The Josef Frank exhibition; Swedish design doesn’t have to be minimal and restrained
I recently spent an amazing couple of hours at the first ever UK exhibition of Josef Frank textiles at the London Fashion and Textile Museum. When I think Swedish design, I usually imagine a pared back and neutral Scandinavian look with minimal pattern and colour. I was therefore keen to see how Josef Frank’s bright and vividly pattered textiles fall into the mix.
For anyone who hasn’t come across Frank, he was an Austrian born architect. He fled to Sweden with his Swedish wife in 1933 due to growing anti-Semitism and the rise of Nazism. He was later hired by Estrid Erickson, the founder of Swedish design firm Svenskt Tenn. Amazingly at the age of 50, he began to design both furniture and textiles and became one of Sweden’s most iconic designers. He produced over 2,000 pieces of furniture, as well as carpets, wallpapers and textile designs.
This room set literally sets the scene for many of Frank’s ideals, he felt that “a home should be cosy and comfortable and above all adapted to the wishes of the inhabitants… soft sofas, beautiful hardwoods and fabrics featuring splendid patterns in a multitude of colours made a home into a haven and a place to recuperate.”
He had some interesting theories and design rules. Highly pattered surfaces and fabrics are more calming than plain ones. He believed that pattern forced you to slow down to be able to take it all in, whereas a neutral or monochrome scheme was over in a flash, with little to remember.
Most of the designs have three things in common. They are inspired by nature, memorable for the huge “pattern repeats” and feature dazzlingly bright colours. Here are a few personal favourites.