In Småland, about 200 miles south of Sweden’s capital, the Scandinavian design scene is palpable
Stockholm has an extensive design history that can be traced back more than a century, with wood furnishings and glassworks displayed inside neoclassical structures throughout the Swedish capital. However, the manufacturing of these designs occurred in a region nearly 200 miles south of the Nordic city. Småland, a vast province defined by its deep forests and remote lakes, is the true birthplace of Swedish design.
In the 1700s, the area, also known as the Kingdom of Crystal and Furniture, welcomed Sweden’s first furniture and glass factories. However, it took some time for the consumer-facing operations to catch up. Recently, though, the area has evolved into a destination for design enthusiasts, prompting the debut of a number of boutique hotels that pay adequate tribute to the region’s history.
Before opening the hotel leg of PM & Vänner in 2014, Bengtsson and his business partner, Monica Carlsson, first launched a restaurant based on the three pillars of the surrounding landscape: forest, lake, and meadow. Their gastronomic philosophy eventually trickled down to the hotel’s interiors. Oak floors were constructed from trees in the nearby forest, while limestone and marble in the bathrooms came from the neighboring island of Öland.
In addition to the region’s abundant materials, Bengtsson and Carlsson upheld Växjö’s standards in design by decorating the hotel in appropriate Scandinavian fittings. “We decided that we just shouldn’t do something that’s modern, but rather create a place that reflects Småland resources in a classic way,” says Bengtsson. To complement the contemporary expressions in the hotel, the team—which included architect Jonas Lindvall and Sweden’s leading lady of design, Ingegerd Råman—added reproductions of the country’s most iconic midcentury designs, including Carl Malmsten’s Berlin sofa and easy chair.
While PM & Vänner embraces traditional Scandinavian minimalism, Vox Hotel in Jönköping, an hour’s drive north from Växjö, ushers in a new wave of Swedish decor. Designed by local architect Magnus Månsson, the hotel is outfitted in a selection of curvaceous furniture that can be bought directly from Danish design brand Hay, as well as cheery, custom finishes, such as the bathroom’s rainbow mosaic tile. “We felt a new, modern hotel was missing in the area,” explains Alina Jernbom, Vox’s general manager. “The hotel is designed with a smart lifestyle in mind—it’s contemporary with an approachable form of luxury.”
This idea of luxury is a relatively new concept to Småland, according to Ulrica Olsson, the manager of Kosta Boda Art Hotel. “If you come from Småland, you hold your money very tight, because historically, the region was extremely poor,” she says. Livelihood for most locals relied on the glassmaking business, with one of the first factories opening in Kosta during the 18th century at the request of the king.
In 2009, glass giant Kosta Boda introduced the village’s first major hotel, which also doubles as a gallery for its art pieces. At the hotel, seven local glass artisans were given one public area and more than a dozen rooms to showcase their talents—no two spaces are alike. In the lobby, guests are greeted with an awe-inspiring chandelier, filled with 600 mouth-blown bubbles strategically placed inside an iron basket. The piece by designer Bertil Vallien is surrounded by steel and orange upholstered seating, resembling the floor and wood-burning oven inside the glass factory, a stone’s throw away.
“With the opening of Kosta Boda Art Hotel, we wanted to keep the history of Swedish glassmaking alive,” says Olsson. “It’s been quite rocky the past couple of years, with a lot of competition from Asia and Eastern Europe.” Something tells us Småland’s reputation for design will continue to transcend.
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