At 88 years of age, the Swedish furniture and interior designer Åke Axelsson is still going strong. In a career spanning more than 60 years he has developed a wide range of interiors and furniture.
If you go round Stockholm with Åke, visiting some of the interiors he has created – museums, libraries, cafés, restaurants – you willl be met by warm welcomes as well as new requests: ‘Åke, when you have time, could you take a look at this corner and this entrance area; could we make it work differently?’ And so, Åke gets to work. Always seeking to simplify and improve, always focused on function and creating solutions that work.
With this exhibition we invite you into Åke’s house in Engarn near Vaxholm in the Stockholm archipelago. The house contains both his home and studio, including his archive, prototypes, full-scale furniture pieces, furniture models, drawings and more. A laboratory for furniture design, accumulated and developed over a lifetime.
At the exhibition you can step into Åke’s greenhouse and see the sheep grazing in the meadow, and you can catch a glimpse of his workshop if you look out the window.
Åke Axelsson’s work is as relevant as ever. His long career is shaped throughout by his clarity of vision, emphasis on quality and insistence on using resources responsibly. These core attributes are reflected in the focus on function, form and craftsmanship that characterizes his designs and the production of his excellent furniture, which is made to last for generations.
Learn more about furniture and interior designs
Are you curious to know more about Åke’s furniture and interior designs? All the numbered blocks in the exhibition refer to info about the individual interiors and furniture.
Read more about the 113 objects in the exhibition. Type in the reference number below to know more about each element:
Danish peasant chair, made in beech by Åke in 1974 from a photo of a chair with armrests from Horne Diocese on the Danish island of Funen, made in 1794. The picture is found in Axel Steensberg’s book Danske bondemøbler (Danish Peasant Furniture, 1949), which has been a rich source of inspiration to Åke over the years.
‘My first chair’, pinewood. Student project at Konstfack – University of Arts, Crafts and Design in 1953. A form exercise in the spirit of Carl Malmsten. At the cabinetmaking school in Visby in 1947–51, a teenaged Åke produced designs by Malmsten to be sold.
S217, 1963, beech. Åke’s first chair designed for serial production. Unusually, although there is a drawing, no prototype was made. In 1963, the chair won second prize in a competition to design a piece of furniture in local beech, as the beech forests were under pressure from fast-growing spruce plantations. In production at Gärsnäs, S217 became a big seller in many different settings, from embassies to cafés. Still available on commission.
S233, 1964, beech. A further development of the S217 with armrests. A wider variant, the S234, designed for a bank in Scania in southern Sweden, founds its way into many boardrooms, including the office of ABBA’s manager, Stikkan Andersson.
Unique chair, 1984, beech and painted birch plywood. Made in collaboration with the concretist painter and graphic artist KG Nilson (b. 1942). The idea was to move original art off the wall onto the furniture and into the room.
Merkurius, 1992, beech. Developed for Åke’s interior design of the Riksdag Library in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan district. A further development of the Gästis chair from 1990 but with a taller, Windsor-type back.
Rocking chair, 2004–05, mahogany. Variant on an easy chair. A Japanese visitor to Åke’s studio fell in love with the easy chair, bought it on the spot and also ordered a rocking chair version for his wife. Åke made two.
Bohem, prototype 1997–98, beech. Undercarriage from the Gästis chair with a new back and armrests. The Bohem chair exists in many variants.
Gästis, 1990, beech. Created for an inn in Leksand that was converted into a hospitality college for hotel and restaurant staff. The successful ice hockey team were frequent guests, so the chair had to be sturdy. Laminated seat. To this day, 30 years later, the stackable Gästis chair in several variants remains one of Gärsnäs’s bestsellers.
Moderna 2, 2009, beech. A Gästis variant with a slightly taller back. Used in the restaurant at the modern art museum Moderna Museet in Stockholm.
Moderna 1, 2009, beech. An earlier variant of the Moderna chair.
Backåkra, 2019, beech and birch plywood. Developed for Backåkra, the United Nations’ former Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld’s farm in Österlen in southern Sweden. With its playful wavy back and a bow around one leg, the chair is intended for the museum lobby and café.
