FÄRG & BLANCHE’S Succession

A stand out at Stockholm Design Week was The Baker’s House exhibition from French-Swedish design studio FÄRG & BLANCHE. Here, Swedish designer Fredrik Färg and designer Emma Marga Blanche, born in France, presented 10 of their new objects in an elegant 19th-century estate on Stockholm’s Södermalm island. In many ways the exhibition resolved a conflict that Oak – The Nordic Journal has been observing in the Nordic design scene for the last five years: that between inheritance and innovation.

For The Baker’s House showcase FÄRG & BLANCHE did not want to take anything away from the building’s heritage, but rather to add something. This is a similar simplistic mathematical mantra articulated by a number of Scandinavian design brands that are dealing with a prolific and often paralysing history. But it is Emma Marga Blanche’s personal connection to the building that makes the exhibition’s form of mediation between the past and present feel entirely new.

The estate has belonged to Blanche’s family for five generations and was built by her grandfather’s grandfather, Julius Westerdahl. Westerdahl erected the building to serve as both his home and the crispbread factory from which he made his fortune. The building remains home for some of Blanche’s family as well as the base for the Julius Hus arts and culture foundation.

The building’s opulent interior is the landscape as well as the source for details of FÄRG & BLANCHE’S objects and installations. In the entryway is a lighting design installation in which coloured glass disks made my Swedish glassworks MÅLERÅS hang from the ceiling on strip lights. These are thin and grooved to mimic the texture of the Swedish crispbread that Westerdahl invented and they hang in the same manner as the drying crackers did after their baking. This is FÄRG & BLANCHE’S knäckebröd lamp.

Next door in the study, the design studio’s Mr N rolling chair in royal blue – designed for family-owned Swedish furniture house Gärsnäs – sits snug under a 19th-century writing desk. In the building’s main living room, FÄRG & BLANCHE’S Parquet Table moves the exact same star design from the ornate floor to the table-top.  The candles in the room’s ornate chandelier are an uncanny match with the candles in FÄRG & BLANCHE’S holders that seem to pool and melt off tables and mantelpieces.

At The Baker’s House, ideas of succession are complicated rather than dichotomised. FÄRG & BLANCHE present history as dialogue. They show that the clarity of the new can usher in a renewed appreciation of the old; that the historical can expose the untread ingenuity of the modern.

In the living room, the studio’s bulbous deformed lamps highlight the perfect curve of the nearby arched doorway. Likewise, the archway’s symmetry shows the purposeful peculiarity of the lamps and the perfection of this newness and abstraction.