When it comes to art and design, do your eyes start to shine? Then Småland is a real hotspot for you, because the region is famous for craftsmanship and design far beyond the borders of Sweden. Several well-known furniture designers, whose products are sold all over the world, have their headquarters here in southern Sweden and the IKEA founder also came from this region. Numerous artisans specialize in the processing of regional materials such as glass, iron, wood, leather and paper and produce masterful design products that are particularly elegant and durable.
For art lovers, Småland has so many highlights to offer that you should definitely bring enough time with you: contemporary art exhibitions, for example in the Vandalorum or the art gallery Virserum, showrooms for furniture design, especially in the furniture world around Lammhult, and a wide variety of handicrafts in which you can Can look over the shoulder of professionals …
WHEN FLAMES CREATE GLASS ARTWORKS
A particularly fascinating craft is at home in the area between Växjö and Kalmar: glass-blowing. Glass has been made here since the 18th century when Bohemian glassblowers settled here by royal invitation to work in the Kosta Glasbruk, which was founded in 1742. And because of the abundant supply of firewood for the kilns and sand, as well as the skills of the Bohemian masters, further glassworks were founded in the Småland forests. At the beginning it was mainly windows, bottles or drinking glasses that were produced, but glass blowing continued to develop and at the beginning of the 20th century, artists were hired for the first time, who were responsible for the design of the products and an unusual shape. No wonder that the glass from Småland is still known and loved far beyond the borders of Sweden!
GLASS BLOWING UP CLOSE UP
You are not only interested in the artistic products, but also in their manufacture? You can experience them up close in “Glasriket”, the Kingdom of Crystal in Växjö! Here you will find 13 active glassworks and studios, several shops of well-known brands and you can visit exhibitions by glass artists and various glassblowing workshops. In the Kosta Glass Center, for example, you can even lend a hand yourself, blow a drinking glass or bowl under the guidance of a master glass blower and take your very own personal memory home with you. And if you stay overnight, even that becomes a design experience: The “Kosta Boda Art Hotel” is a total work of art with a wide variety of glass art and a pool with underwater sculptures!
You can get an exciting insight into the history of the Kingdom of Crystal in the adventure museum “The Glass Factory” in the former glassworks of Boda – here well-known glass designers exhibit their works. And if you want to admire an unusual example of the use of glass as a material, you should pay a visit to Växjö Cathedral. The four meter high altar by the internationally renowned artist Bertil Vallien is made of glass in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Not enough of the glass yet? The Swedish Glass Museum is also located in Växjö.
MODERN ART CENTER IN THE HOME OF THE VANDALS
Contemporary art in four red barns? This is what awaits you in the Vandalorum art and design center, which opened in 2011 and is located directly on the E4 near Värnamo. Incidentally, the name is to be understood as an allusion to the wandering people of the Vandals, who are said to originally come from Småland. The extraordinary museum will surely impress you from the outside: it was deliberately designed by star architect Renzo Piano to look like the typical Småland drying barns. And because it was planned from the beginning to continuously expand the museum, an additional “barn” was built in 2017.
The inside of the museum is also good for a real surprise effect: Huge glass fronts, large skylights and 3,000 square meters of modern exhibition space form an attractive contrast to the traditional barn look! The Vandalorum shows interesting contemporary works by national and international artists as well as interesting temporary exhibitions. And because the museum also deliberately promotes Småland art, one of the barns is dedicated to works from “Småland Konstarkiv”. Attention, you can only visit this part of the exhibition after prior registration!
AWARD-WINNING ART OF COOKING
A stop in the Vandalorum is also worthwhile for another reason: With the “Syltan” one of the best restaurants in Småland has opened its doors here. In 2018 it was even voted “Sweden’s best cultural restaurant” – but the excellent food is still affordable. In addition, only regional organic products are used in the kitchen of the “Syltan”, which is why the restaurant has been certified with the high Swedish eco-seal “Krav”. Whether you are enjoying one of the delicious daily specials at lunchtime or just enjoying coffee and a sweet treat – “Syltan” is the perfect culinary finale for your visit to the art world.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BILLY AND CO.
Where the young Ingvar Kamprad once opened his first furniture store in the 1950s, there is now a real sight: the IKEA Museum in the small town of Älmhult. For this purpose, the building of the first furniture store was largely restored to its original condition and has since attracted countless visitors who want to immerse themselves in the history of the world-famous Swedish furniture brand. Because the history of the furniture empire is inextricably linked to the country’s economic development, you are also taking a journey through time into Sweden’s recent history. It is of course not boring and dry, but as colorful and entertaining as an IKEA children’s paradise.
A HONORABLE PLACE FOR THE HEXAGON KEY
A typical IKEA living room from the 1960s? The story of the Billy bookcase, the Klippan sofa or the Malm chest of drawers? A furniture exhibition with over 30,000 products from seven decades in which one or the other piece is sure to be familiar to you? You will discover all of this on the three floors of the museum – and in between two very special showcases: One presents a fork with a meatball, the popular “Köttbullar” from the IKEA restaurant, the other the typical hexagonal key, which you probably use to set up a shelf has.
In the photo studio you can immortalize yourself on the cover of an IKEA catalog and the children have expressly allowed their fun – romping around with various playful activities in the creative area. Of course you satisfy your hunger in the museum’s restaurant, where the meatballs are supposed to taste even better than in the furniture stores. The special thing here: The balls are not only available in the minced meat version, but also made from salmon, chicken or vegan, and there are also some typical Småland dishes on the menu. And if you still haven’t had enough of Billy and Co. after visiting a museum or restaurant, you can just stay next door at the IKEA Hotel, which is completely furnished with the company’s own furniture.
ON A SHOPPING TOUR IN THE DESIGN PARADISE
Are you looking for a typical Småland souvenir, but shouldn’t it be the classic moose sign? Then you will definitely find what you are looking for in one of the craft businesses! In the Kingdom of Crystal in the forests between Växjö and Kalmar you have the choice between a wide variety of glass items, stearin candles are best bought in the traditional candle factory “Liljeholmens stearinfabrik” in Oskarshamn. You can find high-quality leather products in several manufacturers, for example at Guldtackan, Kallfeldt or Målerås. And for die-hard IKEA fans, the shop of the company’s own museum has vintage products on offer that you are guaranteed to find nowhere else.
If you run out of space in your suitcase or if you are looking for special experiences rather than a shopping spree, a night in one of Småland’s design hotels is definitely the right thing for you. How about an overnight stay in a 1950s-style room? In a fancy four-star hotel in which no two rooms are the same? In the design hotel of a star chef? You will definitely return home from Småland with lots of new furnishing ideas …