Design Milk Travels to… Stockholm

There may be no city that best embodies the description “winter wonderland” as does Stockholm during the months spanning December through February, when snow dusts the city’s stately waterfront architecture like powdered sugar over cake, regularly layering its streets so thoroughly, it’s not uncommon to witness commuters skiing to work. During the warmer months the glacial-formed archipelago thaws into something glorious, awakening the dormant Scandinavian desire for the outdoors and the activity revolving the inviting landscape. But visiting the Swedish capital during its more frigid months invites a slower pace distilled to Stockholm’s most basic charms. Destinations per day in winter may be limited, but experiences are magnified and every moment feels indeed wondrous.


The winter weather outside may seem frightful, but the rooms within The Strand are indeed warm and delightful. Photo: Gregory Han

If only the walls of The Strand hotel could talk – a hotel that once played host to a global revolving door of the who’s who who arrived nightly to drink and be merry (reputedly Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman partied at the hotel’s bar with regularity). Originally designed by Ludwig Peterson in preparation for the 1912 Olympic Games, the 170 guest rooms, suites, lobby, restaurant, and bar have only recently been given a modern makeover by Swedish architectural studio Wingårdhs, now wearing a sedate Scandinavian palette of greys and warm woods punctuated into modernity with strategic ribbons of color.

Photo by Andre Pihl

Wingårdhs has done an exemplary job of balancing the historic charm of the original hotel with an aesthetic modernity without ever unnecessarily eclipsing the buildings bones, nor the eye-widening views afforded from the best rooms facing the historic Strandvägen and the ice-laden waters of Nybroviken.

Photo: Gregory Han

Photo by Andre Pihl

At night, this atrium glows with teardrops of LED lights. Photo by Andre Pihl

What I most enjoyed during my stay at The Strand was the tasteful continuity from public to private spaces guided by color and material from the ground floor up, with the occasional joyful surprise revealed from certain vantage points – like the sky-high atrium illuminated with bespoke teardrop LED fixtures that made jet-lagged 6am breakfasts seem more magical than dreadful.

Photo: Miss Clara Hotel

Miss Clara by Nobis is another Wingårdhs hotel, a spotlight that reveals our personal affinity and the architecture firm’s penchant for new life breathed into old spaces. The 7-story Art Noveau building offers guests a choice from 92 rooms, no doubt all more comfortably appointed for comfort than for its previous tenants when the building was a girls’ school in the early 1900’s. Dark woods, herringbone floors, and a spare amount of furnishings permits sunlight to occupy these rooms with an equal presence as any physical object, making Miss Clara’s modest rooms feel rather spacious.

Photo: Miss Clara Hotel

Photo: Miss Clara Hotel

Photo: Miss Clara Hotel

As a professed fan of Ilse Crawford, I look forward to my next trip to Stockholm and staying inside the lively intermingling of home and hotel within the Ett Hem. Where the other two previous accommodations lean toward modernity framed by history, the Ett Hem is proudly mismatched and committed to cozy. If there’s any such things as “vintage for today” it’s best represented by the Ett Hem, with decor that feels less styled as inhabited by a lifetime of an appreciation for Scandinavian antiques and design.

Photo: Ett Hem

Photo: Ett Hem

Photo: Ett Hem

With just 12 furnished bedrooms, the Ett Hem will best suit those seeking a home away from home rather than the arm’s distance luxury of most boutique hotels.

Gretas café inside Haymarket by Scandic reflects how Stockholm offers much more than purely natural hued, spare modernity. Photo: Haymarket by Scandic

Notable mentions: Haymarket by Scandic (specifically for the pastiche of pastels found inside the hotel’s Gretas café) \\\ Story Hotel \\\ At Six Hotel \\\ Hobo Hotel


This March the Nationalmuseum will mount an exhibition dedicated to one of the most influential Scandinavian designers of the 20th, Finn Juhl. Photo: Nationalmuseum

If you only have time to visit one place in Stockholm, I’d implore you to make a stop into Sweden’s Nationalmuseum, for there you’ll not only be able to take in the Sweden’s largest art and design museum with 700,000 objects spanning from the 16th century thru today (I was surprised by how enamored I became with the museum’s exhaustive collection of miniature portraiture), but also experience what a $132 million renovation project can produce.

