Talking Swedish design with HAPPYsthlm

Lola A. Åkerström gains some insight into Swedish design and Stockholm’s well established design scene from the three designers behind HAPPYsthlm.

Swedish Design - HAPPYsthlm - Photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

All photos by author

Minimalist and simple yet functional and attractive, Swedish design is often heralded worldwide as always trendy under the “less is more” mantra. Stockholm remains a central core to Sweden’s design culture which is powered by small independent designers who take control of the entire process – from creation to marketing to customer care.

I recently caught up with one such design house – HAPPYsthlm located in Gamla stan (Old town) – to gain some insight into Swedish design and Stockholm’s own design culture.

L-to-R:  Kajsa, Caroline and Katarina. Photo by Karin Björkquist.

L-to-R: Kajsa, Caroline and Katarina. Photo by Karin Björkquist.

Established in 2007, HAPPYsthlm (sthlm = Stockholm) is a Swedish design company founded by designers Katarina Andersson, Kajsa Aronsson and Caroline Lindholm, all three with extensive experience in the industry.

Katarina Andersson is a product designer who has in addition to commissions for the industry worked with an exclusive production of small series in porcelain and glass. As a designer, Katarina has worked for Design House Sthlm, Villeroy & Bosch, the Italian design company COVO etc.
Swedish Design - HAPPYsthlm - Photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Kajsa Aronsson is a textile designer who has worked with patterned fabrics for Frösö Handtryck, Klippans Yllefabrik and IKEA among others. Kajsa also has many years of experience in specially designed fabrics for churches and public spaces in collaboration with Kasthall.
Swedish Design - HAPPYsthlm - Photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Caroline Lindholm is a silversmith with a unique production style. She has held successful exhibitions at Nutida Svenskt Silver in Stockholm. Caroline has also taken part in several international exhibitions showcasing her jewelry and silver work.
Swedish Design - HAPPYsthlm - Photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Katarina, Kajsa and Caroline have shared a studio for several years in a courtyard house on the island of Södermalm in central Stockholm and followed each others’ working processes. An idea began to develop that they could create something together that would combine their knowledge, experience, and visions.

This idea developed and grew into HAPPYsthlm.

The store certainly has a unique name, HAPPYsthlm. How did it come about?

We wanted it to be a reference to the city (sthlm is an abbreviation of Stockholm) as fashion brands often refer to cities in their advertising. We also wanted a name that would be positively charged and easy to remember.

Is there a better word than HAPPY?

When designing the logo, we chose to turn to a young designer who recently graduated from the College of Arts (Mårten Chenon) to get a different approach than what we would have done based on our collective experience, and we are very pleased with the result.

Swedish Design - HAPPYsthlm - Photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
What’s your design thought-process?

Standing between the craftsman and the consumer-targeted mass manufacturing, Scandinavia has a traditional industry of applied arts. This is a niche that requires profound skill and a strong interest in the final product. A lost era that designers can often romanticize, but several smaller manufacturing industries still exist in Sweden. HAPPYsthlm has chosen to use these manufacturers who are also interested in detail, material, and quality. This close contact with HAPPYsthlm’s producers offers them as designers a unique opportunity to develop and realize their ideas.

Swedish Design - HAPPYsthlm - Photography by Lola Akinmade ÅkerströmA design language that can be enlarged, reduced, changed, and used to create various objects in a variety of materials is characteristic for HAPPYsthlm.

Everything has its own place, but still with a clear affinity.

In open and creative discussions, we talk about future products, how our different styles can be merged together into new patterns, surfaces and silhouettes. Which color, form, function and construction?

The close and creative collaboration between us – Katarina, Kajsa & Caroline – has helped us move forward. Sharing each others materials and know-how has opened up for new ideas and paved the way for future projects.

HAPPYsthlm has chosen to work with manufacturers that are, like us, interested in details, material and quality. Through close contact with our manufacturers, we have as designers a unique opportunity to develop and realize our ideas. To our delight, we found that several niche manufacturing industries are still active in Sweden. These are companies that work in an area between crafts and mass production.Swedish Design - HAPPYsthlm - Photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

What are some of your newest collections and designs that you’d like to share?

We have expanded our HAPPYzoo family (neck jewelery in silver) with a dragonfly and robins. The same motif recurs also in our linen towels.

In dialogue with the Nobel Museum also located in Old Town, we have produced jewelry in the shape of an olive branch in silver and an apple representing peace and knowledge.

How has Stockholm’s design scene changed over the years? Have you noticed any new trends?

Olive Branch. Photo by Karin Björkquist.

Olive Branch. Photo by Karin Björkquist.


We can see interest in genuine expressions, small-scaleness, and handicraft increasing with many small design collectives working on collections.

“Local” close production has also had an impact in the design world.

What is next for HAPPYsthlm?

We’re looking forward to a busy summer with many international visitors coming to discover our shop.

We are preparing for autumn new arrivals which include new blue vases and ceramic jars with some Japanese-Scandinavian feel to the design.

We’re also coming up with new designs for our popular linen towels and new silver jewelry.

Since we also sell to retailers, we will exhibit at Formex Fair in Stockholm in August.

www.happysthlm.se

Swedish Design - HAPPYsthlm - Photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Pictured: Katarina Andersson, designer

Author: Lola A. Åkerström

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an award-winning writer, photographer, and travel blogger, and is also the Founder/Editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm. Her photography is represented by National Geographic Creative. She tweets at @LolaAkinmade.

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