Considered a pan-European designer for her work, ranging from furniture brand Swedese (where she is its new creative director) to Bosnia’s Zanat, Monica Förster is a veteran on the Stockholm scene and founder of an eponymous design studio. She fuses the purest of forms with a deep knowledge for materials and technologies with a curiosity for what’s happening in the world. “I sometimes say that I’m not interested in form, but that may not be entirely true. What I mean is simply that the idea behind each project is more important. When the idea is set, I then focus on shape, colour and detail,” she says.
One might also add that she prizes social consciousness over aesthetics or construction methods. As discussed in her retrospective tome Lateral Thinking (2013), she believes her role is about creating jobs for people. “It’s as basic as that,” she said. Citing her collaboration with Italian furniture maker Poltrona Frau, as an example, she explained: “Poltrona Frau is based in Tolentino, a very small town by the Adriatic sea. If that company disappeared, it would be a lot of people out of work. The village depends on the company and there are a lot of companies like that, especially in Sweden. Those companies are important for communities.”
Beatrice dining chair for Poltrona Frau
Of course, some of her most stellar works are for Poltrona Frau. Her Alone sofa offers an enveloping back rest and armrest, which are complemented by cossetting lumbar cushions; her Esedra pouf is festooned with a geometic pattern where leather exalts its ovoid profile; and the Beatrice dining chair is a fusion of wood and leather so beautifully crafted it deserves second glances.
For Scandinavian brand Lightyears, the Lullaby pendant light was actually conceived through her curiosity of using paper to create 3D models. It is through this tangible process that she tests odd, unexpected opportunities and processes that don’t adhere to traditional considerations. Exuding a diaphanous grace when hung, the pendant lights are made with stone paper, a new material made from crushed limestone that boasts a beautiful luminous quality.
CLAESSON KOIVISTO RUNE
Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ola Rune met as architecture students at Stockholm’s Konstfack university two decades ago and today, their practice Claesson Koivisto Rune (CKR) covers a plethora of typologies from mobile phones to tableware, furniture and cavernous buildings all across the world. So revered is their design language that Paola Antonelli, design curator of MoMA, noted: “They are the epitome of the aesthetics of the new millennium”.
The first Swedish architectural office invited to exhibit at the international section of the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2004, their aesthetic has been dubbed as fluid — inspired in part by nature’s organic forms that result in clean and linear shapes sometimes tempered by feminine, sinuous lines for a graceful form.
Bonsai seating for Arflex
Case in point, this year’s Bonsai sofa and armchair for Arflex, which bears close resemblance to the cloud-like shape of bushes and shrubs found in gardens all over Japan. Most will also remember CKR’s Haven armchair and sofa for the house of Paola Lenti, renowned for its outdoor products. Visually airy and lightweight, the seats feature a membrane-like woven fabric stretched over a frame to create strikingly ethereal forms.
More than just hired guns, the trio have also launched Smaller Objects, a label of useful design objects for the home. A unique business model inspired by by the sharing economy, it allows designers to earn 75 percent of the proceeds of their products, rather than the standard royalty of five percent or less. “It’s a new era, demanding new business models and new methods of working. Smaller Objects sees the designer as an entrepreneur, active not only in the designing, but also in the development and business processes,” explained Rune.
Cold Cooler for Smaller Objects
While CKR designed the brand’s first collection of household items, this year’s Stockholm Design Week saw the introduction of the new compensation model and wares by designers including Nendo and Giulio Cappellini. The trio’s own wine cooler for the label is made from soapstone and can be left in the fridge or freezer overnight and then used without ice or cold water.
Formed in Stockholm in 2004, and previously a preeminent triumvirate, Front is now a power duo composed of Anna Lindgren and Sofia Lagerkvist. (Former member Charlotte von der Lancken now fronts CVDL, a new design office). Known for their whimsical approach to design, they prove time and again that one does not need to be tied down to tradition and rules to respect a product’s utilitarian purpose.
The pair, after all, have an exacting eye for detail and an uncommon gift for analytical observation. “We like to explore the process of making objects and question the conventional role of the designer. We explore new forms through our inspiration of nature and observing things around us. We also explore new types of materials to create products that are unique,” they explained in a previous interview.
Axor Water Steps
Their new Axor Water Steps, a sculptural metal spout for washbasins, for instance, imagines flowing water as a decorative element. Focusing on the playful exchange between form and water, it aesthetically and acoustically underlines the “emotional potential of the natural element” as it flows over PVD-finished, metallic surfaces. Their well-received Moooi Blow Away vase series, likewise demonstrate their affront (pun intended) to preconceived conventionalism. Each Delft blue vase is designed as if in freeze-motion as it is blown mercilessly by a hurricane.
Blow Away vase for Moooi
But their true creativity really unfurled at the house of Moroso, where its owner and creative director Patrizia Moroso gave them carte blanche to design whatever they wanted. The result was 2012’s Doodle Sofa, which proved that absent-minded doodling during meetings can help stoke the furnace of creativity. Merging their actual doodles, a pattern was rendered in leather and laid over the sofa’s frame like a folded blanket.
And because one never really knows what to expect from the studio, it’s safe to say design aficionados are always kept on the edge of their seats.