Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lars Bolander's Scandinavian Design

The long awaited guide to Scandinavian Design by Lars Bolander and Heather Smith MacIsaac.

Rhonda and I featured the Palm Beach aerie of Swedish designer Lars Bolander and his wife Nadine
Kalachnikoff in our first book Swedish Interiors and that chapter remains a favorite among our readers and in our memory as a most delightful  photoshoot.   When we heard that Lars' newly released and aptly named Lars Bolander's Scandinavian Design was about to be released by Vendome Press we called Lars up at his summer home on the island of Oland, Sweden to congratulate him. Wait till you see this book!  A comprehensive overview of all aspects of Scandinavian design, the book, written with Heather MacIsaac, is a visual delight as well as being a serious resources guide for anyone interested in the tenants of Scandinavian decor.

Lars was kind enough to take a break away form his gardening to answer some questions for us
about his life, Scandinavian design and what it means to be a Swede - all be it a very international one!

Lars in the garden at the entrance to
Carl Malmsten's school, Capellagarden in Oland, Sweden.

How did the idea of doing a comprehensive reference book on Scandinavian Design with Heather come about?
Lars Bolander (L.B.):   Alex Gregory, the founder of Vendome press (made after Place Vendome in Paris) called me a couple of years ago and asked me if I had any interest in writing such a book.

Why is the Scandinavian aesthetic so pertinent to the way we live today?
L.B.  It is a more functional way of living, which what is needed now. People are more concerned with the Green Factor and this fits in very much in the way we live now.

What are some Scandinavian places and interiors that still feed your soul?
L.B. The old town of Stockholm, the home of Carl Larsson, The Copper Tents and the Pavilion in The Haga Park in Stockholm. The boat trip from Gothenburg to Stockholm on the Gota Kanal. In Denmark, the Museum and Gardens of the Louisiana outside Copenhagan.

Lars, you were fortunate enough to work with the great Carl Malmsten. Can you elaborate for our readers on how Malmsten's designs were rooted in authentic Swedish nature and culture? How has Malmsten's philosophy found its way into your own work?
L.B.    Purely because of the clean and simple lines of his furniture, also classical and very Swedish. I would say that his respect for nature and the appreciation of life are what have influenced my work. He got the maximum out of his people because he earned their respect.

Entrance to Lars Bolander and Nadine Kalacnikoff's home Might- As- Well, which overlooks
the grounds of Carl Malmsten's Capellagarden.

May we ask...Bergman or Garbo?
L.B.    Greta Garbo.
Stockholm or Gothenburg?
L.B.  Stockholm.

A tablescape of glass and silver at Might-As-Well.
It doesn't get much more Swedish than this...

Summer Swede or Winter Swede?
L.B.  Each has it's own beauty.

               Hallway at Lars and Nadine's Might-As-Well.

Favorite Abba song?
L.B.  Take a Chance on Me

The livingroom at Might-As-Well.


If you could pick one figure from history to design for it would be...
L.B.   A woman, it would be Catherine the Great (mainly for financial reasons).
A man it would be Gustaf the III.

A private view from Lars and Nadine's kitchen window of the gardens and
workshops of Capellagarden.  We hope to soon do another post on this amazing school
 founded by Carl Malmsten...Lars has inspired us!

Here are some sumptuous photos and captions as they appear in the new book,
Lars Bolander's Scandinavian Design:

"Architects Gert and Karin Wingårdh provide the residents with a more direct connection
to their waterfront land. A new glass-fronted bay framed in red."

"Though many of the elements in this eighteenth-century Swedish living
room display age and wear, the overall effect is fresh
and inviting. A delicate floral fabric for the sofa’s squabs,
along with pieces of blue and white porcelain,
brightens the otherwise muted tone."

"Sailors and a ship caught amid floral flourishes reference
the coastal location of a barn in Norway. "

"A dogtrot-style breezeway in Gert and Karin Wingardh's contemporary addition to a traditional Swedish farmhouse brings dining closer to nature, with no need to run for cover. The painted walls and ceiling pick up the color of grass outside, framing the view in bright green."

"A bed placed in the middle of the space establishes an equanimity that enhances rest."

Grass roofs are ubiquitous throughout Scandinavia

"Tailored white slipcovers bring an exquisite
1770s Swedish dining room down to earth."

The other driving force behind this compilation of inspiring images and practical  how to instruction is the great editor/writer Heather Smith MacIsaac whose work appears regularly in Elle Decor and Travel and Leisure among other.  Heather shared with us her experience of writing the book.

