We’ve met up at the Broberg & Ridderstråle office, a fairly messy space with prototypes, sketches and odd pieces of furniture here and there, with no apparent structure.
None of the precise finish that is typically so prevalent in Broberg & Ridderstråle’s interior design work is visible here. But this is not actually where the most important work takes place: that happens “anywhere at all”.
And what we talk about is how Mats Broberg and Johan Ridderstråle got a piece of mesh that Swedese’s then-CEO had found interesting, a kind of fabric that would shrink 30% when steamed.
Kite Lounge chair is designed to look like a traditional box kite trapped in flight, seemingly delicate and lightweight, but with a strong structural form.
“Then we got the actual foundation: a direct association with kites and the balsa airplanes we built as kids. We understood that we needed to find a frame, across which to stretch it,” remembers Mats as he talks about Kite, the surfer-inspired easy chair that launched at Il Salone del Mobile 2015 as a conference chair.
“We have an unstructured approach to work,” explains Mats Broberg, making it sound like an established work method. “We don’t sit here in the office and work. We go all over, often on walks to museums and exhibitions. Ideas have to come with happiness, a joy of discovery; otherwise, they’ll never be good.”
For that reason, they have no employees or interns; they are not bound to the office, nor are they influenced by finances when choosing assignments. “It gives us freedom.” And this approach has been very successful so far.
“I’m a little more zealous and have ideas more often, which Johan then scales down intellectually. He’s more structured than I am,” says Mats. Johan fidgets a little, but not disagree.
Mats and Johan met while studying interior architecture. They chose to work together immediately on both side projects and their school assignments. Given that they had made their degree project together, it felt natural to continue working together.
The company was launched in 2001 – “because we sold a candlestick and needed to send an invoice.” Since then they have won numerous honors and awards, not to mention that their products have appeared in rugs, outdoor furniture, grills, lamps, a rack for wood, an oil lamp and street poles, they also work as interior architects, designing environments in stores, offices, homes and at exhibitions.
For Swedese they also designed the Stella chair, a consistent solution for a company or institution’s comprehensive chair needs. At the desk, in the waiting room, lunch room, auditorium, or for the receptionist or CEO: a version of Stella exists for every conceivable function.
The very first product for Swedese was the Divido table, which so elegantly solves the meeting between the legs and table top that it is tempting to set the table beneath, rather than on top of Divido. It is brilliant – especially considering that the most aesthetically sensitive part of almost every table is precisely the space where the legs and table top meet.
The first seed of a product is usually a simple pencil sketch – which was the case when Kite armchair was to be transformed into a conference hair.
“We start that way so we can discuss, because we’re working together. Next we move over to digital material, which is the easiest way to communicate with the factory,” says Johan. “Then we try to go to the factory as early as possible to get a rough shape, something to look at. We want something we can get a feel for in terms of design, but also purely technically,” explains Mats. “Chairs made for offices are usually so incredible technical, with so many functions. But with Kite, we decided to make something basic, because that’s a way to compete as well. If you buy a chair that can do a thousand different things, you’ll be really satisfied when it arrives, but you’ll end up in a certain position that you like. It was a relief to think: no height adjustments. Instead, we let the shape decide.”
Kite is almost even better as a conference chair. “It’s great to have a non-upholstered chair, because it breathes. Especially if you’re sitting for hours in end,” points out Mats. Johan agrees. The construction characterizes the aesthetic. Because Kite is a little transparent, you can see through the chair. The similarities to a sail are particularly evident in the lighter version.
To summarize what distinguished Broberg & Ridderstråle, and Divido and Kite especially: it is a kind of meaningful excellence. An idea that is so uncompromisingly and consistently implemented that the furniture could have arrived by way of natural law. If you did not know before, now you do: a conference chair should always be made of mesh.
How else can you sit for long periods of time?
The article “Talking Scandinavian Design” was printed in the book, Swedese Portfolio and published by Swedese Möbler Ab, 2015.
All images: Swedese Møbler Ab.
Swedese was founded in 1945, in a world finally at peace, by two brothers with a passion for wood, beauty and craft.