And there it is — on Tegelviksgatan, hidden within an otherwise nondescript concrete complex, is the home of Front: an award-winning collective on the cutting-edge of contemporary decor and design. Sofia Lagerkvist and Anna Lindgren, two of its founders who remain with the firm today, have a compelling concept: they combine organic and synthetic forms to create stylish yet unconventional objects. Their unique approach allows for unforeseen factors to influence their work, leaving things up to chance in ways that would unsettle other designers.
For Front, it’s been this way since the beginning. When the enterprise was established in 2003, one of its earliest exhibitions, Design by Animals, debuted at the Stockholm Furniture Fair. The items in the show were fully utilitarian, but made from materials that animals had freely interacted with. They included hanging pegs moulded and imprinted upon by a snake, a lamp fashioned by a tunnelling rabbit and wallpaper chewed by a mischievous rat. In 2004, Design by Animals showed at the Salone Satellite in Milan, and by 2006 had made its way to the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Front has continued to embrace such variables in their work, creating novel items whose visual and tactile qualities are altered by the natural forces around them. An especially striking example is Randomly Crystallized, a 2008 collaboration with Swarovski that experimented with the ways solid and molten crystal merge when mixed together.
A 2013 partnership with Loligo resulted in the Surface Tension Lamp, an LED light whose bulb is actually a series of bubbles. The glassy globes grow and burst in an ever-shifting succession, so that by the time the lamp arrives at the end of its 50,000 hour life expectancy, its “lampshade” will have assumed some three million ephemeral shapes. This prize-winning piece was included among the Designs of the Year for 2013 at Design Museum London.
What is truly fascinating about Lagerkvist and Lindgren’s work is the ease with which it transitions from the art gallery to the showroom and back again. In doing so, it demonstrates that fine art can be accessible as well as experiential, and it elevates the audience’s aesthetic appreciation of decor, furniture and everyday objects.
Some of Front’s most prominent and popular creations are the ones it produces with other designers and decor companies. Its well-known Animal Thing series was made for the Dutch design firm Moooi. Examples include life-sized models of a horse and rabbit with lamps atop their heads, along with a pig-shaped side table. Front describes the collection as “furniture to fall in love with at first sight, or hate forever.” Moooi also markets Lagerkvist and Lindgren’s surrealistic Blow Away Vase, a receptacle based on a 3D image of a Royal Delft vase digitally distorted by a “simulated gust of wind.”
It’s rare and refreshing to see work that so confidently blends art and artisanship, and that can be appreciated in a home or a shop as well as a museum. And while Lagerkvist and Lindgren like to leave parts of their designs to the flukes of physics, chemistry and the whims of nature, there’s nothing accidental about their continued success.
Written by Dillon Ramsey
Headline photo: Tensta Konsthall, an interior design inspired by change over time.
All photos courtesy of Front Design