In the 1930s, when Svenskt Tenn's founder Estrid Ericson decorated her own apartment above the store on Strandvägen 5 in Stockholm, her youth interest in home furnishings was awoken. She transformed the store's range, and the company went from only offering pewter items, to mainly being associated with furniture and interior design.
In the beginning, the style was firm and restrained. In an interview from 1932, Estrid Ericson said, “I stick to the neutral colours when it comes to home decor. The room should appear calm and tidy, no extravagant colours should occur”.
Estrid Eriscon's private apartment above the store. 1930s.
In the exhibitions at the store, Estrid Ericson didn’t use any prints or decorative accessories. She advocated white walls and sparsely furnished rooms, where only necessary pieces of furniture were allowed.
But this functionalist view of interior design changed drastically when the collaboration with Josef Frank began. With him came thoughts of comfort, cosiness, prints and richness in colour, and together they created a whole new, personal style. The new era included the style temperaments of them both and was an eclectic mix of old and new, patterns, colours, table settings, flower arrangements and still lifes.
The exhibition '100 Vases with flowers' at the store in Stockholm, 1940.
We must never forget, that we should have so much freedom in our homes that we do not have to give up an object just because it would endanger our aesthetic formalism. It is not a certain composed colour harmony, which gives a home its personal touch, it is all of the objects that gather during a lifetime. Everything you once liked, and what you like now. – our homes are never fully finished; but we build on them throughout our lives.
Estrid Ericson’s Interior Catechism, 1939.
FOCUS ON ATMOSPHERE
Estrid Ericson broke the strict conventions and stylistic ideals of her time and believed that objects that you combine not necessarily have to fit together. She embraced Josef Frank's interior design philosophy and made it her own, focusing on comfort and cosiness. At the store on Strandvägen 5, she placed scattered objects here and there in the interiors. These items were not for sale, but their only task was to contribute to a warm atmosphere.
In an article from 1949, she describes how the atmosphere is the most important thing in an interior. That “books that are frequently read, potted plants that are well maintained, musical instruments, clocks that tick and pets…” make a home more beautiful. To create the right atmosphere, she placed still lifes in the store, arrangements that were later described in the press:
“She does not arrange the objects, but rather directs a piece of silent theatre…”
Autumn still life, 1940.
In the store, Estrid Ericson also created welcoming and inviting table settings. She became known as the “queen of table settings” for her unique ability to combine and balance the simple things with the lavishly festive. In her hands, flowers, glass, textiles and porcelain were brought together into beautiful table creations. She picked flowers from the lush flowerbeds around her summer house Tolvekarna (Twelve Oaks) on Tyresö outside Stockholm, and brought them to the store, where she arranged them in vases. She also collected items from all over the world and displayed them in glass cabinets.
Estrid Ericson's spring table setting, 1940.
Estrid Ericson's creation from 1956.
WITH TRAVELS AS INSPIRATION
Travels were Estrid Ericson's main source of inspiration. She collected corals, shells and rocks from flea markets around the world. In London, she had her own “flea man” as she called him, who put aside silver and jewellery for her throughout the whole year, only to show her during her visit. In Paris, she found printed fabrics and French handicrafts at a flea market on porte d’Italie, and she bought expensive items from an antique store on Rue des Saint Péres. It was in Paris that she, among other things, found a piece of elephant-patterned, African batik fabric, which later became the inspiration for her now well-known Elefant print, the only print that she designed.
The Elefant print, designed in the 1930s.
Estrid Ericson in Mexico, 1939.
In Italy, which was her favourite country, Estrid Ericson found modern upholstery fabrics and Roman antiques to add to her own collections. Small boxes, embroidered linen fabrics, Etruscan bronze necklaces, chiselled hairpins, brittle glass and sheer lace were other items that she found during her journeys to Florence, Rome, Venice and Burano. But she also travelled outside Europe, to South Africa, the United States and Mexico, where she looked for beautiful objects in department stores, shops and markets. When something that caught her interest, she made sure to get the name of the manufacturer, looked up the person or company in question and then placed her own order. Through her many travels and her collections, she created the magical world of interior design that permeated the store on Strandvägen 5 as well as her own home and the summer house, 'Tolvekarna' (The Twelve Oaks).
Estrid and Sigfrid Ericson in their apartment on Strandvägen, Stockholm.