Sthlm Furniture Fair 2015 top picks

The Stockholm Furniture Fair & Northern Light Fair is drawing ever bigger crowds from abroad to Sweden’s capital in February. This year the number of foreign visitors was up 15% over last year and represented more than 60 countries.

Having a front-row seat to the Scandinavian furniture industry’s best in show is always a treat, and this year’s premieres scored high marks for their collective simplicity and restraint. Class, curves, color and craft sums it up nicely. Here were my top picks.

1 - BAUX, a joint venture with Form Us With Love

Baux is a company launched during Design Week by design studio Form Us With Love together with partners Johan Ronnestam and Fredrik Franzon. BAUX is here to meet the needs of architects, engineers and builders by designing and producing construction materials that exceed expectations in both functionality and beauty. The company's first product, BAUX wall tiles, turn building materials into architectural features. Large strong panels made of a material called wood wool (spruce wood, cement & water) provide insulation, are fire resistant, regulate moisture, and absorb sound.  Photos: courtesy of BAUX

2 - Sempé w153 lamp by Inga Sempé for Wästberg

Designer Inga Sempé with her beautiful, small and versatile clamp lamp that can be fixed to tabletops or walls or left free to move around. The shade rests directly on the bulb and is easily tilted to bounce light in the desired direction. The w153 lamp won Sempé this year’s Form +1 Award from Form Magazine, juried by last year’s winners Färg & Blanche. Photos: Tiffany Orvet

3 - 2015 range of lamps for Zero Lighting

Zero’s collaborations with top designers and suppliers tend to turn out interesting collections, and their 2015 offering doesn’t disappoint. Above left: Elements lamp series by Note Design Studio including pendant, floor, table and wall variations inspired by the colors of Scandinavian nature, and made with Kvadrat fabric. Photo: courtesy Zero. Above right: Tint pendant lamp by Fredrik Mattson. After much experimentation, the result is both stunning colors and shadow play that change with the location and time of day. Photo: Tiffany Orvet

4 - Madonna chair by David Ericsson for Gärsnäs

Designer David Ericsson with his lightweight beech Madonna chair for Gärsnäs. The chair is wrapped in luxuriously tactile vegetable-tanned leather with visible back fasteners, all part of his Design is not about "less is more" but about being obvious philosophy. It is also available clad in molded curves of beech veneer instead of leather. Photos: Tiffany Orvet

5 - Bowl table by Andreas Engesvik for Fogia

Bowl does double duty as storage unit and table in beautiful ash wood, keeping everyday collections close at hand. Photo: courtesy of Fogia

6 - Patch tables by Note Design Studio & Norm Architects for Menu

Inspired by an old Milanese marble floor, Patch combines mismatched slabs of marble in a lovely graphic tabletop pattern. The tables come in three sizes and are a collaboration between Denmark’s Norm Architects and Sweden’s Note Design Studio. Photo: courtesy Menu

7 - Rebind table by Mia Cullin

Mia Cullin was featured in the Fair’s special exhibition Twelve - Established Nordic Designers, now in its second year. Her Rebind table made of beech and natural leather shows off beautifully her knack for using geometry, origami and handicraft as inspiration. Photo: courtesy Mia Cullin

8 - Horizon rug by Mattias Stenberg for Asplund

Swedish landscapes on the horizon have inspired a series of three rugs by Matthias Stenberg. Stenberg believes that such views  are a source of peace and pleasure. His rugs are made as much for the wall as for the floor, and are meant to bring those wonderful feelings indoors. Photo: courtesy of Asplund

9 - Braid sofa by Lisa Hilland for LK Hjelle

Braid by Lisa Hilland brings a refreshing feminine addition to the overly-masculine sphere of sofa options. Larger-than-life braided cushions make for an inviting seat that is both playful and all-grown-up at the same time. Photo: courtesy of LK Hjelle.

Stockholm Furniture Fair 2014: greenhouse picks

Continuing my coverage of the 2014 Stockholm Furniture Fair, here were some of the best in show from hopeful new talents producing independently and getting their first foot in the door.  Of the 36 designers and 37 design schools from 16 countries that took part in the juried Greenhouse section this year, here are the top ten that caught my eye.

Sine clothes rack Ral chair
POM formellt Hanna Dalrot
Urban henhouse Befring chair
Jelusic Consentino Jacobsen
noidoi pulse

1 - There are some beautiful clothes racks out there, but I haven't seen anything else as simple, fun, and functional as the SINE hanger system by Erik Olovsson and Kyuhyung Cho. From the distinctive sine curve design across the top (imagine that row of perfectly spaced shirts), to the separate purpose-built hangers for clothes, belts, scarves, and accessories, this is one brilliantly-thought-through product that I can't wait to see in production.