Heather Smith MacIsaac

Had you worked with Lars in the past?
Heather MacIsaac (H.M.) : I've never worked with Lars before but liked him immediately. We quickly discovered we had sympathetic sensibilities and ideas for the book.

What were your experiences with Scandinavian design prior to this book?
H.M.  I've always been an appreciator of Scandinavian design for its simplicity, directness, and pragmatic quality. My contact with it has come through reporting on design and traveling to Scandinavia (primarily Sweden.)

Had you travelled extensively in the region before?
H.M.  I've always been an appreciator of Scandinavian design for its simplicity, directness, and pragmatic quality. My contact with it has come through reporting on design and traveling to Scandinavia (primarily Sweden.)

What new things did you discover or take away from the experience of writing this book?
H.M.   I have not traveled nearly as much as I would like through all of Scandinavia. I  have seen more of Sweden than any of the other countries. I just got back from a trip that took me to Gotland, Fjallnas (seven hrs. north of Stockholm) and a place three hours west of Stockholm. I would say traveling in Sweden is as easy as touring around the U.S. Things are well-marked, communication is never a problem, and the gas station bathrooms are always clean! And Swedish beds are the best. It was great to visit Sweden, having recently finished the book, because I knew so much more about what I was seeing.
I learned a tremendous amount about the differences, some subtle, some dramatic, between the countries in terms of design, palette, and craft. It's always interesting to see how things like natural resources, geography, even the interests of one influential figure, affect design. I had to do a fair amount of research for the book which was more than fine because I love history. Finally, I think one can't come away from an in-depth study of Scandinavian design without a renewed appreciation of nature and a desire to integrate it more in one's life.

Swedish Summer at the idyllic Might-As-Well.

History, design, nature and craft...what a fantastic journey Heather and Lars take us on in this book.  Many, many thanks to Lars and Heather for including Eleish van Breems as a resource for antiques, reproduction Swedish furniture made in Sweden and design in the Resource Guide found in the back of their book!   We are so honored!  Thank you Lars!  Thank you Heather!

Lars is back from Sweden and will be appearing this weekend for a book signing  in Southampton at the Nancy Corzine store.  The event is Saturday, August 28th from 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm at Nancy Corzine, 5 Main Street, Southampton.  Tel.  631-287-8606.

For more Swedish design and inspiration...
Visit the Lars Bolander showrooms in New York and Palm Beach Here.
Visit us at Eleish van Breems Here. and Eleish van Breems on 1st Dibs Here.

Our great friend Monikka at Splendid Willow did a must read interview with Lars Here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

K.W. Gullers - a Life in Photography

       Rhonda's great uncle, Swedish photographer  K.W. Gullers
    from the archives of the Nordic Museum

  When you are a child, there are certain people and experiences that help form future ideas and directions.  Having had the great fortune of traveling the world by the ripe age of 12, my family and I finally settled in Fairfield, CT to be close to both New York City (where Dad became "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" part one million) as well to be near to my Swedish-American family.

During the summers, I would play with my cousins and my Aunt Ittan's Father, the great Swedish photographer KW Gullers, would visit.  He would always bring with him the latest books he had published, and to me, it was always thrilling.  I loved how his images captured Swedish life so vividly that even I, who had never been there, felt a sensory connection to this seemingly far off land and culture.  Little did I know that years later, Edie and I would be involved in a business that would follow a path directly back to Sweden.

In hindsight, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that Karl  (K.W.)  is smiling down from up above.....and I say "Tak" for the gift of those inspiring images that helped me fall in love with Sweden!

KW Gullers:

Karl Werner ( K.W. ) was born in Clara Church, Stockholm in 1916.  His father Emil was a lawyer and farmer's son from Rising, Östergötland, and was one of the founders of what is now the Liberal Party.  His mother, Anna, was a teacher.  KW Gullers grew up in central Stockhom as one of five siblings.  At twelve, KW recieved his first camera, a Kodak Brownie box.

In 1932,  he began to work for Anders Forsner, who was the leading photographer in Stockholm.  The salary was fifty dollars a month and a typical work day was from eight in the morning until seven at night.   It was with Forsner that Gullers recieved a thorough photographic decipline and training.

At the young age of Eighteen, he traveled on a scholarship from Borgarskolan to England.  This adventure laid the foundation for his emphasis on photojournalism, protrait, and fashion photography.

