Stockholm - When Functionality Meets Beauty
When I was invited, at the beginning of a hot summer, to a design award ceremony in the italian city Como, I decided to treat myself prize and travel from there to an especially designed destination. The choice was simple – Stockholm (a city rife with awards) met all the requirements. And so, at the end of two exciting days in Como, we flew not only to one peaceful island, but to 14 islands connected by 57 bridges, surrounded by a sea and lake.
Simplicity, minimalism and functionality are the three magic components of Swedish design. Modernism based on the desire to invoke light and air, contrast, clarity and precision. The Scandinavian style is characterized by a calm palette of colors against a black and white background, contrasting and complementing old and new objects, combined with natural materials, inspired by nature. In Sweden, fashion design and interior design speak the same language, and assemble a relaxed harmony, effortless and whole. In this relaxed and beautiful city, a large number of design shops combine furniture, lighting, and accessories with cafés and plants. The need for light and the desire to illuminate everyday life are expressed in Sweden through an emphasis on the design of lighting fixtures, a large variety of candles, and a significant attention to art.
Osterlmalm – the City’s Design District
Ostermalm has a design district with many design shops and galleries, including cafés and restaurants, as well as the Ostermalmstorg indoors food market. Each store is unique:
Accessories by worldwide fashion brands, in Nordiska. In the photo, an exhibition by Alessi.
Asplund – was founded by brothers Michael (art dealer) and Thomas (banker) Asplund, as a gallery for iconic and collectable furniture. The place, which is currently a combination between a gallery and a shop, displays the Asplund collection along with items by esteemed designers and brands, such as Cappellini, Flos Living Divani and Artemide, as well as works by major designers such as Tom Dixon, Jasper Morrison, Mark Newson and contemporary Swedish designers. The philosophy of the place is “Good design is an item that you can use and incorporate into almost any design and will look as though it had always been there.”
Nordiska Galleriet 1912 – This is where you’ll find the classics of internationally renowned design brands: Vitra, Flexform, B&B Italia and Cassin; works by Piero Lysoni, Antonio Citario, Patricia Orquiola and many others.
Another leading gallery for design collectibles, also located in the design district, is Jackson Design AB. The gallery displays extensive collections of vintage Scandinavian and international design from the 20th century.
Right across the road you’ll find Modernity, a design collectibles gallery specializing in curating and selling rare furniture, ceramics, glass, lighting and jewelry by the most acclaimed Scandinavian designers.
Dis Inredning on the next street is a design shop with a contemporary atmosphere. Another trendy young shop is Granit, which combines homewares, stationery, garden accessories and a hairdresser.
Struplan Square and the Luxurious Biblioteksgatan Street
Not too far away is the luxury shops area, each store beautifully designed, and among them, a great number of design shops.
Near the Opera House is the inspiring Malmstenbutiken, a furniture store for designs by Carl Malmasten, who started designing furniture 75 years ago. The store also offers furniture and artifacts by other designers and companies.
Right next door lies one of the city’s especially designed surprises – the Svenskt Tenn design shop. The shop was founded in 1924 by Astrid Erickson, who recruited Joseph Frank 10 years later, and together they created their personal, elegant and colorful style.
In the city’s old town, among many souvenir shops and tourist restaurants, is Designfirman Gamla Stan Ab, a design shop with a collection of Scandinavian design items, combining functionality with surprising and unique elements. These two brands can be found in most design stores mentioned here, as well as in department store design aisles, such as NK and others.
H&M dominates the streets of Stockholm. Ten brand concept stores have opened across Europe in the past year, two of them in Stockholm.
Hotels and Trendy Spots
The especially decorated hotels boast trendy bars, usually on building rooftops with views of the city surrounded by sea.
New and exceptionally shiny is the Bank Hotel. The hotel promotes young Sweidh artists, whose artworks are displayed throughout the public areas and in various rooms.
Bunnies is a restaurant at the hotel, designed with a French flair. The highlight of the place is Le Hibou rooftop bar, overlooking the nearby harbor and inspired by a Parisian apartment.
ETT HEM – This 12-room hotel is located in a private residential building constructed in 1910, in a peaceful residential neighborhood far from Stockholm city center.
The Urban Escape is a complex comprised of the At Six, Hobo, and Nordic Choice hotels, all who share a rooftop space of Stockholm Under The Stars Brunkebergstorg.
At Six Hotel – this hotel offers elegance with a youthful and non-conformist twist. Designed as an art gallery, the hotel combines meticulously collected art by leading artists, with elegant and impressive décor.
Nobis Hotel, where we stayed, lied on the intersection between Hope and Acne; two very hot Swedish fashion brands, whose flagship stores were on both sides of the hotel. Four of the bank employees, where the Acne store now is, were held hostage for five and a half days in the bank vault by the robber (who stayed with them). Set in 2 historic buildings from the 19th century, the hotel’s interior design is contrasting, intertwining elegance and timeless modernity.
The chain also has the Miss Clara Hotel and has recently opened Blique by Nobis, a boutique hotel that combines architecture and design. The building was meticulously preserved and new creative aspects of contemporary industrial design were added to it.
