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At the 2012 Stockholm Design Week

Last week, the editors of Sight Unseen toured the former Cooper Square Hotel, which is in the process of blossoming into a gorgeously rendered East Village branch of the Standard. We met with the organizers of Wanted Design to talk about New York Design Week, and a planned alliance between offsite shows including the American Design Club, Model Citizens, and our Noho Design District. We had an ungodly amount of $1 oysters, bought a new pair of Warby Parker glasses, and got into a glaring match with an Apple Genius Bar employee who refused to replace a power adapter that had met an untimely death. What we did not do, however, was attend Stockholm Design Week — we stayed put this year while our friends braved jetlag and below-freezing temperatures to experience the annual unveiling of all things new in Scandinavian design. And yet rather than totally miss out on all the action, we found a willing scout who, while she preferred to remain anonymous for various reasons, was happy to report back on the goings-on in and around the fair — all with a Sight Unseen slant, of course.
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Örnsbergsauktionen at Stockholm Design Week

If you live in Chicago, and you’re interested in buying the self-produced, often prototypical work of today’s younger design generation, you might head to Sam Vinz and Claire Warner’s pop-up Volume Gallery, or maybe to Wright auction house. If you’re in New York or London, it’s Phillips de Pury. But Stockholm? “We really didn’t have a place like this,” says Fredrik Paulsen, a young Swedish designer, RCA grad, and co-creator of the Örnsbergsauktionen, a self-produced auction of 48 unique contemporary items launching this Friday in conjunction with Stockholm Design Week.
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The magic of Uglycute lies in its members’ ability to turn ordinary, low-cost materials like plywood, particle board, cage mesh, or crappy carpeting into striking installations and covetable furniture, like this tessellated shelving unit. It was developed for Alisa Grifo and Marco Romeny of the New York store Kiosk, who use it as display for shop-in-shops they’ve installed in places like Melbourne and London. The couple, who keep an apartment in Romeny’s native Stockholm, have a longstanding friendship and ongoing collaboration with Uglycute — they were the ones who first introduced Sight Unseen to the group’s work.

Uglycute, Furniture and Interior Designers

For Uglycute, it all began with a Bruno Matthson knockoff. It was 1999 and Swedish design was having a moment, but not, it seemed to the group’s four fledgling members, for the kinds of edgy experimental crafts and artistic hybrids being made by the emerging scene at the time — Wallpaper magazine and its ilk were still peering into the long shadows of Sweden’s old modernist icons. And so architecture grad Fredrik Stenberg and artists Jonas Nobel, Andreas Nobel, and Markus Degerman vented their frustration in the only way they knew how: by mounting a show around a sarcastic simulacrum of Matthson’s Eva chair made from a clunky particle-board box and cheap nylon straps. Complemented by a set of primitive clay pinch pots and a crude plywood table, the installation served as a launch pad for the group, and its subject matter — elevating cheap materials in order to question traditional norms of beauty and value — lent their firm its distinctive name. “It was meant as a new take on formalistic values,” says Nobel, who with the other three partners has since built a thriving practice known for its work with museums and clients like Cheap Monday.
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The trio designed an end table to go along with Swell, their 21st-century take on the beanbag, and presented them both during last year's Stockholm Furniture Fair in the middle of a 19th-century building undergoing renovations. Obsessed with the language of construction, engineering, and industry, the three created plinths from cardboard boxes in a setting decorated only with chipboard and concrete. Called Form Us With Friends, the exhibition showed the trio’s latest work with Ateljé Lyktan, Bolon, and Arcona as well.

Form Us With Love, Furniture Designers

Does the world really need another beanbag chair? That was the question that presented itself to the Stockholm-based trio Form Us With Love when they visited the factory of Swedish furniture manufacturer Voice in the summer of 2009. “We were led on a tour of the facilities by the managing director,” they say. “Upon arrival at a production line of beanbags, the director stopped. The facility, once churning out bags by the minute, now stood motionless. Trend and low-quality copies had severely stunted production. The brief was concise — design a piece of furniture that would make the machines run again.” The group — made up of Jonas Pettersson, John Löfgren, and Petrus Palmer, who met as students in the first-year design program at Kalmer University — responded the only way they know how: By stripping the beanbag of its passé, dorm-room connotations, and using a powder-coated wire frame and a sophisticated color palette to recast it not as a piece of childhood ephemera but as a contemporary take on the easy chair, fit for any modern-day living room.
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