I'm just back from the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair. I had a whirlwind three days in the gorgeously snowy, super design-savvy city to soak up as much Scandinavian goodness as I could fit onto my memory card to bring back and share with you. As I start to wade through the nearly 2000 photos I snapped, it seems right to begin with the place I started each day, my home away from home...My room was on the top floor (5th) of what was once the largest (non-royal!) building in the city, a theater, which has been recently renovated into its current incarnation as lodging. For a large, very centrally located hotel (just a few minutes walk to the main train station) that is part of a big, well known chain, it was amazingly cozy and homey. Here's a few reasons why:
Decidedly non-chain-hotel-room details abound: amazingly tall pale blue velvet drapes, wood floors with an area rug, a modern chandelier dangling from unusually high ceilings, batten board detailed walls behind the bed instead of a headboard, a bin for sorting recycling, mismatched nightstands, tons of lighting choices and the best part...
...my own turntable with a selection of vintage vinyl to play. One guess as to what was on the top of my stack of albums (keep in mind the locale)...yep, ABBA! The one that got the most play during my too-brief time in the room? The Diamonds are Forever soundtrack.
The public spaces were also welcoming - and busy, with both guests and locals - which I viewed as a sign of success. Every time I passed this centrally located "group workspace" desk, with its line of outlets down the middle, someone was there working - often quite a few people. I think the reason why it wasn't standing empty as these things often are is due in part to the fact that it was glammed up a bit - instead of feeling like some "business center" afterthought, with cold and clinical workstations, it was a shiny gold table with interesting lamps, right in the heart of things.
The cafe off the lobby was bustling. It had a mix of seating options for singles or groups, plenty of reading materials and the most surprising detail to my American eyes...
... the during-the-daytime burning candles (which were seemingly EVERYWHERE in Stockholm). From cafes and restaurants, bars to hotel lobbies, small boutiques to department stores, at the entrances to furniture showrooms and in designers' studios - everyone had candles burning, often in this type of tall candlestick. They automatically evoke the feeling of home and hearth, making even the most public of gathering spaces feel warmly welcoming.
All in all, the not-so-secret secret behind this cozy style that I experienced at my hotel (and elsewhere) in Sweden seems to be to make the outside world more like your home - use the textures and fabrics and color and light that feel attractive to people, first and foremost. If this place had been designed for "high traffic" or "productivity" it certainly would have looked very different and most likely would not have inspired a second look, let alone the snapping of so many photos.
• The Hotel: Scandic Grand Central
• The Designers: Koncept Stockholm
(Images: Janel Laban)