Armchair 336 by Josef Frank

American Chapter

Svenskt Tenn is the only place where you can find Josef Frank's exquisite design in its full breadth: his unique world of prints and timeless furniture. For spring 2023, we have shot a unique series of photographs in the Swedish archipelago to celebrate Josef Frank's New York-era. Many of the prints he created while living in Manhattan are seen here on some of his most iconic furniture.

This was the first time ever that we worked with furniture in focus. As photographers with a fashion background, the experience unlocked a new layer in our creative process, where we could explore the relationship between a human body and interior object. We orchestrated the furniture with the same focus, control, and direction that we otherwise implement in our fashion imagery.

– Peter Farago

DURING WORLD WAR II, Josef Frank went into exile and travelled from Sweden to New York together with his wife Anna. At the height of the war he created some of his most admirable textile prints, with freely growing trees of life’s, flowers and fruits always on the verge between fantasy and reality.

With pencils, brushes, gouache and watercolours, he sat in a corner of the two-room apartment in Manhattan and created what turned out to be an outstanding collection of prints, inspired by American field guides on trees, herbs, birds and insects. When Svenskt Tenn’s founder Estrid Ericson turned 50 in September 1944, he gave her 50 of these exquisite prints. A remarkable gift that to this day continues to bring joy and inspiration to people worldwide.

Textiles from Svenskt Tenn
Manhattan print by Josef Frank

JOSEF FRANK FINDS THE CITY PLAN of Manhattan "brilliant in its brutal simplicity" and thus draws the print that depicts a map of the island. With Bauhauistic, basic shapes he constricts it all in a geometric way. Central Park and Manhattan's North Point naturally fit into rectangles, while the South Point and the intersection around Broadway and Sixth Avenue are depicted within circles. The surrounding black text stripe ties the whole composition together.

Over the years, Josef Frank created over 2,000 furniture sketches and 160 textile prints for Svenskt Tenn, and today they are all signed and preserved in the company's historical archives.

Made in Sweden has always been and will always be highly regarded at Svenskt Tenn. All our furniture is manufactured in workshops around Sweden.

Over the years, the tables with tabletops in elm root veneer have come to be seen as some of Josef Frank's most iconic pieces of furniture. At the Eriksson & Sons carpentry outside Nyköping in Sweden, the tabletop for model “2139” and other types of Josef Frank furniture are made; a procedure that requires great artisanal skill at every stage. They use a root veneer, which, in itself, requires knowledge, since it is obtained by using a lathe to turn millimetre-thin sheets.

For Josef Frank, the most important aspects when designing chairs were lightness, a transparent back and an organic form – something that is ingrained in Svenskt Tenn’s chair range even today.According to Josef Frank, interior design and furnishings should always be based on human beings and this was the basis for his furniture designs as well. He stressed for example that the chair’s form – unlike for example, a piece of storage furniture – should be based on the anatomy of the human body, rather than be adapted to other furniture to create a particular style.

Something that was typical of Josef Frank was mixing different materials in one design. A piece of furniture could often consist of various wooden materials combined with brass, glass or textile details.