It’s February and time for the design happening of the year in Scandinavia. The Stockholm Furniture Fair gathers together the most important manufacturers and designers from Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. The fair has been growing year after year and this time over 700 exhibitors have been showing their products – it ended yesterday.
The fair has expanded its main exhibition hall by 10,000 sq m resulting in many new faces, some of them interesting, others less so. You are left wondering whether the extra space was really needed as few visitors now seem to make it round the whole show.
In any case, the fair seems to be surrounded by an air of optimism this year. One sign of this is the burst of colour on show at many of the stands. The design magazine Forum and Stockholm’s architectural museum have commissioned the architectural practice TAF to do their exhibitions this year, one multicoloured and the other one shiny white. Designer Jonas Wagell has created this year’s Design Bar, full of his bright turquoise lounge chairs for Sweden’s Berga Form, a new product for this year. Finnish firm Tapiovaara, which had its international launch for a collection of pieces from the iconic designer Ilmari Tapiovaara, has filled its stand with new colourings of the furniture in pink, yellow, red and blue. The same trend continues with Denmark’s Hay and Sweden’s Offecct, which are both showing several new products.
Although the traditional Nordic natural wooden look is still going strong, designers seem to be tired of laying low and being subtle. Instead, they want to fill our homes and offices with happy colours.
The Stockholm furniture fair has been raising its international profile over recent years and currently around a third of the exhibitors come from outside Scandinavia. They include top names such as Poltrona Frau, Moroso and Vitra but unsurprisingly none of them has had anything new to show; the main forum for them is the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan in April.
Worryingly some Swedish designers say that they are also saving their news for that show. Although this year is clearly more optimistic there are no showstoppers in the style of the Swedish design group Front’s horse lamp for Moooi from 2006. Let’s hope the situation improves and that we get to see something truly surprising and unique next year.
Meanwhile, the Stockholm fair might do well to think about its own profile. As the main design event in Scandinavia it seems to promote a slightly odd mix of exhibitors – or perhaps it’s just a question of focus. Could a clearer emphasis be put on the best and most exciting design the Nordic countries have to offer? Every year, a big name is invited to be the guest of honour at the fair. This year’s star was Sir Paul Smith, better known as a fashion designer, and the previous years have brought people such as the Bouroullec brothers, Patricia Urquiola and Konstantin Grcic to town. Next year the spotlight should be on a Nordic designer.