be well-fed when you enter as you may never want to leave! http://www.illumsbolighus.com/

Svensk Tenn

In Stockholm, my favourite retail design experience was Svensk Tenn. During our visit, it was temporarily housed in an old movie theatre, which lent itself incredibly well to being viewed as a stage set. They've since moved back into newly renovated digs, so I think a return visit is in order!

Lining the walls of the entry to the theatre are floor to ceiling illustrations by famous architect, artist and designer Josef Frank. The bold, modern designs are colourful and energetic, and still made in the same mill today that started printing them in the 1930's.

We rely heavily on computers today to lay out patterns and design, so I found it inspiring to see the watercolours for the original designs of Josef Frank fabrics with the pattern repeat and the colour legend sketched in pencil along the side. 

And of course I had to pick up a few yards to bring home in my suitcase! 

As a child of the 70's I have vivid memories of bold and cheery Marimekko prints used as table linens, wall hangings and bedding (especially the classic "Unikko" floral shown here 2nd and 3rd up from the bottom).

In a northern climate, where storms seem to blow in and out without much warning, these flower power oilcloth tablecloths are both practical and whimsical, and can brighten any grey day!

There wasn't nearly enough time to take in the awe-inspiring historical architecture or the bold modern design,  but Scandinavia is a most wonderful and welcoming place to visit!