Swedish design is for everyone, not just the privileged few. It’s made to look good, and it’s meant to be used. From IKEA’s ubiquitous Billy bookcase to Bruno Mathsson’s lounge chairs, Swedish design is attractive, functional, and everywhere.
You might think you “get” Swedish design, but there’s something special about seeing it on its home turf. Seeing how the Swedes use it every day and meeting the people behind it gives you a whole new appreciation for Swedish design. And it’s not just in the cities – wherever you visit in Sweden there’s a design marvel close by.
So, where to start? Well here’s The Local’s top picks for the finest interior design spots in southern Sweden. If you’re looking for inspiration or just a different kind of day out, you’ll want to plan these destinations into your next trip.
Head over to Värnamo where you can see the glass house of seminal Swedish furniture designer and architect, Bruno Mathsson. It’s just two hours by train from Gothenburg so makes for a unique day trip if you’re in the area.
Designed by Mathsson himself, the centre is opposite his family home and displays his classic furniture, including his iconic chairs from the 1930s onwards. It’s an extraordinary chance to see the landscape that inspired him, and the pieces as he intended them to be seen.
In the midst of glorious Swedish nature, the simple, functional structure is a stunning example of Mathsson’s love of light. Explore the exhibition yourself or book onto a guided tour, offered in Swedish, English, and German.
Nearest airports: Växjö, 66km; Gothenburg, 159km
If Värnamo is too far for a day trip, that gives you a great excuse to spend a night at the town’s very own design hotel: the Scandic Värnamo. Step back in time and stay in a room with original 1950s furnishing, or a suite decorated by Bruno Mathsson himself. It’s the perfect place for you to kick back in style after a design-filled day.
Put yourself on the cover of this year's IKEA Catalogue. Photo: © Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2017
Catch the train at Malmö’s Centralstation and you can be at the IKEA Museum in Älmhult in just over an hour. Assembling IKEA’s flat-pack furniture may be the root of many heated marital disputes, but the fact is no other company has done more to influence design in the last 70 years.
The three exhibitions guide you through the furniture giant’s fascinating history. Find out what led founder Ingvar Kamprad to dream of a furniture company that created a better life for everyone, and why Sweden was the ideal place for the company to grow.
Take a trip through time: follow IKEA from its opening in 1958 and hear stories about how people use IKEA products today. No visit to Sweden would be complete without an IKEA-related activity, and no visit to IKEA will be the same again after you’ve been to the museum.
Nearest airports: Växjö Kronoberg Airport, 55km; Malmö Airport, 152km
Spend an afternoon at Skillingaryd Design Centre in scenic Skillingaryd, just two hours east of Gothenburg. It’s a charming spot where you can get a taste of Swedish village life, and pick up some unique hand-crafted items including textiles, trays, and coffee tables.
At the centre you’ll find modern Swedish furniture, decor, lighting, and even candy – all under one roof. The helpful staff can offer you tips for activities and trips, and you can spend an afternoon browsing brands like Bengt & Lotta, David Design, Rumbler, Softline, Modiss, and Nava.
It’s an authentic Swedish inspiration gathering and shopping experience, and there are plenty of pieces you can fit in your suitcase on the way home!
Nearest airport: Jönköping Airport, 36km; Växjö Kronoberg Airport, 68km; Gothenburg, 110km
Photo: Sofia Sabel/imagebank.sweden.se
Nicknamed “Textiletown”, Borås in West Sweden is the beating heart of Sweden’s textile production. To this day the iconic Svensk Tenn still produces its fabric there, and its Textile Museum displays a stunning collection from the 19th century to present day.
It’s also home to the famous Swedish School of Textiles, where the next generation of superstar textile designers are learning their craft.
The meeting of old and new is one of the things that Swedish School of Textiles graduate, textile designer Linnea Nilsson, loves about Borås: “It’s such a cool combination to see the history behind the textile industry as well as all the new developments going on there. You get to see the past and the future, and there’s so much knowledge there about the different textile areas.”