2 - A chair in which to take a moment to find inner (and outer) balance.  That is the idea behind Beckmans design student Rebecca Ral's sideways-rocking Mind Your Seat chair.

3 - POM (Piece of Me) desk collection. Simply loved the effect that new Stockholm-based studio Formellt achieved with their solid ash desks covered in tanned leather.  In their shapes and surfaces are revealed the imprints of their use, workday habits built up over hundreds of hours.  Imprints of a notebook here, a pen there. Their tight leather skin giving them an organic evolving quality that evokes so many things at once. Life, a living thing burdened by habit. The luxury we work so hard for and the bondage in that, both titillating and enslaving.

4 - Moody, rich, minimalist and monochromatic.  What's not to love in Beckman's grad Hanna Dalrot's Textile Landscapes collection?  As she's currently a design intern at Ikea, we can only hope that means her textile designs will become widely available soon.

5 - HØNS is the perfectly aesthetically pleasing high-rise henhouse for the urban high-rise dweller. That was the thinking behind this henhouse design by Anker Bak, who wants to make it possible to keep chickens on your balcony, and fresh eggs an arms reach away.

6 - Norwegian student designer Aud Julie Befring uses colorful domes of felted wool to make birch stools that are playful, customizable, and endlessly delightful. Each individual half-sphere of cushioning wool can be mixed, matched, and moved around to your heart's content in her Cool With Wool stool.

7 - In the stylish TWO LITTLE BIRDS indoor playhouse, kids can make a special place complete with shelves of their own, where their imagination can soar. Is it a boat, a house, a treehouse, a castle, or a henhouse?  For designer Luka Jelusic, it's actually about making good use of pesky materials, like the invasive water hyacinth weed that the ropes of the playhouse are made of.

8 - The beautifully crafted ash wood MILDRED bench and dual-purpose handwoven wool blanket are designed together by Monique Consentino, a BA student at Denmark's TEKO school of Design & Business. Cozy and clever, the blanket folds into the stool where it makes a soft cushion, kept conveniently close until a cold breeze kicks up.

9 - Hanna Jacobsen's SPILT chair struck me as being either a super comfortable wood block equivalent of those metal pin impression toys that conform to every contour of the body, or a horrible torture device - all depending on which way its spiky wood blocks are facing. In actuality the wood blocks are simply the unwanted scraps of a busy workshop, making the chair itself an expression of the workshop's activity over a period of time, its useless pieces given a meaningful use.

10 - PULSE furniture. Is it a daybed, a bench, a table, tray or storage unit?  Actually, it's all of these in one beautiful polyfunctional piece of furniture. I'd mark NOIDOI studio and its designers Kathrine Lønstad from Norway and Cosmin Cioroiu from Romania, as ones to watch.  Their On the Edge lamp also left a big impression.

Sthlm Furniture Fair 2014 top picks

Like kids to candy, Scandinavian design lovers flock to the Far North to brave the chilling darkness of winter in Stockholm for one week each year.  It's the combined Stockholm Furniture and Northern Light Fair, where 40,000 visitors tuck in for a fix of blond wood furniture and a glimpse at the future of cool.  Here is a sneak peek at a few of my top picks that made their big debut this year. 

(btw: if you're thinking minimalist or monochrome, you're way off base.)

GamFratesi Guests of Honor
Farg Blanche
Mattias Stenberg for Nola
Folkform Suburburban Skyline

1 - Balance by GamFratesi - Guest of Honor 2014

The Danish-Italian design studio GamFratesi were Guest of Honor for the Stockholm Furniture Fair 2014.  As such, they got to design the prominent exhibition and meeting area at the entrance of the fair.  Quite appropriately, they called it "Balance".

Suspended over many of the various furniture pieces they've designed for Swedese, Fredericia, FontanaArte, Casamania, Ligne Roset and others, were large Calder-like hanging textile pieces that swung and whirled ever so gently.  According to the designers, it was meant to represent the everyday struggle to find balance in life, and emphasize the movement of the fair's visitors through the space.  Besides being beautiful, the sculptural pieces worked as room dividers and sound absorbers. Photos: Tiffany Orvet

2 - Pocket Cupboard and wood tailoring by Färg & Blanche

Fredrik Färg and Emma Marga Blanche are known for applying fashion tailoring to furniture. In their latest experiment, they use an industrial strength sewing machine to sew through plywood, creating stitched layers of wood in different hues to dramatic effect. My favorite is the "Pocket Cupboard" where they've stitched leather pockets directly onto the plywood cabinet covers.  If you open the cupboard doors you'll see that the stitches go all the way through. Portrait photo: Tiffany Orvet

