Founded in Stockholm by Estrid Ericson in 1924, Svenskt Tenn began as brand producing Swedish pewter – the literal translation of the name – but after just a few years the primary identity of the brand had shifted to interior design. Today the names of both the company and its founder carry the weight of being among Sweden’s most respected names in interior furnishings. By all accounts Estrid Ericson was a stylish and gifted decorator, and in 1934 she made the decision to recruit Austrian architect and designer Josef Frank – a wise choice, it seems, as the productive icon’s name now graces some 2000 furniture sketches and 160 textile designs in the company archives.
Contrasting to the minimal aesthetics and monochromatic colours normally associated with Nordic design, Svenskt Tenn creations are a vibrant and exotic collision of bold colours and patterns inspired by Estrid’s travels, and the team exhibited a proclivity for mixing old and new elements in a time where it was not yet widely accepted or practiced. They called their style Accidentism or The Happy Chances Philosophy. Josef Frank believed that a monochromatic surface appears ‘uneasy’, and has nothing to offer the viewer. A colourful pattern, however, is welcoming, rich, and calms the observer by being thought provoking, even if they are unconscious. These ideals resonated with Estrid Ericson, who fearlessly challenged the traditional atmosphere of the design world when she – a woman of only 30 – began her own company.
Today her company is still flourishing, though now they have integrated many new designers to contribute to their collection and keep the name Svenskt Tenn associated with frequent change and newness. The product include textiles and wallpaper, pewter, tableware, lighting, furniture, and much more, and the goal for the company is to last forever, giving resonance to something Josef Frank once said, that “furniture survives machines, people, clothing and houses.”