Great Food, Cafés and Designed Restaurants
Swedish food is based on what is available (sea food), casual and cozy (a lot of great breads and pasteries).
There is a wide range of international cuisines in Stockholm alongside the traditional Swedish food, and the most interesting restaurants are those serving fusion cuisines that incorporate the best of all worlds.
Such as place is Tak at the Stockholm Under Stjärnorna Brunkebergstorg complex, which stretches across two floors and overlooks a panoramic view of the city and the sea around it. Th place serves excellent Japanese food which uses organic ingredients in a Nordic styled environment.
Kale & crave is an organic and gluten-free restaurant designed in the clean freshness spirit of the brand.
Bianchi Café & Cycle is a combination of a trendy restaurant inside a bicycle store. The restaurant operates at the heart of a bustling store with a vast array of bicycles and a repair shop.
Near the King’s Palace, at the entrance to the Old City, we found Restuarang Tradition. The very long line (they do not accept reservations) is worth the exquisite combination of traditional Swedish cuisine in a classic Scandinavian-designed space.
Rosendals Trädgård is a plants and natural herbs growing experience in a natural forest at the outskirts of the city. At the heart of this truly magical place, in the greenhouses and outside garden are a café and deli that make use of the place’s produce. There is also a plant nursery that sells the vegetation growing in the gardens and all required tools. There are also private events and exhibitions held there. Thank you. Sarit Sela, who lives in Stockholm and writes the Minimalist Me blog and recommended this place.
A City Packed with Art-Museums, Galleries and an Auction House
First is the Nationalmuseum – Sweden’s National Museum of Art and Design. On our visits at the museum, we saw the exhibition by Finn Juhl: Architectural Furniture Designer. The exhibition was dedicated to the works of Danish architect and furniture designer Finn Johl, one of the most influential Scandinavian furniture designers of the mid-twentieth century.
Bukowskis – the 150 years-old auction house chain, considered as a leader in the Nordic market. Sales are performed the authentic way, with a gavel, online auctions, exhibitions and private auctions. The classic auctioning complex takes place at the public auction house at Berzelii Park, Stockholm.
The Hallwyl Museum
Home of Walter and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, which is used as a Museum of the Countess’ collections. It is a residential house bult between 1893-98 by Isak Calson, the most renowned architecture in Sweden at the time, as a Winter house for the wealthiest couple in Sweden. The design style is mainly eclectic, and its uniqueness is in the use of modern technologies and comfort such as central heating, phones and electric lighting. The house was designed to be a museum from the very beginning and in 1920 the couple donated their house, on all it content, to the state, conditioning it by the house remaining mostly unchanged. The place was opened for the public in 193, eght ears after Wilhelmina’s passing. The house was preserved exactly as it was and is exhibiting private artifacts such as a piece of the owner’s beard, among others, alongside many art pieces. An authentic tour of an astonishing house with content that preserves the family’s life.
Andréhn-Schiptjenko is an art gallery at the heart of the Ostermalm design quarter. The gallery was established in 1991 and is regarded as one of the leading galleries in Scandinavia, acting to promote artist from all over the world in painting, sculpting, photography and video. The gallery recently opened a new exhibition space in Paris.
Art At the Subway Stations As Well
The art that is a significant part of the Swedish world of culture and design also seeps into the underground stations.
The subway has 100 stations of which 90 are decorated with art. There are guided tours, and you can do as we did, go to the subway after rush hour, when it is almost empty, with an online guide and roam through the stations of the three main lines: blue, red and green. The artworks are spread around the stations in various spots, not only on the platforms. Each station was decorated by different artists in different periods since the subway was opened in 1950.
בתחנת Odenplan אין אומנות והגענו אליה כדי לצאת לנשום אוויר ולבקר בספרייה הציבורית של שטוקהולם הקיימת מאז 1928. במקום אולם קריאה מדהים ביופיו בן 3 קומות.
I have a great affinity to libraries and one that begs to be visited is the Kungliga biblioteket National Library – the collection contains items that are over 1,000 years old. The library collects and restores almost everything ever published in Sweden, manuscripts, books, newspapers, music, television shows and photographs. In 1661, a law was passed in Sweden that every publisher must send a copy of its work to the national library, as means of censorship and supervision. That ancient law, which was revised during the years, applies to all media and technology means developed over the years, from music to computer games and any electronical communication mean. That is how the national library curated over 18 million items, which assets of the Swedish culture.
This post is especially long. Stockholm is great, varied and full of great atmosphere and exceptionally beloved design.
The choice on where to go and what to write was a challenging one.
Thank you for reaching this far. If you have any comments, notes, experiences and especially designed places to recommend, please contact us by leaving a comment below.
See you in other designed places around the world.
A bit about me – I’m an interior designer with 20 years of experience. The studio specializes in luxury apartments, luxury privet houses, commercial and business design. As part of my job, I travel to perfectly designed places around the world and am delighted to share those experiences with you, while offering my personal and professional perspective. All this in the blog Design & the City, which is also published monthly at the Designer magazine by HaAretz newspaper.