Despite the prevalence of minimalist interiors, more Swedes have begun to look back to our roots, rediscover the classics, and dare to express themselves more vividly.
Svenskt Tenn is an institution of sorts that many tend to look to for this. It is a classic house but it has reached a younger demographic with its strong expressions and designs. Created in 1924 by Estrid Ericson and located, since 1927, in a building on the posh Strandvägen in Stockholm, I was curious to find out what has attracted the brand’s new and younger clientele.
Thommy Bindefeld, marketing director.
I find the story of Svenskt Tenn very romantic, in a way. The business partnership between Estrid, the artist, and a designer from Vienna named Josef Frank, a man who was against the modernist work and thoughts of contemporary architects and thinkers (like Le Corbusier). Is that something one thinks of when surrounded by the work?
Very much so. Their heritage is extremely important for our work today. About 80 percent of our assortment is still designs [originally] done by Josef Frank and Estrid Ericson, and our aim is to be a mixture of their history and our time. Both of them were “revolutionary” in their way. Both of them worked against the conventional and the expected. They were strong and had a lot of confidence in their thoughts and their beliefs.
Does the fact that the company is owned by a foundation (which gives out big annual contributions to research in sustainability and biomedicine) somehow limit your work? Are you sensitive in making sure you always create commercially successful products?
No, rather the opposite. I would say that Svenskt Tenn’s ownership gives us an opportunity to work even more creatively and work/think in a very long perspective. Our owner, the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation’s aim to secure the survival of the company “forever” and to secure the brand from being overexploited gives us a framework where we can be very creative, as long as it doesn’t affect the brand. Svenskt Tenn is always balancing between being a commercial and a cultural institution. And the balance has to be there to continue giving donations to research, as well as securing the long life of the brand.
This year marks Svenskt Tenn’s ninetieth anniversary. Do you have anything special planned?
Part of the shop is used for exhibitions and installations, and has been used like that since Estrid Ericson’s time. In this part, we continuously do exhibitions, either by our curators or by invited external partners. This jubilee year, all the exhibitions are done to honor the work of Estrid Ericson and her creativity. We started in February, to show a mixture of Svenskt Tenn and the Italian design company Fornasetti. Estrid Ericson started to work with Piero Fornasetti in 1946. After that, we did an exhibition to honor the interiors that she did before Josef Frank joined the company. Estrid Ericson at that time wrote that an interior should be sober and elegant. Right now, we have a Mexican exhibition. Estrid Ericson traveled to Mexico in 1939, and later that year she exhibited what she bought. We traveled to Mexico in her footsteps, in August 2013, and are now showing what we bought in combination with our normal assortment. In the fall, we will have an exhibition showing Josef Frank['s work] and their collaboration, an exhibition of table settings (one of Ericson’s skills that made her famous), and there will be an exhibition honoring her at the Sven-Harrys museum, opening on her 120th birthday, September 16.
Josef Frank left over two thousand blueprints to the company after his passing. What are your personal favorites among his designs?
I would love to have a Liljevalch sofa. It was one of the first things that Josef Frank got famous from, when it was shown at Liljevalch art museum in 1934 (the year after he moved to Sweden). It is still in production.
I like the idea of “Accidentism” a lot. Could you elaborate on what that has meant to Svenskt Tenn?
Josef Frank’s philosophy “Accidentism” is very free and open to what you like, and [the idea] if you put together things that you like, they will become beautiful together. There are no rules and regulations. The rule is rather that there are no rules. Things can be put together “by accident,” and that is what becomes beautiful. His philosophy always put the person in the center and what is comfortable, interesting for the eye, and beautiful. For example, he never did furniture in steel and chrome, because it was too cold and machine-like. He used a mixture of warm materials, mixtures of different woods and fabrics, that should meet the human body. We try to live up to this philosophy in the curating of the shop, in our selection of product development, and when our interior architects work with clients. And hopefully you get that feeling from our website.
For more information, visit www.svenskttenn.se.
Svenskt Tenn, Strandvägen 5, Stockholm.
Photo: Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn