I'm very fascinated by the story of women who design. The more I work in the industry, the more I realize how male-dominated the world of manufacturing and furniture dealing is still, to this day. Sure, we are able to see more and more women being celebrated and recognized as leaders in contemporary design. However, for collectible design, it is predominantly male designers receiving the attention.
In previous posts on the blog and via social media, I have featured historic work by Florence Knoll, Eileen Grey, Charlotte Perriand and Nanna Ditzel. A lesser-known Swedish female designer who has caught my eye during my Scandinavian travels has been Kerstin Hörlin-Holmquist. Her work has not yet reached the levels of international recognition as other female Scandinavian designers such as Greta Jalk or Nanna Ditzel but I find her work exciting, as it can be placed exactly at a crossroads between modern and traditional Swedish design, an important turning point in design history.
The Paradise Collection designed by Kerstin Hörlin-Holmquist was part of the Triva furniture line, manufactured by the department store Nordiska Kompaniet in Stockholm, Sweden. The collection was included in the 1958 Triva catalog which described the furniture as having an old fashion charm, and a soft, round friendliness.
The objective behind the Paradise collection was to create a furniture collection that would appeal to a young as well as an older demographic. Inspired by Carl Malmsten's traditional furniture designs, Holmquist created a timeless collection of sofas and chairs that told the story of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are represented by their distinct chairs with human-like forms, there is a fig leaf ottoman (not represented in the image above), the Lustgården or Pleasure Garden chaise lounge, and the Paradise sofa.
Holmquist was not interested in short-lived trends in furniture but genuinely searched to find shapes and textiles that were adaptable to any environment in which the furniture was placed. When the collection was launched the success was immediate and furniture sales were profitable.
Today these pieces are still sought out at auction, particularly Stora Eva for her unique human head-like shape and Lustgården for its rarity, as fewer of these were produced. As a group, the Paradise Collection tells the story of a designer who found her modern inspiration in one of the most popular stories in the bible.
Another great female designer who worked in the mid-century is Danish designer Nanna Ditzel, if you enjoyed this article, read about Ditzel’s ideas for designing furniture in Nanna Ditzel, Queen of Danish Design.