My name is Lisa Congdon, and I’m a San Francisco artist and illustrator. I’ve long been obsessed with the Scandinavian aesthetic, and recently I traveled for the first time to Scandinavia and Iceland on an inspiration-gathering trip. Bobby asked me to share a few of my favorite design shop finds.
I absolutely loved every place I visited (including Iceland), but my favorite design finds were in the cities of Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen. One thing you should know is that this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of all the “best” design shops in Scandinavia. For one thing, I didn’t even go to Oslo, and even in the cities I did visit, I didn’t get to all the shops. This list isn’t even comprehensive of all the amazing shops I did visit! There are too many to name. This is just a list of a few of my favorite shops. For those of you traveling to any of these three cities, I highly recommend a visit to these places. Even if you can’t afford what’s on the shelves, just looking is a treat.
Stockholm shop Ten Swedish Designers (10 Gruppen) was formed in 1970 by ten young Swedish textile designers. Today, 10 Gruppen is owned and operated by three of the original founding designers, Birgitta Hahn, Tom Hedqvist and Ingela Håkansson, who design all the fabrics (and new fabrics every year). The textiles (and a few ceramics) in the shop have a really wonderful and distinctive aesthetic and predominantly primary color palette. They are sold both by the meter, and on a range of products, from pin cushions to bibs to mugs to aprons to bags (and more).
The E Torndahl Shop for Scandinavian Design is a tiny shop compared to many of the others on this list. It’s a located on a busy little street in historic and charming Gamla Stan in Stockholm. The shop carries mostly housewares and decor items and some kids products from all over Scandinavia, including Norway (which I didn’t get a chance to visit, so this was a treat for me). Gamla Stan was one of my favorite parts of Stockholm, and I highly recommend a visit to this little shop if you hit its winding cobblestone streets.
Iris Hantverk is a staple of Stockholm shopping. You can find their products in other shops in Stockholm (and all over Scandinavia). They specialize in handmade housewares and are known, in particular, for their gorgeous wooden brushes of all shapes and sizes (mostly for cleaning, but there are some for personal grooming and other purposes). They also carry other fantastic housewares and textiles (I bought some stunning tea towels there). If you love the simple, clean Scandinavian aesthetic, you will love this shop.
SkansenButiken might be the best museum gift shop I’ve ever been to and also one of the greatest surprises of my journey. Skansen is a Swedish open-air living history museum, and is located on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm. Built in 1891, Skansen is a treat in and of itself, and its gift shop was no exception. Located outside the entrance (so you can shop without entering the museum), the shop carries gorgeous housewares, including traditional Swedish decorative items, modern Swedish decorative items, books, journals and sweet treats. It was hard for me to pull myself out of this stunningly curated gift shop. I filled a bag with gifts for friends and family.
Svenskt Tenn is an interior design shop located in Ostermalm in Stockholm. It was founded in 1924 by Estrid Ericson, who recruited famous textile designer Josef Frank to the company 10 years later. They created the elegant and distinctive interior design style they are still known for today. The store is worth a visit — even if you aren’t drawn to the floral patterns and more opulent style of Ericson and Franks. It’s like a little museum of pattern and decor (with real rooms set up in traditional Swedish style), Even the elevators are wallpapered in Josef Frank floral! I had so much fun visiting this place!
Next door to Svenskt Tenn is the shop of legendary Swedish furniture designer Carl Malmsten. Malmsten’s family now runs the shop, and they carry not only his furniture, but many wonderful Swedish textiles, design books and housewares.
Let’s leave Sweden and make a quick stop in Helsinki. I loved Helsinki, but wasn’t there for very long. What I did get to visit was both the Marimekko Flagship Store (in the city center) and Factory Outlet (which is located outside the city center a short train ride away). The flagship store in Helsinki is the most fancy Marimekko store I’ve ever visited. It’s three stories high and contains every imaginable Marimekko piece of clothing, accessory and house ware. I have long been obsessed with all things Marimekko, and I nearly cried with delight as I walked through the place. They next day, I went out to the Factory Store (and managed not to get lost in the process), which was still pricey, but full of good stuff (including reams of fabric) for a decent discount.
Let’s head to Copenhagen now and visit design shop Stilleben, which was probably my personal favorite store of all the places I visited in Scandinavia. In addition to carrying loads of textiles, ceramics and stationery with unique shapes and bold geometric prints, they also carry loads of collages, prints and posters by artists like Berit Mogensen Lopez and graphic designers like Playtype and ATWTP. I visited more than once because I couldn’t take it all in the first time! A must see.
Danish company Hay, also in Copenhagen, was another personal favorite. Like Swedish shop Iris Hantverk, they also sell their products in stores all over Scandinavia, but the larger flagship store in central Copenhagen is a particular treat. They make and sell furniture and housewares, decor items, art supplies, paper goods, textiles, imported items and a few pieces of gorgeous artwork, all with a very distinct aesthetic. When I was there, pops of neon oranges intermingled with white and wood, and I could not resist buying up several items.
Last but not least, Illums Bolighus. The person who recommended I visit here said, “Don’t be thrown off by the fact that it’s a department store. It will be the best department store you’ve ever been to!” And she was right. The flagship shop in Copenhagen is several stories of decor items, furniture, textiles, cosmetics, children’s goods, jewelry and more: all modern, all distinctly Scandinavian, all beautiful. Pricey, yes, but even if you can’t afford the Danish Krone, just taking a walk through this store is a visual feast.