Mmmmmm. Stockholm. Civilisation. I’m back in London and the whole thing feels a bit like a dream. We had a wonderful time. It rained and rained, and everyone kept apologising, and then saying ‘but of course you’re from London so you’re used to it’. Which made me realise that it rains a little bit less in London than people think (should you be thinking of visiting us).
We arrived at what I guess is the world’s best hotel after easy travels. The Ett Hem literally has to be the best place I have ever stayed in my life, and that goes quite a long way to making for a perfect trip. Um, this was my room:
Do you see what I mean?
It’s hard to know where to begin. We stepped out into neat as a pin streets, in tones of ochre and pink lime wash.
There’s a florist on every corner in Stockholm. Big note to self: House plants.
First stop… well, perhaps, in fact, the whole reason for the trip… Svenskt Tenn. I am sure if you read my blog, or pop into the shop from time to time, you already know about the legendary Swedish design store, which I have been dreaming of visiting for as long as I can remember. I am obsessed with Josef Frank fabrics, which I guess I first discovered when I lived in New York, a long time ago. So this was something of a trip to a shrine for me, I will confess. It’s honestly years since I planned this trip with Maggie, and now it was happening.
Perky blue and white signs announce the storefront in a grand old building overlooking the water.
Inside, the perfect blend of timelessness and crazy pattern that are the hallmarks of Josef Frank’s fabric designs. I still find it extraordinary that these amazing patterns were designed in the 30s, 30 or 40 years ahead of their time, and still as fresh and as beautiful as the day they were drawn.
The lampshade bar is almost a bit too much:
A peep into the design studio:
Rolls of printed linens:
I think we need a sign somewhere in the office reading Textil Och Gardin Inredare. Not for the last time in Stockholm, I wondered if we were trapped in a beautiful Wes Anderson movie.
A mood board on the design studio wall. Heaven (well done Farrow and Ball, your paint chart is up there with the best).
I think we need a card number queuing system at Pentreath & Hall, if only for the pleasure of this sign:
A view into the precious goods area. More house plants. NOTE TO SELF.
Outside, narcissus, tiny pansies and grape hyacinths.
I had made a sort of quiet resolution the other day that my life was full up, and I really didnt need to buy anything else. I’m afraid that Svensk Tenn put paid to that quickly. A beautiful blanket, amazing coloured linen cushions, and the following day one of Frank’s beautiful ‘friendship candlesticks’… it was a bit embarrassing, frankly, getting on the plane, yesterday afternoon.
We wandered back, laden with bags. A lot of buildings in Stockholm look like this; a perfect quiet blend of tasteful and gentle modernism:
Or like this, a soft, attractive tradition, that makes strong use of colour:
I don’t know which I like more. And everywhere are scenes a bit like this. Who doesn’t need a violin maker’s shop on the street corner?
The library at the Ett Hem has to be one of the beautiful rooms of the decade.
We had dinner in the kitchen that night.
It’s all about the tiny details. The guest care box in my room:
Friday morning dawned, well, wet and grey. We made our way to stop one, the Stockholm City Library, a building that I’ve wanted to visit for years – designed by a young Gunnar Asplund and one of the great, timeless examples of a gentle, contemporary classicism for the 20th century. A giant drum sits on top of a cube:
What is striking, and what you don’t understand from photographs, is the friendly, domestic scale of the building. While it is monumental in character, it is diminutive in scale – above all, it is friendly. Something of Stockholm in that.
The extraordinary black polished plaster entrance hall. Narrow stairs curve around the great circular reading room ahead.
Note how you read the scale of the building completely differently with people in the picture. It’s small, and there is its charm and brilliance. The central circular room is sublime.
Rather more people seemed to be looking at the building than at the shelves, although then we realised this was a tour of architects and after a while they zoomed off, peace and order somewhat restored.
