The Swedish have a word meaning ‘just right’ – ‘lagom’, we recognise it as central to their design aesthetic as Sweden has become recognised internationally as creators of minimalist style and design with clean, simple lines and a strong emphasis on functionality. The conceptual roots can be found with the coming to power of the Social Democratic Party in 1932 and the political idea of Folkhemmet – ‘the people’s home’. Society should be a family where every citizen contributes and in turn is looked after, creating the Swedish welfare state with good housing central to the idea, clean, efficient and easy on the eyes.

    The government built modern housing for the newly urban masses, Svenska Slöjdföreningen (later Svensk Form) educated people on how to decorate their homes. In the 1940s the state offered newlyweds a low-interest loan for furniture and home supplies, this came with a brochure explaining how to use the money. One was instructed not to spend it all at once, or buy heavy, ornamental pieces. Modern design was the way to go, modern design that isn’t avant-garde, and doesn’t go ‘too far’.

    “The concept of beauty was tied to honesty. The idea was to not make a linoleum floor look like a stone floor, to not cheat and superfluous decoration was frowned upon. In Sweden this idea of honesty in objects is very closely linked to perceptions of individual morality–to not pretend to be something you’re not.” Cilla Robach curator at Nationalmusem in Stockholm.

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