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The soul of Stockholm: a guide to Södermalm


There is plenty to explore in the city’s creative heart, as Stephen Doig discovers on a tour of Södermalm

Stephen Doig
Feature
Stephen Doig,

It’s fitting that the acclaimed Swedish author Stieg Larsson, the man behind books such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, chose to centre the majority of the action in his novels in Stockholm’s sprawling Södermalm district. While Östermalm is elegant and charming, and Gamla Stan is full of historic attractions, Södermalm has a strong urban appeal, attracting some of the country’s leading designers, style innovators and boutiques.

Despite its proximity to Gamla Stan, visitors can feel the change in gear when venturing south into Södermalm, with its wide, leafy boulevards, handsome townhouses, contemporary architecture, views of the river and vibrant creative community. Södermalm is said to have been the home of Scandinavia’s first theatre, and it was also the birthplace of Greta Garbo; today, its artistic credentials are as evident as ever.

One of the city’s most exciting venues, Fotografiska, is based in Södermalm, hosting contemporary photography exhibitions. A short walk from here is the design collective Tio Gruppen which makes and sells pieces that combine heritage with a modern sensibility. This design collective was founded in 1970 by 10 textile creatives and has gone on to be a champion of print talent in Sweden. Still owned by three of the original founders, Tio Gruppen sells items from handbags to tablecloths, alongside collaborations with Scandinavian furniture designers Peter Andersson and Sundlings, and with global names such as Uniqlo. While here, look out for original 1970s and 1980s vividly printed pieces.

Nearby, Blås & Knåda can be found in a quiet back street. Like Tio Gruppen, this venture was founded in the 1970s as a design collective. It stocks ceramic and glass pieces, made entirely by hand, such as beautiful leaf-pattern plates by Malin Adner and purist bowls and crockery by Bissa G Segerson. The space is staffed by members of the collective, who can talk to you in detail about all the pieces available; there’s also a chance that you’ll meet the artist who made the design you’re interested in.

Take time to visit Åsögatan, Götgatan and Kocksgatan, with their cluster of interior design stores. Adesso is particularly enticing: here, Scandinavian design can be found alongside international names; expect to discover richly patterned furniture from Jonas Ihreborn and industrial-style furniture by RS Barcelona. In addition, an in-house team makes beautifully detailed, rainbow-hued rugs and textiles from recycled fabrics.

In the neighbouring warren of streets, Artek showcases the work of Finnish designer Harri Koskinen, along with an eclectic selection of pieces around the world, while at nearby Asplund items by international names such as Tom Dixon and Piero Lissoni are available. Design Torget has stores across Stockholm and Scandinavia, and employs an interesting process to decide which items will be stocked. Each week, a design committee meets to assess the products available and to make sure that they meet Design Torget's exacting standards. People are invited to send their products to the committee, meaning that even fledgling designers can be given a launch pad. From beautifully illustrated kitchenware by Bricka Odenplan to intricately painted pieces from Mugg Osaka, the choice is varied.

And when you’ve found the ideal Scandinavian designs for your home, spend some time browsing the distinctive clothing available in the area, such as the sleek and utilitarian items from the likes of Uniforms for the Dedicated and pared-back, well-constructed pieces from Nitty Gritty.

For those looking for unique items from independent stores and local makers, Södermalm is the ideal area to investigate.

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