Every detail in this perfect box of a building was considered, from lights to the drinking fountain:
Downstairs is the beautiful children’s library and theatre, complete with furniture designed by Asplund, for very young and for slightly older children:
Fine lettering is everywhere, and regular followers of the blog will know that makes me pretty happy just for starters:
We lunched in a Josef Frank-lined booth at Restaurant Prinsen. Thank you to all the useful comments and tips – that was one of them.
Our booth being prepared.
Heaven is having a delicious salad surrounded by this. Combined with ageing brown leather seating.
We made our way to the Old Town, past the massive-but-not-oppressive Royal Palace, where I greatly liked the small sentry boxes:
And this monumental pair of fountains on the flanking wings:
The old town is perhaps a bit scary, by turns rather claustrophobic and a little too touristy, unreal:
Frankly, it was a relief to find a school full of naughty kids:
Monumental monuments are a bit of a thing around and about;
You see what I mean by claustrophobic?
I love the skyline lettering of the Grand Hotel. The rest of the Grand was far from grand.
Walking back we caught a brief glimpse of sharp sunshine and realised what a different city Stockholm would be on a sparkling summers day. But as they say, you don’t really travel to Scandinavia for the weather, do you?
The tea salon at Svenskt Tenn was perfect.
Next door to founder Estrid Ericson’s studio, which is all very inspirational for the new office move:
(downstairs again at Svenskt Tenn; note to self: house plants).
And then we went to crazy Gondolen for a drink. We enjoyed it, but it could have been somehow better. We stayed for one, not two.
Saturday was museum day. A thick foggy mist descended over the Old Town as we made our way to the Modern Art Museum.
Where we loved a lot of things, but especially the room with the architecture models.
Here is the Public Library:
And here is a shot of the shop, which we loved, and you will pleased or dismayed according to your point of view that I’ve bought a couple of Warhol prints (only available from the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art); one reads ‘I like boring things’ and the other ‘I never read, I just look at pictures’. Both of which are about right.
This is why we love the Grand; does it remind you of Wes Anderson, anyone?
More crazy perfect fonts. It turns out Bukowski’s is the Stockholm auction house, which turned out to be packed full of treasures:
I loved the simple planting in the park outside; the simple planting everywhere. They have very tall tulips in Stockholm.
We stopped for lunch in the 19th century food halls (another brilliant tip from a reader) and enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Lisa Elmquist counter.
A jar of preserve from M. Seger was irresistible, largely for this bag:
Back to Ett Hem. Another view, this time of the stair case to the attic floor. When they say ‘Ett Hem’ means ‘at home’, they mean it.
The advantage of such a beautiful place is that you never want to leave. The disadvantage is you don’t see quite so much of a city as you might otherwise. But there is always time for another visit.
On Sunday, after a lazy breakfast, we packed before heading to the famous Woodland Crematorium, in the suburbs, to see Asplund’s great modernist chapel.
The view from the entrance is breathtaking, but I must confess the building itself was a bit disappointing. It felt tired, I suppose, for a start; it lacked the gentle, playful humanity of the Public Library; we decided it could have used some columns and mouldings. But the landscape setting was extraordinary; perfect.
We found Asplund’s tiny, early Woodland Chapel to be extraordinary…
…and Sigurd Lewerentz’s Chapel of Resurrection even more sublime. It’s not normally my favourite type of building, but this one was perfect, and extremely moving.
There is a tiny peep-hole in the great bronze door through which you can glimpse the interior. So these photos look very strange, but give you an impression of what is within.
The whole place is all about landscape. It is sublime.
And then we were gone. I loved the glimpse of these beautiful housing schemes on the train on the way back to town, which surely warrant another visit:
And our final stop, on the way to the airport, Asplund’s perfect, early villa Snellman, which I think you can visit if you have a bit more time and forward planning, which also is on the list.
Appetite whetted, rather than sated, we returned to London tired and happy. It felt good to be in a giant sprawling city again, full of mess and chaos; Stockholm seems tiny and neat as a pin by comparison. But I can’t wait to be back.