Novel Approaches to the Scandinavian Interior
I just finished the hard-to-put-down Stieg Larsson trilogy about the brilliant, quirky, but severely wronged Swedish computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, and the books’ Stockholm setting made me want to learn more about Swedish design. Lisbeth and her fellow protagonist, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, seem to make themselves coffee and sandwiches quite a lot so I started thinking about furniture — what might they use for such impromptu meals? (Besides IKEA, that is, which we’ll get to in a moment.) A little computer sleuthing of my own and there you are!
Or — Där är du! in Swedish. Enter the tray table, like this one from Svenskt Tenn, a famous Stockholm interior design store. It’s a clever design — the top is a metal tray (there are two sizes: 65 cm diameter or 49 cm diameter) that can be changed. Trays are as varied as the plot twists in the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the other two Larsson novels.
They’re based on fabric patterns by the Viennese architect Joseph Frank, who settled in Stockholm in 1933 and became the principal designer for Svenskt Tenn. In fact Frank is considered one of the founders of Swedish modern design and much of his work, including pendant lamps, chairs, and mirrors (examples shown below) is still being produced today by Svenskt Tenn.
But Lisbeth’s taste in furniture is all IKEA. According to the second book in the series — The Girl Who Played With Fire – Lisbeth buys an expensive view-oriented apartment in the elegant building shown above (The photo is courtesy the Stockholm Museum, which now offers tours of key locations mentioned in the books) and selects a huge array of items from IKEA to fill it. All the items she buys are neatly listed in this ingenious graphic created by Apartment Therapy.
Though Lisbeth is gonzo with computers it doesn’t sound like she had any interest in putting the furniture together herself — everything seems to arrive fully assembled. (I’m with her there…). IKEA is perfect for Lisbeth — contemporary, adaptable, instant — just the way she is with the Internet. Another way to go, in addition to Joseph Frank, would have been via the famous late 19th and early 20th century Arts & Crafts Swedish painter and interior designer Carl Larsson. His home is a museum you can visit — here’s an image of the dining room, courtesy the official Carl Larsson website.
It’s a very beautiful icon of Swedish culture, and I would love to visit someday. But I can see how the storybook country style of such rooms might not fit the fast-paced urbanism that Stieg had in mind — though a Carl Larsson painting could well have been in the home of the magazine editor Erika Berger, who figures strongly in a subplot in the third book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Too much Carl Larrson might have been a distraction from the Stieg Larsson plot.
Now if a Stieg Larsson character built a new house, what would it be? I think Mikael Blomkvist, after retiring on the proceeds of his journalistic triumphs, might hire the innovative young Swedish architecture firm Widjedal, Racki, Bergerhoff to build something like this:
with its own writing studio down by the water:
Design begins with a dream — and perhaps a novel or two, not to mention an autobiography and some financing — and Där är du! (These images are courtesy the architecture firm by way of Gradient Magazine.)