Welcome to Skandium: your one-stop-shop for all things Nordic, from lighting to vases, to fabrics and toys. Mr. Wolf sits down for a chat with Chrystina Schmidt, the mastermind behind this design wonderland, to talk bank managers, pots, and Studio Skandium.
Design store Skandium is best described as the ‘United Nations of Scandinavian Design’, in the words of creative director Chrystina Schmidt. The store showcases the best of Scandinavian modernism in different forms; furniture and textiles are found alongside toys and kitchenware, including mugs with the loveable Moomin characters.
Schmidt had the idea to open the store whilst holidaying back in Finland during the summer of 1998 with her business partner and husband, Magnus Englund. Coincidently, it was the centenary year of Alvar Aalto’s birth, a famous Finnish architect, and celebrations of his buildings, stools, and glassware were everywhere. The pair were in a department store they came across some cooking pots by Finnish brand Iittala tucked away on the bottom shelf. The pots as Schmidt recalls ‘were so simple, they were designed like a child would draw a pot’. It was these pots that led Schmidt to think of bringing Scandinavian design together under one roof, where it would no longer be tucked away or made to look modest by other objects.
Gaining the initial funding to start the store was not simple, armed with their business plan and a copy of Wallpaper* Magazine, which had just been released with a supplement on Stockholm, it felt like perfect timing so they pitched the idea to a bank. After finishing the pitch the bank manager replied ‘I don’t quite get it… What wallpaper do you want to sell?’
However, a chance meeting with Danish Investor Christopher Seidenfaden at a party provided the opportunity they were looking for. Seidenfaden loved the idea; his own family having built Danish lighting manufacturer Louis Poulsen, he understood what the pair were trying to do and provided the capital. This was enough to get Skandium off the ground and into their first shop in Marylebone, London.
The success of the first shop was shortly followed by a Selfridges concession and a shop in the affluent Brompton district. Adding to that the brand now also produces its own products under the label Studio Skandium, with some pieces created in-house whilst others are made in collaboration with emerging designers, such as fabrics made with Emma Lonsdale illustrations.
Walking into the shop now it is easy to see why it has grown from strength to strength. Fritz Hansen chairs, Örsjö Belysning lamps, and Iitttala glassware are able to shine like never before. Objects are no longer over-shadowed by complicated chunky design with impractical features that can make the simplistic nature of Scandinavian design seem almost too simple. Schmidt explains ‘Scandinavian design is perceived by many people as rather boring if they don’t understand it, because it is not made to impress you, it is made to live with you like an old friend. It’s just comfortable and easy.’
245-249 Brompton Road
London SW3 2EP
T +44 (0)20 7584 2066
F +44 (0)20 7584 7706
Words: Jameson Kergozou