I recently returned from a long weekend in Stockholm where my husband and I visited some friends and did some research for our upcoming retail & web shop project. At every turn I found some form of inspirational design — from our hotel room to the most basic public streetlamp to wonderfully diverse storefronts. Aside from the time we spent visiting with our friends, eating, drinking (oiy…akvavit!) and walking around the city, the rest of our short time there was spent visiting a handful of vintage and modern home furnishings shops.

We started and ended every day at the Hotel Rival, a small 99 room boutique hotel overlooking Maria Square in Stockholm’s Sodermalm neigborhood.

Maria Square

Our room was very comfortable and had a mix of traditional and vintage swedish pieces. We had a “superior” room which still isn’t that big compared to US standards…which isn’t so bad. The Swedes are efficient designers and utilize every square inch.

Hotel Rival guest room

If by chance you’re an ABBA fan, take note…the hotel is owned by Benny Andersson. ABBA is something of a Swedish national treasure.

As I mentioned, one of the things that struck me about Stockholm is how much they can fit into so little. This certainly holds true for storefronts. From this adorable flower shop around the corner from our hotel…

…to this coffee shop. Fika anyone?

One classic Stockholm retail institution we were told we must visit is Svenskt Tenn. This place is an institution. Founded by Estrid Erikson in 1924, it may be most well known for working with the architect Josef Frank whose fabrics and wallcoverings continue to be sold through the store today…albeit fabric is around $250/yard. (Btw, nothing is cheap in Stockholm. The current exchange rate (Nov/Dec ’11) does not help things as well. But this didn’t stop us from making a few purchases.)

Every corner of Svenskt Tenn was filled with something more beautiful than before. They are most well known for their bold patterns and classic Swedish design. I love the Scandi/Swedish aesthetic for its subdued palette. Layer on Josef Frank bold patterns and colors to a white/creamy/neutral backdrop and you have an environment that makes you smile. I have to imagine the cold, long, dark winter has something to do with this approach to design.

Svenskt Tenn couch

My new favorite quote.

The store was decked out for the Christmas season. Filled with decorations, trees and seasonal flowers.

Ho Ho Ho

Love this vase as much as I love the flower

The store is both a retail destination as well as an interior design powerhouse. I snapped a shot of a designer in her studio hard at work. I want my office to look like this someday.

Interior design studio

The store is owned by a private foundation which keeps watch over things. It’s history appears to be an important one and everywhere you turn is some homage to the past. Whether it’s this…

A little history

…or this.

Josef Frank patterns behind glass

After spending a couple hours in the store, we said our goodbyes to this well kept, classic instiution and moved on to a bit of mid century/vintage and a bit of modern Stockholm.

Our next stop was Malmstenbutiken. This shop was founded by Swedish furniture designer Carl Malmsten (1888 – 1972) and is now run by his grandson. Malmsten’s style is represented by light wooden furniture with a blonde range of colours, very much typically Swedish, with strong references to Swedish nature and cultural traditions. Malmsten’s influence on Swedish furniture design is particularly significant through the schools he founded, including Carl Malmsten Furniture Studies in Stockholm and Capellagården on the island of Öland, both of which are still in operation.

Malmstenbutiken interior

We bought this pretty ceramic piece by Karin Meijer at Malmstenbutiken which looks great on our dining table. Though, it’s very delicate and I’m still amazed it made it home from Stockholm in our carry-on without breaking.

Karin Meijer ceramic

Moving on to a more modern Sweden, Asplund is a company and store I’ve fallen in love with. Their designs are clean and elegant. Timeless without being trendy. And range in tone from that typical Swedish neutral to vibrant colors. Their carpet line is particularly impressive. The texture and patterns are amazing.The two story, small store is filled with furniture, lighting and homegoods and it’s a place I’d like to return to when I have more time.

Asplund window

Asplund

Asplund

Asplund

Ok, now on to some vintage Sweden. We probably visited 3 or 4 vintage shops on our trip. There are hundreds more. Next trip back we’re making a list and planning an itinerary! Some of the shops we did visit though we’re pretty terrific. From the lighting shop…

Gamla Lampor

There goes my husband

Shop poster

To this shop (oops, I forget the name)…

And to a very elegant little shop called Modernity which seems to represent every scandinavian mid century designer you can think of.

Modernity interior

One of the last impressions I have of Stockholm is how welcoming the Swedish people are. We attended a very fun dinner party the first weekend of their Advent season and the party has obviously been going on for years and steeped in tradition. We were made to feel like we’ve been attending it year after year. There was wonderful food, lots of singing of traditional Christmas songs (the evening’s events even came with a handout for singing along, thank god) and once again, lots of drinking. We had to, I repeat, had to take a shot of something or another after each song. It was a very fun night. A handsome Santa Clause even arrived.

Need I say more..

I have a theory that with the long, cold and dark winters Sweden is known for, a person’s home becomes something of a nest in those insular months. There is an inherent comfortable casualness of every interior we found ourselves in. The crisp and neutral whites serve as backdrops while practical, comfortable, and equally neutral — though at times colorful — furniture brighten the spirit. Candles — both the Advent season’s electrical window candles — as well as wax candles seemed to populate every sill, ledge and counter. Homes and storefronts leave beauftiful lanterns on the sidewalk to welcome guests.

Returning home is always filled with mixed emotions. You miss where you’re leaving but look forward to coming home to your own home and loved ones. I can’t wait to go back to Sweden, but it’s always good to come home to our small piece of heaven. This was the sunrise the morning after we arrived in Mattapoisett. Good to be home.

Sunrise at home