Designer, reformer and educator Carl Malmsten was among those who advanced what would become “Swedish Modern,” a term that came into usage at the US World Fair in New York in 1939, epitomized by simplicity, utility, and good quality in furniture design. In 1916, the anti-establishment carpenter Malmsten won the first and second prizes for a competition to furnish the newly constructed Stockholm City Hall, effectively changing his professional career. Malmsten’s brand of Modernism rejected the extreme Functionalism on the Continent in the 1930s and favored traditional craftsmanship that embraced heritage and the importance of the material. He encouraged the renewal of traditional Swedish craftsmanship, inspired by the cultural examples of the Swedish country manor and rustic styles. Preferring attractive functional design, Malmsten’s work was minimal and often neoclassical in style. He worked mainly in light wood with a blonde range of colors, prefiguring what is thought of as typically Swedish today. He made his most far-reaching contribution in establishing two schools, the Olofsskolan or Carl Malmsten Furniture Studies in Stockholm in 1927 and Capellagården on the island of Öland in 1960, both of which are still in operation. Through these institutions, Malmsten sought to restore the old master-apprentice system, favoring handmade production. Olofsskolan carpentry students still adhere to a philosophy that treats furniture as functional and unique works of art. Stemming from the idea of “good” design for the “masses,” in the 1950s Malmsten introduced a cooperative project, “Nyckelverkstäderna,” with a number of highly qualified workshops. He intended to introduce industrial furniture manufacturing techniques without lowering the standards of artisanship and quality. Carl Malmsten worked until his death in 1972 at designing, heading a company and schools, and planning exhibitions.
Andrew Hollingsworth, Danish Modern (Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2008), 41-43.