Stockholm, the Swedish capital, is testament to the Swedes' love of beautiful albeit simple and functional design. Stockholm is sophisticated — and much more than Ikeas and Volvos. It is a conglomeration of islands or neighborhoods with meandering streams and rivers. Each islet has its own defined style of architecture, which maintains an overall five to 10 stories in height and is in beautiful brick patterns or in bright shades of stucco. Yellows, oranges and reds are reminiscent of fall's changing leaves.
Like twinkling stars, lamps are placed in nearly every window of nearly every household, making a stroll through any street a fairytale experience. Drapes are open wide, engaging the passerby, only to be drawn for sleep. Streets are filled with people at all times of day and night, especially in the older part of town, Gamla Stan, which is mostly pedestrian. Swedes are rather formal at first glance, rarely uttering a word if not spoken to. However, once engaged, they are fun-loving and warm. Swedes dress mostly in black and float at an alarming pace throughout the city. I asked someone on the street where they were going; they chuckled and told me that, although it was summer, they have long, freezing winters, so they are always in a hurry to get inside to the next destination. Ahhhh, it all made sense.
Ziggurats, mansards and scrolled parapets dominate the flat skyline, except for Norra Tornen, the newest architectural works by the world-famous Office for Metropolitan Architecture, which pierces the Stockholm sky. The residential tower, which resembles small, stacked boxes, is an homage to Brutalist architecture composed of prefabricated concrete and large spans of glass. Brilliantly engineered on the foundation of a previously started project, depending on which street you are viewing the tower, it looks like the stacked residences are top-heavy and about to topple over. The large doors and plate glass windows were designed to allow maximum light in to the interior spaces as an antidote to their seasonal long, gray days.
Down the street in what once was a warehouse district is the chic boutique hotel, Blique by Nobis. This hotel is set within the art gallery-filled neighborhood of Vasastan, in the north area of Stockholm. The building's shell was designed as a warehouse by architect Sigurd Lewerentz. The textures of steel, iron, leather and textured fabrics play side by side, next to the beautifully detailed concrete and exposed wood of the original structure and a revolving collection of cutting edge Swedish art. Not to be missed is the rooftop restaurant and bar, Arc. The city views are spectacular, and one can almost see where the city limits end and rural landscapes begin. The food was also a sight to behold: five-course dinners with names such as Ocean Experience or Arc Experience — a fusion of Swedish and Korean cooking all sourced from nearby farms.
What trip to Stockholm would be complete without a visit to the Nobel Prize Museum? Their recognition of the world's discoveries, culture, literature and endeavors is awe-inspiring and, well ... noble. There is a prize in each category for almost everyone to identify with. Among the interesting design things to see are the first bottle of penicillin and the now much abhorred plastic items for everyday use, as well as the gold-rimmed china used for the annual dinner banquet after the Nobel Prizes were awarded. A short Uber ride away brought me to the most iconic place of Swedish popular culture: ABBA The Museum. The lines are longer here than in the Royal Palace, so set time aside to visit — and dance like you are the Dancing Queen.
Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Florida. His website is www.josephpubillones.com. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.