Stockholm

Stockholm

We’ve just arrived home from my first visit to Stockholm, and I don’t know why it took so long to happen. Stockholm was a wonderful surprise, a beautiful city in an exceptional setting on an archipelago of small islands. The oldest part of the city is on a tiny series of islets including Riddarholmen and Gamla Stan, which together make up the old town of Stockholm. The area houses a number of landmarks from the 17th century such as the Royal Palace, Stockholm Cathedral, the Parliament buildings, and a cluster of narrow cobbled streets and alleyways dating back to the 13th century.

The central square on the tiny island of Gamla Stan. To the right in the photo is Jamie Oliver's favourite cafe, Chokladkoppen, famous for its hot chocolate.

The central square on the tiny island of Gamla Stan. To the right in the photo is Jamie Oliver’s
favourite cafe, Chokladkoppen, famous for its hot chocolate.

The central square on Gamla Stan features many charming Northern medieval and Renaissance architecture merchant houses; the Nobel Museum and the Stock Exchange building here are all major tourist attractions. But the most beautiful view of Stockholm – probably the view the city is best known for – is from the water.

The Stockholm archipelago encompasses both urban and rural settings spreading across hundreds of islands.

The Stockholm archipelago encompasses both urban and rural settings spreading across hundreds of islands.

Much of my time, of course, was spent seeking out examples of the famed Swedish design, and this took me to a number of the better-known places: Svenskt Tenn, Asplund and Carl Malmsten. Svenskt Tenn is a design house started in 1924 by Estrid Ericson and expanded in the 1930s with the partnership of Josef Frank, a Viennese designer and architect. The house style is clean, colourful and whimsical, and has become emblematic of what we think of when we think of Swedish design. Today, Svenskt Tenn is owned by the Kjell and Marta Beijers Foundation, which amongst other things actively supports the preservation of the cultural and esthetic heritage of Swedish interior design.

A view of Ostermalm, the upmarket area of modern Stockholm

A view of Ostermalm, the upmarket area of modern Stockholm

Asplund is a Swedish interior brand that makes its own furniture, accessories, carpets, and storage. The firm’s beautiful store in Ostermalm (central Stockholm) also carries select lines from other international designers.

The beautiful exterior of Asplund

The beautiful exterior of Asplund

Carl Malmsten was a Swedish furniture designer who is famous in Scandinavia for his dedication to craftsmanship and the clean, light wood furniture many of us associate with modern Swedish design. He started two schools with the intention of keeping the traditional skills of hand-craftsmanship alive, and these schools are still active. The Carl Malmsten store, right next door to Svenskt Tenn on Strandvagen in Ostermalm, Stockholm, is now owned and run by Jerk Malmsten, Carl’s grandson.

The beautiful exterior of Asplund

The beautiful exterior of Asplund

Stockholm is a compact city with a population of 800,000 – a surprisingly small capital when one thinks of how many of its stores, showrooms, and museums are dedicated to design. It’s a testament to Stockholmers’ love of design and their support for the industry.

Besides the showrooms mentioned above, I visited other beautiful Swedish and international accessories and furniture showrooms, including Nordiska Galleriet on Nybrogatan, a beautiful pedestrian shopping street, and Studio Modern. At the top of Nybrogatan is the indoor market, Saluhall, a beautiful, cathedral-like space with a fantastic collection of specialist food stalls and restaurants.

A selection of glassware and ceramics at Modernity, a showcase for beautiful 20th century Scandinavian design, owned by a Scotsman.

A selection of glassware and ceramics at Modernity, a showcase for beautiful 20th century Scandinavian design,
owned by a Scotsman.

Sibyllegatan, just one block over from Nybrogatan, is a quieter street, but a key destination for antiques and specialist shops like Asplund. Two of my favourites were Jacksons and Modernity; both are museum-like antique shops dedicated to Swedish and Scandinavian classics.

Looking across the bridge from Ostermalm toward the grand Nordic Museum, just behind and out of the picture is the Vasamuseum, famous for the reclaimed ship, the Vasa.

Looking across the bridge from Ostermalm toward the grand Nordic Museum, just behind and out of the picture is the Vasamuseum, famous for the reclaimed ship, the Vasa.

Design Torget is a fabulous concept store that I think deserves a special mention. This chain is dedicated to creating a marketplace for new and established Swedish designers that wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to show and sell their designs. Every week new designs are introduced. The product choice is broad – everything from housewares and gift items to books and children’s toys, all imbued with lots of humour, colour and innovation.

Prince Eugene's residence surrounded by beautiful gardens, now an art museum.

Prince Eugene’s residence surrounded by beautiful gardens, now an art museum.