3 - Plymå bench by Mattias Stenberg for Nola

The smooth curves of this indoor bench may look a bit like plush upholstered furniture, but the resemblance ends there. With its ash wood seats and optional backrest, and limestone table surface, it's durable enough for hardwearing public spaces with a softer side. Photo: courtesy of Nola

4 - Suburban Skyline lamp by Folkform for Örsjo Belysning

Taking its inspiration from Stockholm's suburban skyline, this lamp is made up of block-like shapes in brass that are different from every angle.  You may have seen it's sibling pendant, but this was its first foray as a floor lamp.  And as if we needed any support that it was classy enough, Queen Silvia of Sweden received one of her own from the country's Prime Minister earlier this winter.  Folkform were quite chuffed to install it themselves at the Royal Palace. Detail photo: Tiffany Orvet

And there's more 

My full Top 10 slideshow is over at Dwell.com. Check it out

Sthlm Furniture Fair 2013: Greenhouse picks

The Stockholm Furniture Fair is the highlight of February.  Scandinavia's most exciting furniture brands all come armed with their latest and greatest.  Yet every year, I head straight to the Greenhouse.  The Greenhouse is a special section of the fair that's given over to new designers, independent designers, and design schools.  Here, fresh talent gets a fleeting but very high profile opportunity to make a lasting impression.  Usually they don't disappoint.

This year 36 independent designers and 38 design schools exhibited.  These were some of my favorites

Haruka Furuyama Lilla Ateljen
Furukawa BEdesign Andersson
Jun Furukawa
Oyyo rugs
Marianne Andersen and Stoft
Viktoria Henriksen and Alexandra Raben
Lisa Hillard

1 - Originally from Japan, Haruka Furuyama found inspiration in a small house at Carl Malmsten's Capellagården School where he studied cabinetmaking & furniture design. He describes his lilla ateljen range of furniture as comfortable, cozy, simple, bright, and inspiring. Photo copyright © Haruka Furuyama Design & Craft. 

2a + 2b - Jun Furukawa, based in Gothenburg, aims to "inspire joy in our daily lives" through designs such as his colorful Flower stools (2a) and endlessly configurable Tray+ table (2b). On his table, stackable wooden trays can be moved around freely on an adjustable extending frame. Table+ photo copyright © Jun Furukawa.

3 - Ok, so maybe you've seen shelves in shapes before. But this deer shaped shelf left a particularly striking geometric impression. Sisters Cilla and Bette Eklund of BEdesign create designs firmly rooted in their Finnish homeland. Pictured is Bette Eklund.

4 - Desktop detail from Fredrik Andersson's AU 79 desk. This piece was made from the recycled cross sections of old skateboards, and was featured in the "Is this it?" collection from Beckmans College of Design, Stockholm.

5 - Oyyo is a Stockholm design studio founded in 2011 Lina Zedig and Marcus Åhrén.  Their bold patterned dhurrie rugs are handwoven by a community of craftspeople in India.

6 - I loved Marianne Andersen's In Theory pendant lamps made of blown glass with a pine wood center. A perfect blend of modern and rustic, delicate and strong. They were featured in the "State of Things" exhibition of Norwegian designers. Photo courtesy Marianne Andersen.

7 - Malmö based STOFT design collective "wants to add poetry into our daily lives".  They succeed with their mechanical thoughts cabinet in which the mechanical locking device is embellished with cogs and other fascinating moving bits, and put on display.  It makes visible that which is otherwise taken for granted.  Photos courtesy of STOFT.

8 - Viktoria Henriksen's lovely loopy wobbly FRØ vases were part of the exhibit from Oslo and Akershus University. Pictured with designer Viktoria Henriksen herself.

9 - Alexandra Raraben spins handwoven perfection in her appropriately named Intricate lamp.  Visit her site to see the wonderful pattern it creates on the wall (one of my favorite things about lamps, so often overlooked) and sketches. Alexandra, you thought of everything.  

10 - Lisa Hilland is a graduate of Central St Martin's in London and now has her own design studio in Sweden. Her Petit Pois chair in conjunction with Snickarakademin Kristianstad in ash wood with brass details is simply the most beautiful folding chair I've ever seen. Not surprisingly, she was named "Designer of the Year" 2013 by Plaza Magazine. Her whole collection is gorgeous. Photographer: Niklas Lundström