Vaxholmaren, 1978, beech. Designed for Åkersberga Library. The first chairs were made in Åke’s workshop. The chair’s expression revolves around the transition from square to round. Third prize in Nordisk Møbelkonkurrence (Nordic Furniture Competition) in Copenhagen in 1978. A stylish workhorse in many of Åke’s library interiors. In 2020, a version with leather upholstery was created in collaboration with the upholsterer Helena Engström.
Unique chair, 1978, beech. First prize in Nordisk Møbelkonkurrence (Nordic Furniture Competition) in Copenhagen in 1978. The seat is mounted on spring steel, an idea from the late 1960s that Åke revisited here in a more refined execution.
Light & Easy, 2004, ash. Piece from a series of early variants. Made at Gärsnäs.
Craft, 2010, ash. Designed for S:t Tomas Kyrka (St. Tomas Church) in Vällingby, Stockholm, designed by Peter Celsing in 1960. Craft draws inspiration from Kaare Klint’s well-known Kirkestol (Church Chair) but is wider, has a more comfortable back and is stackable. Still produced on commission in two variants by Gärsnäs.
Sonat, 2016, stained beech. A later version of Åke’s Century chair, which was created for a competition in connection with Gärsnäs’s centenary in 1993. Legs from the Light & Easy chair gave Sonat a softer elegance that is equally well suited for boardrooms and private homes. Stackable, with a sound-dampening seat.
Sonat 2, 2020, oak. Prototype with armrests, developed in Åke’s workshop.
Nero, 2010, beech, lacquered. A further development of the Akustik chair with leather upholstery. Designed for the Buco Nero restaurant in Stockholm.
ZEN Conference III, 2014, ash. A member of Åke’s Zen chair family, designed particularly for conference and office settings. Leather from the tannery Tärnsjö Garveri.
Gästis, unique variant, 2015, beech with chamois leather. Upholstery by the Helena Engström.
Unique easy chair, 1990. Birch plywood and leather. Åke experimented with simple plywood in a material-driven protest against the pretentious furniture culture of the 1980s. Shown at Artek in Helsinki in 1990.
Nymans ur, fåtölj, 2013, bok. Tillverkad i ett fåtal exemplar för den exklusiva uraffären Nymans i Stockholm. Läder från Tärnsjö Garveri.
Chair, unique, 1971–74, beech. Based on an Egyptian chair from 1800–1500 BCE as part of Åke’s exploration of historical furniture. ‘I wanted to work with the historical chairs and discover them from within, from a maker’s vantage point.
Chair, unique, 1978–79, beech and birch plywood. Åke’s interpretation of Marcel Breuer’s TI 3A children’s chair for Bauhaus in 1923. After his in-depth studies of furniture constructions from antiquity during the 1970s, Åke went on to study and interpret modernist cabinetmaking. This resulted in many different chair models.
Chair, 1994, mahogany. During this time, Åke was exploring horizontal slats as a theme. Made for Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery) and presented at the 1995 exhibition 39 Stolar (39 Chairs) at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm.
Chair, 1995, beech and painted birch plywood. A variant with modernist influences.
Chair with armrests, prototype, 1974, beech. Made for the research library at SLU, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in Ultuna, Uppsala, where sustainability was a consistent theme in the interior design. Subsequently produced by Gärsnäs.
Prototype, 1997–98, beech. Part of the Spring furniture collection for Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery) (1998) with a day bed, a plank bed, two chairs, a sofa and three easy chairs. An ambitious design that, unfortunately, was not commercially successful.
Chair with armrests, 1983, ash and mahogany. One of Åke’s modernist interpretations. Exhibited in 1984 at Galleri Österdahl in Stockholm, an important platform for Åke’s experiments and prototypes.
Stackable chair, prototype, 1984, beech and birch plywood. Print decoration by the artist KG Nilson, a method intended for serial production.
Stackable chair, prototype, 1984, beech and birch plywood. Print decoration by the artist KG Nilson, a method intended for serial production.
Stackable chair, prototype, 1984, beech and birch plywood. Print decoration by the artist KG Nilson, a method intended for serial production.
