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Stockholm Furniture Fair 2004: Featuring OFFECCT

The Stockholm Furniture Fair - Northern Europe's leading design event

Words by Claes Britton: Editor in Chief, Stockholm New Magazine.

Bigger, better, less colorful and more experimental - these were some of the dominant impressions from the recently concluded Stockholm Furniture Fair of 2003.

The Stockholm Furniture Fair, held in the second week of February each year, has always been an important event, but with the recent soaring global interest in Swedish and Scandinavian design, the Fair too has experienced a boom, firmly establishing itself as a main fixture on the global design circuit, alongside Milan, London, Paris, New York and Cologne.

This increasing international attention is clearly visible in the number of foreign guests to Stockholm during the fair, which seems to be doubling each year, and, not least, in the dramatically increasing international media coverage. Just like in Milan in April, albeit on a smaller scale, Stockholm during the furniture fair has become an animated focal point for the global design tribe, not just out in the fair premises but all over the city, where all showrooms are open with fresh exhibitions, with plenty of parties and events going on each night of the week. Especially notable this year was the large number of Japanese guests - the fruit of the past years« intense cultural exchange between Sweden and Japan.

It«s not only in quantity, however, that The Stockholm Furniture Fair is growing. The past years have seen a radical upgrading in the quality of the new designs presented, as well as in the visual presentations. After some years of indicisiveness, the Swedish furniture industry, centered in the Småland region in southern Sweden, is now capitalizing on the Swedish design boom in a big way. Major companies such as Swedese, Offecct, Lammhults, Gärsnäs and many more have joined Källemo and smaller independent producers the likes of Asplund, cbi and David design in the frontline and are now pushing each other in the quest for ever newer and sharper designs, by international designers as well as Swedish.

In total, there were 765 exhibiting companies, about 300 of which were international, the rest Swedish. Naturally, the biggest exhibiting nations besides Sweden were neighbors Finland, Denmark and Norway, in that order, followed by design superpower Italy.

"The interest from international exhibitors is growing quickly, but this is still not a prime focus for us," says Charlotte Melander at The Stockholm Furniture Fair. "Our fair is, and should continue to be, primarily the main event for Nordic design. This is the unique selling point which attracts the international audience."

The general impression of this year's fair was that the overall quality was far higher and more solid than ever before. With the trend shifts in the design industry approaching those seen in the fashion scene, the visitor noted that last year«s bright colors had been largely replaced by a more classic and sophisticated color scale, dominated by black, white and natural woods. A more subtle and surprising trend was the number of pieces with twisted shapes that was simply too great to be a mere coincidence.

The most high-profiled designers were once again the dynamic trio Claesson Koivisto Rune, with new designs for an array of the leading producers. Sweden«s biggest name in the international design world, Thomas Sandell, kept a somewhat more subdued if still very prominent presence.

We were pleased to note that the fair administration this year had been very ambitious in the extra exhibitions and events it put on for the visitors. The biggest and most publicized novelty was the "Greenhouse" in the 1,500 square meter Victoria Hall, where specially invited, unestablished designers and students from design schools from Sweden, Japan, Israel, Denmark, Italy and Great Britain showcased a plethora of wild and exciting new ideas. The designs of the young groups Industrious Designers from Israel and Sputnik from Japan were among the fair's favorite conversation topics.

Another of several much appreciated exhibits was "Made in Sweden", featuring a selection of pieces by Swedish designers for international companies, together with objects by international designers for Swedish companies. In a globalized design world, it was perhaps not so surprising to learn that the latter, the furniture designed by leading international artists for Swedish companies, were the more "Scandinavian looking" of these two categories.

Several prizes were awarded during the fair. Leading Swedish interiors magazine Skšna Hem«s design prize went to the stool "Twister" (evidently with a twisted shape) by Japanese designer Yurioko Takahashi for Swedese, while Matti Klinell received design magazine Forum's +1 diploma for his lamp "Kapoor", inspired by the Indian artist with the same name, for the small producer …rsjš belysning AB. Other much talked about new pieces were Thomas Sandell's table for Asplund (actually an old design from 1992), Claesson Koivisto Rune«s table "Brasilia", and the imposing armchair by Björn Dahlström (another celebrated Swedish star designer) for cbi.

With the energy in the Swedish and Scandinavian design boom showing no signs of decreasing, quite on the contrary, we can already recommend the second week of February 2004 as a good time to visit Stockholm for those with a special interest in the Nordic shape of things to come.

The author of this article, Claes Britton, is editor in chief of Stockholm New, Northern Europe's leading fashion, design and lifestyle magazine.

The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.

Copyright © 2008 David Shearer   
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