I started my first ?company? when I was 7 or 8. It was called Carlström Castenbäck Andersson or CCA, and we started as a ?detective agency?, but pivoted to mowing lawns and running errands in the neighborhood.
TL: How did you get started doing what you do?
My first job out of high school was working at an ad agency. I answered phones and made coffee but also got to do some work on real projects. One of those was re-branding iittala. This company, with its amazing design heritage, was somehow no longer relevant to younger consumers and the job of the agency was to try and change that. This is when I first came in to contact with work by designers like Thomas Sandell, Thomas Eriksson, Konstantin Grcic, Ross Lovegrove, Marc Newson, and Jasper Morrison and photographers like Björn Keller, who plopped a goldfish into an Aalto vase for one of the advertisements.
Eventually I became a copywriter, a creative director and even ran a few agencies, but the belief that design can transform a company has stayed with me, so to me Austere is like coming full circle.
TL: Do you have a favorite project?
Right now, Austere is a favorite, of course. We have some really fun stuff coming out.
TL: What inspires you?
This might sound hokey, but I just went to a wedding at The Natural History Museum in New York and at midnight all the guests went to the Planetarium and saw the show. It was a magical moment. We sat in the dark in our tuxedos and listened to Carl Sagan. My wife and I held hands and cried. It was beautiful and very inspiring.
TL: How does being Swedish influence your work?
I do like the straight-forward, pragmatic and functional elements of the ?Swedish mindset?. But there are lots of things about Sweden that drive me up a wall, too.
I have been reading about Ellen Key lately, A Swedish philosopher, feminist, critic, and a founding voice of what has become known as ?Scandinavian design.? She wrote a text in 1899 entitled ?Beauty in the Home? that was translated and re-published by MoMA in 2008 in which she basically argued design could be a means for cultural and social change. She made the case for fewer, better things at home: objects that are functional, do what they are supposed to and look beautiful. I think those ideas are very relevant today and is one of the reason we are seeing so many people take an interest in things from Scandinavia.
TL: Austere is an amazing project, how did you conceive it?
I imagined the physical space like if a lifestyle magazine with all my favorite things came to life. So that you could walk into it, and touch the stuff and sit in the chairs and try the clothes and eat the food. My wife commented the morning after our opening: “You say it’s a magazine you can walk into, but what it really is, is a piece of your brain that you can walk into.” I think she has a point. I like how new and classic help each other. You might come for one thing and stay for another. When it comes to Austere, I believe in the idea that rising tides lift all boats.
TL: What’s different about Swedish art and design?
For many, Scandinavian design is pale wood and pared-down interiors. In reality, Scandinavian homes are warm, relaxed and welcoming, filled with furniture and objects that are practical, functional and beautiful. Out of Austerity comes great design?I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the most amazing lighting designs comes from a place that’s dark for large parts of the year.
TL: If you could have coffee with anyone, who would it be?
I?d like to chat retail with Mickey Drexler and Alex Dumas, politics with Ted Sorenson and Jon Stewart and the universe with Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman.
TL: What says “classic Swedish” to you?
Midsummer, toast Skagen, the archipelago, the light, the blond people, Volvo, Fem Myror är Fler än Fyra Elefanter? the list goes on.
TL: Anywhere you go when you’re feeling a creative block?
TL: What is something very Swedish that you’d take with you wherever you went, if you could?
TL: When you’re traveling, do you have any favorite Swedish places to go if you’re feeling homesick?
I sneak it at The Swedish Seaman’s Church in New York sometimes and I often grab a coffe at Fika ? a great espresso bar with locations all over New York.
If you had to give your city a word, what would it be?
The Lydmar Hotel is located in the very center of Stockholm with the Royal Castel and the National Museum as its closest neighbours. Within minutes, you can find yourself at the Museum of Modern Art, shopping at Nordiska Galleriet, dining at the top restaurants in Stockholm or just strolling around in the old city.
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