Prototype, 2004, beech. Chair for the espresso bar Caffe Nero in Stockholm. Originally developed for Åke’s interior design of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England, a large converted flour mill. Ten sturdy chairs were used in the café.
Chair based on an Egyptian model, 1971–74, beech. The original, dating from 1500 BCE, is at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Created while Åke was a teacher at Konstfack – University of Arts, Crafts and Design, where he took an in-depth interest in historical hand-crafted furniture.
Chair based on a Greek model, made in 1971–74, further developed in 1994, beech. The Klismos chair, with its slender, springy legs, is depicted in a grave stele of the woman Hegeso in Athens, 410–400 BCE. Åke created this based on the image in the relief.
Chair based on a Greek model, 1971–74, beech. Interpretation of a chair painted on a Greek vase from 480–470 BCE.
Ararat, chair based on a Greek model, 1976, beech. Made for the pioneering exhibition Ararat at Moderna Museet that same year. The exhibition showcased alternative energy sources, small-scale organic production and strategies for a sustainable future. Åke contributed with hand-crafted furniture.
Ararat, chair with armrests, 1976, beech. Inspired by the construction of Greek chairs, with pins, dowels and holes, and of the cord used in the safari chair. Presented in the Ararat exhibition at the modern art museum Moderna Museet. Produced in a limited edition under the name Hellas by Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery) during the 1990s.
Baltic, prototype, 2001, aluminium. Chair for the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England, an art centre in a converted flour mill. Åke designed the interior in 1997–2002. Baltic was put into serial production with steel legs. A variant with upholstery and armrests was made for the restaurant.
Ballerina, unique, 2001, beech and rattan. Made by Åke as a present to Gerd Andersson, a former prima ballerina at the Royal Swedish Opera.
Wood, 2009 for Gärsnäs, beech. Seven wooden components, eight nuts and washers, four wooden dowels – that is all. Wood is minimalist function and beauty, designed for mass production using CNC technology. Delivered as flat-pack.
Gustav 3, 1994, beech. A form experiment with built-in flexibility. The floating seat is mounted on a rubber ring. Each member of the Gustav family had its own expressive back. Shown in the 1995 exhibition 39 Stolar (39 Chairs) in Stockholm.
Gustav 1, 1995, beech and laminated birch veneer. Chair with an upper rail in an experimental chair family created around this time. Shown in the 1995 exhibition 39 Stolar (39 Chairs) at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. Leather from the tannery Tärnsjö Garveri.
Cleopatra, 2004, beech. An exploration of the modernist expression in light of the legacy from antiquity. Shown in the exhibition Design i trä – under 5000 år (Design in Wood – Through 5000 Years) at the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm. Seat in sailcloth for racing yachts.
Chair, unique, 1987, beech and birch plywood. Abstract art on furniture art. Painting by KG Nilson.
Vaxholmaren 2, easy chair, 1980, beech. A workshop experiment, following up on the Vaxholmaren. Here, the slats in the back continue all the way down to the floor, like a dress.
Chair, Gebrüder Thonet, model no. 20, 1875, beech. Åke bought the chair at a flea market in Paris during the 1980s. Thonet designs are a big inspiration to Åke due to their lightness, sparseness of materials and adaptation to mass production.
Linnea, 1986, beech. Åke’s brilliantly simple improvement on Michael Thonet’s classic café chair was to make it stackable by attaching the front legs on the outside of the frame. Linnea won third prize in the competition marking the furniture factory Gemla’s 125th anniversary and was put into production in 1988. It was followed up by several later variants. Gärsnäs took up the model in 2013.
Linnea, 1984, beech. Variant made in Åke Axelsson’s workshop.
Linneus, 1988, beech. A further development of Linnea, with armrests. Made by the furniture manufacturer Gemla.
Linnea 5, 1988, beech. Variant on Linnea, specially made for Café Bordet at the original premises of Åke’s Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery) in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan district. Leather upholstery by upholsterer Gösta Engström.
Bohem, prototype, 2016, beech. Prototype of a Linnea undercarriage for the Karamellan restaurant in Stockholm.
