A light in the window

Night Apartment

In a country where the sun sets before three o’clock on the shortest days of the year, it’s no surprise that lighting plays a crucial role in the home. Swedes take lighting seriously, and even our tiny town has three lamp stores lining the main square.

When we moved into our IKEA-issued, furnished apartment, we were puzzled to find several mismatched lamps scattered around the small studio: table lamps, desk lamps, and lamps stashed away in closets. Scott even found a chartreuse frosted glass lamp balanced on the front windowsill and promptly removed it.


When he came home from his first day on the job, he immediately rushed to the closet to recover the lamp and restore it to its former position. “It’s supposed to be there,” he said in the fretful tone that comes with being new to a country and mindful of cultural blunders. He’d learned at work that it’s traditional to keep a light in the front window on winter nights and to keep the blinds open until bedtime. From this I deduce that it’s probably not traditional to walk around in your pyjamas all evening, which is probably a good habit to cultivate anyway.

In Canada, traditions tend to be observed mostly by older folks who are joined by the younger crowd only on special occasions. Not so in Sweden, where they are very big on tradition. In the case of the window lamp, I was delighted to discover that the vast majority of windows in Älmhult, Stockholm and points between are lovingly illuminated every evening around four o’clock. The effect is magnificent and turns a trudge down a windy, wintery street into a holy processional home.

It’s not just an urban tradition, either. Even a farmhouse in a desolate field of snow will have pinpricks of light in its windows, casting a friendly yellow glow into the night.

House windows

While I’m sure some Swedes, especially those who don’t have the luxury of working from home, probably automate their lamps with timers, pressing the switch has become a cherished part of my day. To pause for a moment, mark the sun’s retreat and look forward to seeing Scott walk through the door always fills me with quiet joy.

Next week, my travels take me to a conference in Las Vegas, so I leave behind the grey skies of Småland for now. But even as I pack to go, I’m already dreaming of getting off the train at Älmhult station, turning the corner onto our street, and seeing the strange green halo that means Scott is waiting to welcome me back to the light and warmth of our home.

7 trends spotted at Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair

Bent wood abstract chair

Just days after arriving in Älmhult, it was time to hit the road again for the Furniture & Light Fair at Stockholm Design Week. The Swedish capital is a five-hour train ride north, winding through pine forests, cheery villages and rolling, snowy fields. Arriving at Stockholmsmässen, the scenery got a whole lot more energetic as acres of exhibits from some of Western Europe’s top industrial designers unfolded before us.

There’s a gallery at the bottom of this post with photos of fifty of my favorite pieces from the show. There were a few design choices that were very popular, and while some of these trends were predictable (mid-century modern? In Sweden?), others were interesting surprises. Here are some of both:

1. Blonde wood: It being a Scandinavian show, this trend was a given. Most of the wooden pieces on display were pale and graceful, and there was an even split between modern minimalist and simple rustic styles.

Bent wood loungerLovely loveseat

2. Textile upholstery: Leather furniture was scarce; in fact, out of the hundreds of booths, I can only remember a handful of leather pieces. Upholstery was king, and popular colours included heather gray, mustard yellow, and burnt orange.

Easychairs clean linesPuffy chair

I loved this chair, though don’t ask me what’s on the wall behind it. I don’t remember anyone tripping with a supersized Coke in their hands, so I’m guessing it’s an unfortunate effect of the unvarnished wood.

3. Warm-toned metal lighting pieces: One of the big surprises of the show was the huge number of brassy, coppery chandeliers and pendant lamps. While some designers went for fine detail and delicate shapes, most opted for massive, chunky pieces that seemed destined to hang from exposed beam ceilings.

Shiny pendantsBrass pendants

4. Northern African-inspired colours in lighting: Building on the popularity of Moroccan lamps from a few years ago, several designers incorporated materials that evoked the shades, if not the shapes, of North African textiles.

Morrocanish chandeliersThread wrapped chandeliers

5. Puffy white chandeliers: Another long-standing European lighting trend, and still going strong. I have a real fondness for this style of fixture though I wonder if, and when, this trend will wear itself out.

Hot air balloonish chandeliersCloud chandeliers

6. Geometric pendant lamps: Many of my favorite lighting pieces at the show fell into this category. Structured, simple and lovely.

Rhomboid pendantsCloud lamps

7. Leafy lights: These pieces had the effect of bringing a sunny park into the interior space without drifting too far into whimsical territory.

Featherleaf pendantsFeatherleaf

There will hopefully be more to share as we hit some other big shows in Western Europe this spring. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with the full image gallery and this terrific head-scratcher:

Where goes the white?

And here’s the gallery:

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