Carl Malmsten

Carl Malmsten & O.H. Sjögren

Carl did not enjoy school and preferred to work with his hands. The story goes that when he was about to take his school-leaving examination he had become so fed up with school that he asked the head teacher if he could leave. The head teacher contacted his father, who sent two guards to fetch his son. He was then thrown into a cell at the Katarina Mental Asylum, as it was then called, where he was made to take the examination. In protest, he never once put on his student cap.

During a trip to Egypt he discovered his talent for drawing, and there he realised that it's because of the long and dark winter nights lasting for half a year that we northerners are so absorbed in our homes. On his return to Sweden, he found, quite by chance, a position in a carpentry workshop. He felt at home there and afterwards described himself as "a carpenter's apprentice derailed from the upper classes".


He had his breakthrough as a designer when, at the age of 28, he won both first and second prize in a competition for furnishing the the Stockholm City Hall. During the following decades prestigious, ornate items of furniture, which are not perhaps immediately associated with Carl Malmsten, would comprise a substantial part of his production. At the same time, he had an ambition to reach out to "the people" through furniture.

He wanted to benefit from industrial production without jeopardising the craftsmanship and quality. He selected a number of highly qualified, artisanal workshops that would meet his demands, and which he called the "Key Workshops". These were to produce furniture for a royalty, which in turn would finance his impending schools project. Carl Malmsten now embarked on cooperation with O.H. Sjögren, who then started to produce his upholstered furniture. Together with O.H. Sjögren and the "Key Workshops", he created the furniture that, through its timeless design, has achieved the status of Scandinavian furniture classics. These are the ones we recognise from their characteristic and evocative names, such as Farmor ("Grandmother"), Hemmakväll ("Evening at Home") and Samsas ("Harmony").


Carl Malmsten was an eccentric and strong-willed person who made high demands of those around him. He has been aptly described as "someone from out of a newsreel from the 1950s - a primary school teacher at a handicrafts camp, in golf trousers and an under-sized jacket with leather-patched sleeves and a sheathed knife in his belt".

Carl Malmsten was a pedagogue as well as a designer, and he wanted to see his philosophy realised in the form of something from his planned schools project. The results of this work today are Carl Malmsten - Furniture Studies at Lidingö and CapellagYearden at Öland. In 1936 he received the title of Professor from the King.