Back in Sweden, Gullers began to work with  a Dutch photographer known for his distinctive bright portrait of the high-key procedure.  For three summers,  he also worked as an air photographer for Aero Materiel AB, which was owned by the brothers Florman. 


In 1948,  he published "Sweden From The Air" which was a compilation of fifteen thousand images he shot while at Areo Materiel.

In 1938,  Gullers started his own firm, Studio Gullers, in Stockholm.   His wife Ingvor and the highly skilled copyists Magda Persson, joined him to form Studio Gullers.

Later, Studio Gullers, in addition to KW, represented many other photographers, such as his son Peter and Bjorn Enstrom who both worked there for twenty-five years.  Stay Trenter, son of Stieg, and Tore Johnson were also represented.

                                K.W. and buddy, author Stieg Teiner, up to no good as usual!
Tiener's famous detective character Harry Friberg is based on K.W.

On September 1, 1939 German troops invaded Poland and World War II had started.  Gullers was called up to duty in 1940.   While on active duty,  he met Swedish author Stieg Trenter, and started working together.  They were inseparable until then Trenter's death in 1967.  Gullers became Trenter's model for the famous detective, Harry Friberg, in Stieg Trenters detective novels .

Foreign Ministry, in 1940,  assigned Gullers to a special mission as the official photographer.  He was called to photograph the Government and the various arms of service...

Swedish naval force as portrayed by K.W. Gullers

...images that would be used for propaganda purposes, and sent to the Swedish diplomatic missions worldwide.

K.W. photographs Gustav VI Adolf, 1942

In 1942, had his first exhibition, " A piece of Sweden", at Piccadilly Circus in London.  The pictures were mainly from the Swedish propaganda,  but also documented the government, royal families and the Swedish industry.

                        Guller's  moving portrait of Swedish poverty appeared in "Family of Man"

The years of 1938-46 were a prolific period for KW Gullers whose primary work involved working with a number of Swedish and foreign magazines. Unlike most photographers,  he also wrote himself .   This proved very helpful and unique in the world of photo journalism as he was to find out.

The Swedish Photographers Association

1953 Gullers became chairman of the Swedish Photographer's Association.  Serving for four important years, KW was an enthusiastic chairman who, together with, among others, Kerstin Bernhard and Karl Sandels actively addressed standards for training and  photographic fees which set in place a structure for the photographic industry as a whole.  Gullers was also influential in creating the League 's international contacts during these years. Additionally, he was active member of the Nordic Federation photographers for fifteen years,  as well as a founding member of Europhot (European Association for the Photographer Organization) .

The color

1957 was a breakthrough year for color photography in Sweden which by now could produce high quality photographs on Kodak's C - paper.   Color was used primarily in advertising,  but soon,  weekly press began to use color images.   Gullers became one of the first studios with its own color laboratory, and for twelve years produced thousands of photographs a week.  From 1957 onward, his books were exclusively in color .

Gullers image collection to the Nordic Museum

In 1990, The Nordic Museum in Stockholm,  purchased the KW Gullers image collection from the years 1938-78.  The collection consists of approximately 470 000 negatives , black / white and color , most of the 6x6 format . There are also approximately 5000 archival copies of size 24x30 cm and over 100 000 contact sheet.  The collection also includes a negative ledger,  a copy of the first editions of sixty two titles,  press cuttings and two cameras (the Kodak Brownie and a Rolleiflex).  The acquisition was made possible by support from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the Nordic Society Museum and Skansen's Friends .

In conjunction with the purchase of the collection, The Nordic Museum arranged a large exhibition called " KW Gullers - Picture Memories " at the museum.  Shown were images from the 1940's  and 50's with Sweden as the theme.

With the addition of the KW Gullers collection to the Nordic Museum's archives,  it has solidified his status as a national reporter with the camera that doubled as a note book.  His images are a photographer's vision of Sweden during the period ranging from 1938 til 1978.

Our favorite Images:

Self Portraits

C. 1950's

C. 1930's


KW and Charlie Chaplin

Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bregman and Alfred Hitchcock

Gregory Peck

Orson Wells

John Steinbeck

Masters of Design

Bruno Mathsson

Bruno Mathsson at home

Carl Malmsten

New York

Duke Ellington



Prins Bertel

Prince Carl XVI Gustaf











Carl Milles Studio

A Beloved Swede

Astrid Lindgren

And Finally, Family

My Uncle Neil and my Aunt Ittan, K.W.'s daughter, on their wedding day
in Stockholm

To learn more about the photography of K.W. Gullers please visit the Nordiska Museet