As much as the art and design within will impress, you’ll also experience moments of awe just staring down nested hallways painted vivid and contrasting hues of blue, green, pink, and yellow, and other dramatically framed interior architectural moments realized by Swedish architects Gert Wingard and Erik Wikerstal.

Designed for the reopening of Nationalmuseum’s library, Swedish design studio Front own version of the classic green Banker’s Lamp takes the form of wispy mushrooms emerging from the forest floor. Photos: Gregory Han

A stop into the Nationalmuseum’s renovated library also is highly recommended for the bibliophiles who will find much to admire in their small collection of book cover art.

Notable mentions: Icy conditions and a cold kept me from visiting the Fotografiska, but it was mentioned numerous times as “must visit” for the creative set \\\ Moderna Museet \\\ Artipelag


Photo: Gregory Han

Stockholm is without a doubt one of the best destinations for design in the world. Turn a corner and there’s yet another exemplary reminder of the Swedes’ proficiency for realizing simple, yet highly proficient design that hits the bullseye between contemporary and timeless. A pageantry of Scandinavian and international design fitting this bill is on full display at Svenskt Tenn, a store founded in 1924 in Stockholm by Estrid Ericson, and endorsed passionately by my European counterparts as, “the shop deserving of a stop any time in Stockholm”.

Luca Nichetto’s Heritage exhibition at the front of Svenskt Tenn welcomes visitors with a colorful landscape of mushroom shaped lighting blown with Murano glass. Photo: Svenskt Tenn

Much more than just a store, the front exhibits contemporary and paramount examples of furniture, textiles, lighting, and fashion. Even if your wallet demands a “just window shopping” walk-by, inspiration is commonly and freely discovered to bring back home inside this shop’s two floors.

Photo: Gregory Han

Photo: Gregory Han

If I could furnish our entire home with Fogia’s catalog of Scandinavian modern decor, I’d be completely satisfied with living within their contemporary designs all dressed in subtle hues; Fogia partners with designers from across Scandinavia, and the resulting pieces are easily imagined within a home in Southern California as is in Sweden. Fogia Market is the design brand’s retail destination just outside of Stockholm proper, bordering one of the waterways marbling Sweden’s landscape, complete with its own coffee bar in the back.

Past Fogia designs are interspersed throughout the Fogia Market, intended to illustrate the versatility of each piece from past and present.

Operating as a showroom, cafe, and workspace, the airy and repurposed warehouse wears a few visible remnants of its shipyard past, but today houses the Swedish brand’s collection of furniture, lighting and accessories in handsome fashion.

Two rugs by Sight Unseen on display at the Kasthall showroom. Photo: Gregory Han

Notable mentions: Austere \\\ BYREDO Stockholm \\\ NK \\\ Cos \\\ Kasthall \\\ Designtorget (recommended for affordable examples of Swedish design to bring back home)


Tip: When visiting Stockholm during winter, be prepared for not only snow, but icy conditions. Arriving from Los Angeles, we required shoes with proper soles to walk around the city.

It seems ideal my first visit to Stockholm coincided with the attendance of several events happening throughout the city during Stockholm Design Week, as the city represents itself quietly as an arbiter of good design both locally and internationally (I found the scope of the design event and accompanying furniture fair more manageable than Salone del Mobile in Milan). Everything I had heard about Stockholm from the perspective of design wasn’t reinforced, but redefined by the city’s embrace (albeit slow) of change.

But just as important were moments spent wandering Stockholm’s streets without definitive purpose nor destination (and occasionally sliding across ice with comical effect). It was during these bundled up jaunts down Stockholm’s quiet snow covered streets where the fleeting swing of a door being opened would allow a moment to peer into warmly illuminated flats, shops, and hearth-lit restaurants, all where the convivial spirit of Stockholm’s citizenry seemed ready to welcome anyone who’d follow through and in from the cold with a warm “Välkommen”.

Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at