It might seem like I’m having a love affair with all things Swedish lately. And if you’re thinking that, you’d be right. My latest trip was to the Småland region in the south of the country. A land of deep magical forests, and thousands of twinkling lakes. Captivating vistas of tiny red houses peeking through the trees, and the setting sun reflected in the icy waters. Those are the visions that will stay with me. We were told that November is normally a wet and dismal month to visit this region but we had a glimpse of the first snows, and a momentary view of how the landscape might look in the depths of winter. And I have to say, the short days are not a problem at all when greeted by candlelight in every restaurant, hotel, bar and window.
Småland is great for hiking holidays. The Scandinavians are out in the country whenever possible, whatever the weather, and it might interest you to know that in Sweden there are no restrictions to this activity. The only rules are to shut the gates, and to keep out of the gardens. Observe those two rules and you are free to roam wherever you like. Hiking and biking trails are found more or less everywhere, and there are lakes to swim in and to fish from.
But we were there to learn about design in Småland. As a land covered in forests it has a long history of furniture making and glass blowing in particular. And of course it’s the home of IKEA. Our journey took us from Jönköping, on the southern end of lake Vättern, to Sweden’s oldest still operating glassworks at Kosta Boda, to Växjö, and finally to Älmhult to visit the IKEA museum and eat meatballs.
Swedish Design in and around Jönköping
Lake Vättern is the second largest lake in Sweden and we stayed at the VOX Hotel right on the shore. It’s a first class lifestyle hotel with a design focus. It has 143 rooms, from suites and deluxe rooms with an amazing view over the water, to affordable doubles. We were given deluxe rooms with THAT view and decadent double showers. Bliss.
South east of Jönköping is Nässjö where the Husqvarna factory and museum is located. Founded as a government-owned small arms factory in 1620, it has undergone many transformations in order to stay in business. In the 1870’s it was producing sewing machines. It also has a history of motorbikes, stoves, kitchen appliances, and even had a brief flirtation with car design. Today it is world famous for it’s motorised garden and forestry tools. The museum is well worth a visit.
Husqvarna factory and museum
Located next door is Slottsvillan where we enjoyed lunch. Built in 1895-1896 as a residence for Wilhelm Tham, (who was the director of Husqvarna AB), the villa took inspiration from English and Scottish castles and mansions when designed by Jönköping’s urban architect Fredrik Sundbärg. Now a heritage-listed hotel, the interior is a well-preserved historial interior evoking the elegance and atmosphere of the 19th Century.
Also on the shores of Lake Vättern is Uppgrenna Naturhus. A privately owned greenhouse/coffee shop/meeting place, which works with sustainability and health, and is Sweden’s only natural environment of its kind. I was so blown away by this concept I’m going to cover it more fully in a separate post.
Swedish Design in and around Värnamo
Värnamo certainly feels like the heart and soul of the Swedish furniture industry in the area. We visited Källemo, which is one of Sweden’s most well-known furniture and design companies, the Vandalorum, (where we had a very good lunch) which is a museum of regional, national and international art and design, and the Bruno Mathsson Centre. Bruno Mathsson is one of the most prominent and famous Swedish furniture designers and was born in Värnamo. Not only did we visit the centre but also Södra Kull in Tånnö – the home of Bruno and his wife Karin – where we had exclusive access to his beautiful lakeside summer house. I’ll cover this is a separate post too.
Bruno Mathsson Centre
Bruno Mathsson Centre
Swedish Design in and around Kosta
If Värnamo is the heart and soul of the furniture industry, Kosta is at the heart of glassmaking. The Kosta Boda Art Hotel is situated next door to the famous Kosta Glassworks and is perfectly situated to explore and experience glass production and design. At Kosta Boda Art Gallery you can see collections from contemporary designers, and at Hyttsill you can enjoy a dinner of traditional herring, pork and baked potatoes with glass blowing as part of the entertainment.
The Glass Factory is also nearby which is a meeting place for collaboration, participation and experimental processes. While we were there they were working on a huge chandelier for the Nationalmuseum, Sweden’s premier museum of art and design. They have a museum and regular exhibitions.
The Glass Factory
PM & Vanner Hotel, Växjö
The PM & Vanner Hotel was our last hotel stop and the best hotel of our trip. If only we could have stayed for a few days. Or weeks. The ethos of the hotel is to provide guest with a unique experience, not just in the beautifully designed rooms, but in the restaurant and the bars too. Summer guests can enjoy a rooftop pool, but we were content with a visit to the wine cellars (where we were served canapes and sparkling wine), a tour of the hotel by one of the owners Per Bengtsson, the architect Jonas Lindval and designer Ingegerd Raman, and dinner in the restaurant. The theme in the restaurant is ‘forest, meadow and lake’ and it has one Michelin star and is winner of the Wine Spectator Grand Award 2017. One of 88 in the world, and the first in Sweden.
PM & Vanner Hotel
The first four images are © Dear Designer’s Blog. The rest are © Tina Stafrén