In the 1950s and '60s, Americans clamored for sleek Scandinavian chairs, tables and sofas in teak and monochrome fabrics. Then, like too much of a good thing, the craze faded out.
Some 30 years later, Scandinavia's back in style. Swedish design in particular, both vintage and new, is being sought by collectors and designers alike, and Los Angeles and environs has its share of specialty shops.
While Volvo, Saab and Absolut Vodka have long held their own as Swedish icons, the same has not been true of home furnishings. Some speculate that the renewed interest in Swedish decor is an outgrowth of the revived taste for the simple lines of Modernism or a newfound longing for the practical comforts that such furniture provides. While too many modern designs are lovely to look at but not particularly comfortable, Swedish engineering has always combined form, function and feel, which seems to fit current tastes.
Julia Lewis, news editor for Interior Design magazine, says it seems to be Sweden's turn right now. "There is a wonderful purism and sensitivity to material that makes Swedish contemporary design different from, for example, Italian contemporary design. They both may have sleek shapes, but in Swedish pieces there are organic materials that prevent the pieces from being cold."
The latest crop of Swedish architects and designers -- most of them in their 30s or early 40s -- includes Thomas Sandell, who designed the interior of the Swedish Museum of Architecture in Stockholm, as well as the Stockholm-based Marten Claesson, Eero Koivisto & Ola Rune, who went into partnership in 1993.
Susanne Helgeson, a Stockholm-based design writer, says compared with earlier generations, the new group of designers "has a bigger international outlook in what they do." They are, she says "well-educated communicators updated on global trends," in touch with their European colleagues and "working more and more with foreign producers."
Lewis credits IKEA, the Sweden-based international chain of stores specializing in affordable home furnishings, with making Swedish design visible to Americans.
IKEA first opened in the United States in Philadelphia in 1985, and its merchandise represents the generic emphasis on natural materials and simple lines we associate with Sweden.
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