Bohem, 1989, beech. Inspiration from a Thonet chair Åke saw in a restaurant in Prague. Made by the furniture manufacturer Gemla for the Berns restaurant in Stockholm.
Nalen, 1996, beech. Chair with a swivel seat. Made by Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery) for Nalen restaurant in Stockholm, a legendary jazz and dance venue during the 1940s and 1950s.
Skandinav, prototype, 1980, beech. A big Danish furniture manufacturer showed interest in the model, but no collaboration materialized. The construction detail of attaching the chair legs with a metal pin is one that Åke revisited this year, in the 2020 chair.
Skandinav, prototype, 1980, beech. Variant with rattan seat. Made by Åke in his workshop.
Örebro, 1965, steel and leather. Chair for the Medborgerhuset (Community Centre) in Örebro, a building designed by Erik and Tore Ahlsén with an interior design by Åke Axelsson and Erik Karlström. The chair remains in use in the community centre’s lobby, meeting rooms, café and Club 700. Made in Lammhults’s mechanical workshop. Åke also designed a table on a conical steel base with replaceable oak tabletops.
Anselm 2, 1996, version with armrests, beech and birch plywood. In use at the Naval Museum in Karlskrona, among other places.
Spring, chair 3, 1997–98, beech. Prototype for the Spring furniture series (1998) for Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery).
Anselm, 1996 for Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery), later Gärsnäs, beech and birch plywood. Anselm was first shown as an installation at the art hall Malmö Konsthall in 1996. The chair is Åke’s homage to the hall’s architect, Klas Anselm (1914–1980). Production of the chair was discontinued in 2012.
Ingarö, 1995, birch and birch plywood. Chair for the dining room of a friend’s newbuilt summer house on an island in the Swedish archipelago. Ingarö matched the new simple style of the 1990s and became quite successful. Made at Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery) and later by Åke Axelsson Production in the firm’s own factory in Skirö, Småland. This particular chair was made in 2008.
Akustik, 2006, beech. Gärsnäs. The chair is designed to improve the acoustic environment in public spaces. The underside of the seat is perforated, and the seat contains sound-dampening felt. When used in large numbers, the chairs influence the acoustic environment. A popular choice for schools, convention centres and restaurants.
Drottningholm, prototype, 1998, beech. Made in a version with blue paint for the ship S/S Drottningholm, which sails on the Mälaren lake. ‘But why did I make it so heavy?’ Åke wonders. Maybe so it will remain stable when the water gets choppy?
Experiment, ca. 1998, prototype, carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer. Developed in collaboration with a canoe builder to ensure a strong yet lightweight chair. It has been hanging, neglected, from the ceiling in Åke’s studio. When he tries it out, he is taken aback: ‘That’s not bad, it’s actually really comfortable.’
Katarina, prototype, 1990, beech. An idea that spent years in oblivion hanging from the studio ceiling and then came to life ‘as if in a revelation’ and was developed into the model for the 400 unique chairs for Fredrik Church in Karlskrona in 2018.
Chair, prototype, late 1960s, beech and mahogany. Made in Åke’s newly established cabinetmaker’s workshop at the hotel in Vaxholm. Intended as part of a collection to be sold directly from the workshop.
Chair, prototype, 1990, birch and birch veneer. An experiment with form and sustainability in laminated veneer. Made in Åke’s workshop together with the joiner Kazunori Itagaki.
Folding chair, prototype, 1989, mahogany and birch plywood. Made in Åke’s workshop. One of many variants on a recurring theme. Cello (1994) and Rosendal (1998) for Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery) were very successful.
Chair, 1967, beech, seat in saddle girth. Experiment with spring steel and a timeless solution for joining the legs together. The spring-steel feature was inspired by the suspension in traditional horse-drawn carriages.
Fredrikskyrkan (Fredrik Church), 2018, beech with parchment. Four hundred chairs with parchment upholstery were made for the Fredrik Church in Karlskrona, which was designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and completed in 1744. A technically complex project involving several different artisans. The subtle variations in the skin make each chair unique. Parchment from the tannery Tärnsjö Garveri. Gärsnäs was the manufacturer.
