Carl Malmsten

He was born more than a hundred years ago, but his ideas are more topical than ever. Even as a young designer in the early 20th century, Carl Malmsten advocated an artisanal furniture design based on local ingredients and traditions, accessible to a wide audience at a reasonable price.

Today one could describe his furniture with terms such as ecological and social sustainability. Carl Malmsten himself spoke more about the importance of tradition, craftsmanship and the nation. Skansen and the Nordic Museum were his most important sources of knowledge, his Acropolis as he called them. But although his furniture was very much a product of the thoughts and ideals of the time, they have a timeless quality that makes them equally up-to-date and loved today.  

Lilla Åland is perhaps the clearest example, an honest, robust classic in Nordic design history, as comfortable as it is fastidious in the expression. When in the 20th century you talked about a "more beautiful everyday product" or about "Swedish Grace", it was often Malmsten's neat and elegant furniture you were referring to. 

Nature was Carl Malmsten's foremost teacher and inspiration. He loved flowers, and never was he as happy as when he sat on a stump with the carving knife in his hand. He conveyed the love of craftsmanship as a teacher in his own schools, at Olofskolan in Stockholm, Capellagården on Öland and Carl Malmsten school on Lidingö, today a branch of Linköping University and one of the country's leading design colleges. 

As a debater, Malmsten was fearless and conflict-happy. He stormed against functionalism, but in retrospect you can see that his ideas often coincided with the rational and fastidious style ideals of the funkist. Nowadays, his and his opponents' classic furniture is combined in museums and quality auctions. 

Today, Carl Malmsten's furniture serves as a useful reminder of the need to be able to settle down, to slumber for a while with a good book on his lap and a small glass of brandy on the table next door. At least that's how he wanted to live himself.

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