Linnea strongly recommends timing your trip so you can visit the textile school during its final exhibitions: “It’s when the Bachelor and Masters students in Textile and Fashion Design show off their graduate projects – it’s really something special.”
And once you’ve got your fill of inspiration, she suggests you browse vintage interior pieces at Göta Antik och Design and visit some of the flea markets like Borås Biståndscenter and nearby Blå Huset.
“I really miss them now I’ve finished,” Linnea reflects. “I used to go every week! You can get some amazing bargains, they’re full of really nice stuff and you can find things like Stig Lindberg wallpapers and fabrics. Lots of tourists also visit Almedahls – its factory and fabric shop is in Kinna, about thirty minutes from Borås by car.”
Nearest airport: Gothenburg, 43km
If you love ceramics (and who doesn’t?), then Paradisverkstaden just south of where the 6km-long Öland Bridge arrives on the island will be your idea of heaven. The bright and open ceramics centre is set amid scenic meadows with a deliciously Swedish view of the water and nearby Kalmar.
All the stoneware items are cast and painted by hand, and designed and manufactured by the talented Paradis family. The pieces are beautiful but practical, and it’s no wonder founders Eva and Olof were appointed Purveyors to the Royal Court in 1986. You should really make a day of it and enjoy a leisurely fika in the garden cafe before finding your perfect piece.
Getting there: buses, trains, and flights to Öland
Rörstrand Museum in Lidköping
Photo: Majjaw/Creative Commons
Jump on the train at Gothenburg and in two hours you can be at the Rörstrand Museum in Lidköping, a treasured cultural heritage site. Telling the story of one of Europe’s oldest porcelain factories with a collection spanning three centuries, it’s easy to see why it’s considered Sweden’s ceramic crown jewel.
While you’re there, fuel up with an open sandwich made with the museum’s popular home-baked Drömstads-loaf. It’ll give you the boost you need to feed your passion for beautiful porcelain!
Nearest airport: Lidköping Airport, Gothenburg Airport 122km
Photo: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se
Since the latter half of the nineteenth century, Sweden has been a leader of the art glass scene, admired for its diversity and innovation. And there’s nowhere better to experience it up close and personal than at the “Kingdom of Crystal” (Glasriket).
Fire up your creativity in the blowing rooms, where talented glass workers skillfully shape molten glass into decorative artworks. You can even try it yourself, or attend a course and take the skill home with you.
You can get there by train from Malmö in just two hours and under four hours if your starting point is Stockholm. It’s an inspiring place to get off the beaten path and highly recommended if you have a free day.
While you’re there, you can also shop famous names in Swedish art glass, including Orrefors, Kosta Bosa, Bsweden and other internationally renowned brands.
If you’re planning an inspiration trip, then the Glass Museum in Limmared is an essential visit. And even better, it’s just an hour’s drive east of Gothenburg.
Covering four centuries of art glass, from an eighteenth century hand-blown chandelier through to the famous Absolut Vodka bottle, it’s a fascinating story of one of Sweden’s most delicate and time-honoured arts.
Nearest airport: Gothenburg, 74km
Not far from Skillingaryd Design Center is Pålskog Smide, a 150-year-old forgery manufacturing and selling beautiful metalwork for the home, including candlesticks, chandeliers, shelves, and kitchen products.
From traditional styles to modern design, the pieces are made from an ancient eco-friendly method that aims to maintain the family tradition of forging. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch and witnessing it makes whatever you take home with you all the more special.
In the summer, you can spend a couple of hours at nearby Byarums Hembygdsgård in Vaggeryd, a scenic resting place with old houses and several other craftsmen selling their traditional wares.
Of course, you can also visit any number of interior design stores, museums, and exhibitions in Sweden’s major cities. From the Museum of Architecture and the iconic Svensk Tenn in Stockholm to Östling Schedin and Artilleriet in Gothenburg, there’s design inspiration to be found around practically every corner.
Find out more about Swedish design and start planning your inspiration trip today!
This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Visit Sweden.