Design conversation with architect Richard Bergqvist

For my first interview on my blog, I had the pleasure to host my friend and architect Richard Bergqvist, who works for Sweco Architects in Göteborg, Sweden.

As a lover of interior design, Nordic and Scandinavian interiors are a great source of inspiration for me. It is therefore with great interest that I am now sharing with you Richard´s well-thought-through answers on the topic.

1) Let´s start by discussing floor planning. Do you think there are substantial differences between how this is done in Sweden compared to elsewhere in the world? What elements are considered as fundamental in a Swedish floor planning?

First off, perhaps it goes without saying, but I think that it's absolutely necessary to point out that there's a huge difference between the way homes are being planned in modern times compared with pre-modern. That is, roughly before or after the  emergence of Modernism in the 1930s... of course, there's also a difference between today and thirty or forty years ago, though less strikingly so.

Many of the interiors you post on your Instagram are from pre-modern apartments that were designed for the old bourgeoisie, with separate entrances and passages for serving staff, as well as maids' chambers etc. These apartments look beautiful and are very popular, though they have very atypical floor plans (compared with the majority of Swedish homes, which were mostly built from the 1960s and onwards). Their qualities lie mainly in the way they're constructed, with solid natural materials that age well, and with high ceilings that make the apartments light and airy. 

 

 Open plan in a Göteborg flat -  living room, dining area and kitchen sharing the space. Photo credit  Reveny.se

Open plan in a Göteborg flat -  living room, dining area and kitchen sharing the space. Photo credit Reveny.se

 

Now, what I would consider typically Swedish might be the open floor plan, with little or no separation between the living room and kitchen. This design philosophy is reflective of Swedish ideals concerning gender equality; and also the modern ideal of the nuclear family as norm. No longer do the women toil alone in the kitchen, nor do servants. Rich or poor, both parents are expected to work in the kitchen. Therefore, it is quite literally lifted to a position of prominence in the home. 

Another thing that may be a bit of a quirk of ours is that we don't necessarily separate our homes into more private and more public zones. We sometimes have bedrooms opening directly towards the living room, for instance - something an Irish colleague of mine found unthinkable. For reasons of economy and pragmatism, we can tolerate foregoing the occasional corridor or hallway. 

We also very rarely have more than one bathroom, choosing more often than not to have a family bath that's perhaps complemented by a powder room. Personally, I much prefer having one bathroom per bedroom or there about. 

2) Is there anything in Swedish interior architecture that you think is conducive to creating a cozy environment? Or do you think most of it has to do with home styling and decor?

I think that a great deal can be accomplished with great home styling and decor, but you have to have something to work with. A common feature in many Swedish homes, which I find to be the greatest single factor when it comes to coziness, is the fireplace. Nothing beats a real log fire when it comes to getting cozy! 

3) What made - in your opinion - Scandinavian design and home styling so popular in the world in the last years?

I think the reason why the Nordic style is so popular and has spread so much is the same reason why Apple products are so popular: Minimalism. What I mean by that is that simplicity is more universal than intricacy and ornamentation. As soon as you add details and patterns and decorative elements, you're adding specific flavors and cultural values. It's much easier to project yourself onto a blank canvas than something that's very much "other" than yourself. 

Simplicity and generality are the hallmarks of Nordic design, and as such creates a very low threshold for people to understand and relate to it, I think. 

Perhaps there are other reasons too, but I personally believe that this is the main one. 

4) What is a place you would recommend visiting in Sweden if you are a fan of Nordic design?

If you are a fan of Nordic design, then I can warmly recommend a trip to the Louisiana museum in Denmark. The setting is marvellous, the architecture is glorious, and both the permanent art collection and their temporary exhibitions are well curated and interesting. Definitely a place you can visit many, many times.