I occasionally hear from readers who want to learn more about interior design and decor from the 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s, before mid century modern took hold main stream. So, how about this gorgeous classic sofa still made today: the Liljevalch sofa designed by Josef Frank in 1934 for Svenskt Tenn.
Josef Frank’s Liljevalch sofa was the first of 2,000+ furniture sketches and textile prints for Svenskt Tenn
This famous sofa was the first piece of furniture that Frank designed for Svenkst Tenn, and it proved to be an auspicious start. Today, the company says, “… there are over 2,000 furniture sketches and 160 textile prints signed Frank in Svenskt Tenn’s archives.” This sofa has such romantic, inviting lines — be still my gluttonous heart.
Today, Svenkst Tenn makes the Liljevalch sofa to order in Sweden, and they ship all over the world. Poking around online, I also see the most daring (by today’s standards — not by Frank’s 1930’s standards) interior designers choose to cover the sofa in one of his colorful botanical prints. While the mocha-colored mohair (?) upholstery is super yummy, just imagine this sofa in a historical, whimsical print!
“A colourful brand of modernism”
I hope to write more about Josef Frank and his products still available today. Frank was a 20th Century architect, artist, and design luminary who “developed his colourful brand of modernism” via his furniture and fabrics for Svenstk Tenn. I love Frank’s ethos — but then, I am a pattern lover and believe we are creatures who, fundamentally, crave ornament.
Svenskt Tenn’s biography of Frank spotlights his work and longtime relationship with the company. His symbiotic relationship with store owner Estrid Ericson is essential to the story. Ericson was an art teacher, who, at age 30, opened Svenkst Tenn. The company underscores the importance of Frank and Ericson’s lifelong collaboration on the about page:
THE COOPERATION BETWEEN Estrid Ericson and Josef Frank remained not only lifelong but also one of Swedish design history’s most interesting partnerships. It is soon revealed that Estrid Ericson’s artistry and entrepreneurship in combination with Josef Frank’s vision of human modernism was a recipe for success. He designs the furniture and textiles and she has the eye for detail and presentation.
Svenskt Tenn today also has many of Frank’s other designs still available for sale — living history that you can live with every day… heirloom pieces.
- Note, see my story on 1940 interior design and decorating styles. I’d say this sofa fits into carryover 1930s streamline/deco/jazz age style.
Frank’s Liljevalch sofa: Protesting the prevailing functionalism
The Liljevalch sofa from 1934 was the first piece of furniture that Josef Frank designed for Svenskt Tenn. It was shown for the first time at the Liljevalch Art Gallery in Stockholm and hence the name “Liljevalch Sofa”. In a letter to Estrid Ericson, Josef Frank wrote that he had designed this large and generous sofa in protest over the prevailing functionalism and boring Swedish handicrafts.
P.S. Are you noticing that I am starting to write more about longtime classic designs by luminary designers (yes, including some items that are high-end in terms of cost)? This is something I see doing more of in the future, in particular to spotlight original, early- and mid-2oth Century designers and designs that shaped and, in great part, continue to shape how we live today.
- Sofa Liljevachs by Josef Frank for Svenskt Tenn
- All of Josef Frank’s design in Svenst Tenn’s current lineup
- Svenskt Tenn
Images courtesy Svenskt Tenn.