Kathleen Sullivan, tired of viewing endless centuries-old castles on a trip to Scandinavia, recommended to her girlfriend, Helen Stacy, to visit the Svenskt Tenn shop to liven up their time in Stockholm, Sweden's capital ( aka the country of the wonders of modernist design).
Svenskt Tenn, which Kathleen initially saw in a book, was regretfully closed when she and Helen visited. However, Kathleen recalls that as they looked through the glass at the forms and colors on exhibit, "they had an epiphany." They took a snapshot alongside the Svenskt Tenn sign and pledged to return.
"We are captivated by Scandinavian history, culture, and cuisine," Kathleen explains, adding that when the pair visited Svenskt Tenn's intimate residential showroom a year later, she was blown away by the furniture ensemble, textiles, and accessories. The vibrant creations of Austrian architect and designer Josef Frank — whose goods comprise a sizable portion of Svenskt Tenn's inventory — offer a rich and surprising depth to the tale of Nordic design, which many associate with minimalism.
While many Svenskt Tenn lovers may return from a Stockholm holiday with a tray or a pair of coasters, Kathleen Sullivan and Helen Stacy were so taken with what they saw that they were interested in purchasing "an entire house of lovely things," as Kathleen puts it.
Indeed, it was an audacious request, but one that could be met. Thus, Kathleen and Helen proceeded with the idea after acquiring a spacious, single-story stucco home in the San Diego area in 2018, complete with cool porcelain flooring, high wood ceilings, and plenty of natural light.
Helen, a retired lawyer and teacher who is now pursuing her passion for horseback riding, and Kathleen, a lawyer who hopes to spend more time in a full house in Svenskt Tenn as she approaches retirement, were drawn to the pioneering female origins of Svenskt Tenn. Estrid Ericson founded the Svenskt Tenn interior design business in 1924, paving the path for several women in Swedish interior design.
Kathleen and Helen began cooperating with Julia Prytz, the interior designer for Svenskt Tenn who had never previously arranged such a solid homage to the brand. "Normally, we combine our pieces with those that customers already own, but this was a unique but excellent chance for me," Prytz explains. "These working ladies had a Scandinavian sense and were immediately taken with all they saw in Svenskt Tenn."
Given Helen's preference for bright, maximalist colors and Kathleen's preference for mid-century modern style, the designs may assist them in reconciling their two styles. In addition, Prytz adopted the Svenskt Tenn idea of stacking different patterns, tones, and materials to express "European elegance, warmth, and coziness," as she puts it.
The creative process began with video chats between Prytz, Helen, and Kathleen: "Julia is a very talented designer who instantly grasped our aesthetic and goals." She visualized all the possible color combinations in her thoughts and began drawing." Kathleen recalls. (Hanna Lundborg, who is no longer employed at Svenskt Tenn but oversaw the project's numerous intricacies, was also crucial.)
Following that, Prytz traveled in from Sweden equipped with samples and mood boards to inspect the rooms in person before Kathleen and Helen went to an increasingly familiar Stockholm to "test out every sofa and stool," as Kathleen puts it. "Prytz also brought them to examine furniture from other Swedish firms, such as Asplund and Källemo, to complement Svenskt Tenn's interiors.
A few months later, Prytz oversaw the installation of the set of shipping items. He lovingly recalls Helen and Kathleen's responses as objects were unboxed: "Every piece that came out they adored." "It was a pretty pleasant procedure."
Kathleen recalls that Svenskt Tenn furnishings and textiles were initially created for individuals coping with gloomy, brooding winters. The luscious color "provided a much-needed boost." In addition, Kathleen and Helen love the details of Southern California, even in sunny Southern California, such as the green cushions on the shaded porch that mirror the surrounding grass. "Every day, we awaken in awe at the splendor of our house," Kathleen explains.