1 May 2019

Carl Malmsten at the Institut suédois in Paris

Any day now, a package of exquisite pieces of furniture by Carl Malmsten will arrive in Paris. Through the Swedish Institute’s great design initiative – Swedish Designs Move Paris – a range of top Swedish furniture manufacturers and designers have been invited to completely refurbish the guest apartments at the cultural centre.

Ewa Kumlin, director of the Institut suédois, Paris. Photo: Johanna Henriksson

The Swedish Institute in Paris opened in 1971 and constitutes a little bit of Sweden in the heart of the trendy Marais district. The Institute resides in a 16th century mansion and is the only Swedish cultural centre of its kind, attracting some 100,000 visitors every year, mostly Parisians. This makes it one of the most popular foreign cultural institutions in the French capital, offering art, design and photographic exhibitions, cinema, concerts, seminars, a permanent art exhibition, café and much more. In this way, the cultural centre is a showcase for Swedish culture and at the same time an important venue for Franco-Swedish relationship building.

2017 saw the renovation of the Institute’s public areas, the Swedish café and the inner courtyard. Now, attention is turned to the six studio flats, which every year accommodate around one hundred cultural workers and researchers.
“We want all parts of the Institute to be permeated by good Swedish design and lifestyle, from the water glass to the décor”, says the director of the Institut suédois, Ewa Kumlin. She initiated the project and was for many years the MD for Svensk Form.

Anna Kraitz. Photo: Tina Axelsson

If Paris – the city, buildings, including Institut suédois – breathes culture, the Swedish interior and furniture designer Anna Kraitz hopes that the room with Carl Malmsten furniture will express both historical and contemporary culture.
“It is intended to be a soft, welcoming and human environment to work in”, she says. “A room for writing and doing research, where the interior scenography takes second place to function and tranquility.”

She furnishes the room with the comfortable armchairs Hemmakväll, which Carl Malmsten designed in the 1950s, the three neat occasional tables that form the nest Släden, the practical trestle table and the elegant armchair Widemar, with crossed back slats and the armrest in a long undulating line. The trestle table and Widemar are part of the new Archive Collection which was presented at the Stockholm Furniture Fair.

Also the charming floor lamp Staken, the chairs in the kitchen ­– two Kaj chairs with braided seats – and the wallpaper Campagna from the 1930s bear a Malmsten label.

The pressed flower lampshades are designed by Carl Malmsten’s daughter-in-law Birgitta Malmsten and are now produced by his granddaughter Vanja Sorbon Malmsten. The ceramic items to be placed in the room are made by students at Capellagården. In addition to furnishings by Carl Malmsten AB, other guest apartments will be furnished by Svenskt Tenn, Gärsnäs, Dux, TEA Arkitekter and Beckmans College of Design. The French press will be invited for a preview in mid-June, and the opening will take place on 7 September.

The fact the Sweden is in the possession of a unique 16th century mansion in Paris, is thanks to the then contemporary politician, diplomat and art collector Carl Gustaf Tessin. He played a central role as an intermediary in Franco-Swedish cultural contacts, and in 1933, a Tessin Institute was founded on the initiative of the art historian and then Counsellor for Cultural Affairs Gunnar W. Lundberg at the Swedish Embassy in Paris. In the early 1960s, he was looking for new premises for his activities and convinced the Swedish government to purchase the beautiful renaissance mansion Hôtel de Marle in the Marais district. The collections would now have a proper setting, and when the Swedish Institute moved into the building in 1971, Lundberg donated the art collection to the Swedish state.