You wouldn’t be alone if your first thought, upon seeing pictures of Daniel Heckscher’s Stockholm apartment, was: How can I reconfigure my life in order to live in a place just like this? For us, this was followed by a second, slightly more reasonable thought: We should repaint. It may come as no surprise to learn that Heckscher is an interior architect at Note Design Studio, the Swedish team that’s gained a reputation for perfect color palettes, well-proportioned products, and stunning spaces.
In the summer of 2014, Heckscher began renovating what was essentially a white box, taking an inventive, playful approach, including some input from his six-year-old son, Otis, and four-year-old daughter, India. “This project was like a workshop where I could try out ideas and materials.” In a way, that open, improvisational quality reflects Heckscher’s path as a designer. He didn’t fall into the profession immediately. With a background in economics, there was a time he thought he’d “end up like a Wall Street guy, doing finance. But I stayed clear of that, which in the end, turned out to be a wise choice.” It wasn’t until he was close to 30 that he started studying interior and spatial design formally, first as an undergraduate in Milan before returning to Stockholm and earning his MFA at the prestigious Konstfack, University College of Arts, Crafts and Design. Not too long after that, he was creating interiors for clients at Note.
With this space, Heckscher changed what he could while making other constraints work for him. The apartment is in a “quite ugly building from 1988,” he says. “It has this pinkish-orange façade that was very common at the time in Sweden… it’s not the height of Swedish architecture, 1988. I was thinking, how do I deal with this exterior color, because it’s going to be present the whole time in the living room and kitchen area.” He decided to bring it into the design, using a similar shade for those rooms, along with a super-saturated, atmospheric blue he’d used in his previous home. That continuity was important to him. Heckscher moved here after a divorce, “so this was a fresh start,” he says. But along with the new, he wanted to incorporate some familiar elements to provide a sense of security for his kids.
While he tends to resist the more austere side of Swedish design, his sensibility seems distinctly Scandinavian in the way it manages to be comfortable and inviting but still cool and spare. It’s captured beautifully here by photographer Tekla Severin, who is also a Stockholm-based interior architect and the creator of one of our favorite Instagram feeds. When we reached Heckscher recently on the phone to learn more, he was as thoughtful, engaging, and unpretentious as his work would suggest.
In any designer’s career, there are hundreds of split-second decisions that conspire to create the precise conditions under which good work can emerge. For the Swedish-born, London-based designer Hilda Hellström, it came down to this one: When she was asked to create a project for this year’s Royal College of Art exhibition at the Milan Furniture Fair, she says with a laugh, “the wood workshop was quite busy, but the resin workshop was nice and quiet.” Of course, there’s more to the recent grad's breakout Sedimentation vases than that; Hellström is obsessed with the idea of imbuing her objects with a myth and narrative of their own. But in many ways the vessels — which are made from layers of pigmented Jesmonite, a non-toxic acrylic-based plaster often used in ceilings and restoration work — are a reaction against something else. “My father was a carpenter, so I was used to working with wood, and I was bored of how you have to consider that it’s a living material,” she says. “Wood tells you what to make, but working with a moldable material like Jesmonite is almost like playing God.”
Fredrik Paulsen’s work, both as a designer and as a co-founder of Stockholm’s brilliant Örnsbergsauktionen is shaking the foundations of what you think Scandinavian design ought to be. “Here you are taught to produce work for the everyman,” Paulsen says. “It’s the legacy of IKEA: Good design for everyone. But if your work doesn’t really fit into mass production and it is not intended for it, then there is no platform or venue to show it.” It was this void that led Paulsen and his friends and fellow designers Simon Klenell and Kristoffer Sundin to stage their first auction during last year’s Stockholm’s Design Week. They invited contemporaries — some they knew, others they only knew of — to submit diverse, self-made works that went beyond the cookie-cutter forms they’d grown tired of, and put them up for bidding. It paid off.
No pun intended, but we had to share one last find from this month’s Stockholm Design Week: Last, a new arena for selling one-of-a-kind products by Swedish design trio Åsa Jungnelius, Gustaf Nordenskiöld, and Fredrik Paulsen. They are, respectively, a glass designer working with glass, a potter with clay and a furniture designer with wood. All share a common desire for not only producing sustainable products, but also to promote a kind of design that is slower, more considered, and intended to stand the test of time (i.e. the last spoon you might ever buy).