Vreta Klosterkyrka (Vreta Abbey Church), church chairs, 2003–04, oak. The 12th-century church needed new, flexible seating furniture for its increasingly varied activities. Åke designed a modernist chair model with a with a back that has echoes of Gerrit Rietveld’s geometric expression and forms an elegant, flexible contrast in the ecclesiastical space.
King Carl Gustaf’s Jubilee Room, the Royal Palace, Stockholm, 2001. Birch. Suite with a table, a sofa and chairs. The room was the Swedish people’s gift to the King in 1998 in celebration of his first 25 years on the throne. Åke designed the space as a 20th-century summer meadow with furniture incorporating a range of historical styles, from the klismos chair to the sober expression of functionalism.
Kuben, sofa, 2015. A modular system in unfinished oak, designed for the Värmlands Museum in Karlstad and made by Sjölinders. One of the elements in the exhibition was made by Åke Axelsson in 2020.
Karlstad, rocking chair, 2018, beech. A light and versatile rocking chair, made in Åke’s workshop by joiner Daniel Ericsson.
Neptunus, 1994, oak. Easy chair for the Swedish Riksdag’s office in Stockholm’s Neptunus district. A stable and cosy chair with roots in the expression of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Josef Hoffmann. Originally made by Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery), now, since 2003, by Gärsnäs.
Nomad, safari chair, 2013 and 2019, beech with linen or cotton seat. A furniture collection developed as an ‘organic anti-design’ aiming for extreme simplicity, including no use of screws or glue. The 2013 design was further simplified in 2019. ‘Now it’s finished, I can’t take it any further. After 70 years in the industry, this is the result. That chair is one of the best things I ever made,’ says Åke with enthusiasm. Nomad is made in Åke’s cabinetmaking workshop and sold via his website.
Nomad, table, 2013, beech with a tabletop in birch plywood or elm root. Folding frame. Round or square tabletops. Simple tables for flexible homes. Made in Åke’s workshop.
Standing table and tall stools, 2018, beech, elm, steel. Made in Åke’s workshop for the Värmlands Museum in Karlstad. In 2015–18, Åke Axelsson designed the interior and furniture for the museum.
Inez, unique table 1990, tabletop in painted MDF. Undercarriage in painted birch plywood. Meeting table for the textile designer Inez Svensson (1932–2005) when she was appointed vice-chancellor of Konstfack – University of Arts, Crafts and Design. ‘I saw Inez’s artistic expression in white and black,’ says Åke. The table is one of Åke’s rare excursions into a postmodern form landscape. Around the table chairs, 2020, beech. Prototype for a simple chair with replaceable parts without the use of glue. Back and seat in recycled felt. Thank you to Rebecka Tarschys for letting us use the table in the exhibition!
Bello, chair, 2000, beech and steel. The chair was developed for the offices at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England.
Rotor, table, 2003, moulded stainless steel. A standard table, available in several versions from Gärsnäs. The base is inspired by the function and appearance of the human foot: low and wide towards the outside, narrower towards the inside.
Ararat, table, (1976 + 2020), tabletop in pinewood and legs in ash. The table was originally made for the 1976 Ararat exhibition at the modern art museum Moderna Museet, where Åke contributed with organic hand-crafted furniture. In 2020, an improved version was put into production in Åke’s workshop. Around the table are four 2020 chairs.
Snurran, 1995, solid beech and bentwood. ’I made this one for fun,’ says Åke of the unique chair with a base made of standard rings from Gemla. Goatskin cushion made by the upholsterer Gösta Engström. Shown in the 1995 exhibition 39 Stolar (39 Chairs) in Stockholm and at Hara Museum in Tokyo in 2002.
Sofa, 1990, oak. Made by Åke and exhibited at Artek in Helsinki that same year. ‘I wanted to made a proper, qualified hand-crated piece of furniture.’ The inspiration came from carvel-built boats, with layers of wood, and from 18th-century Gustavian sofas. The sofa nearly cost Åke a big toe when the frame fell down on his foot. ‘The blood was squirting out of my shoe.’ Today the sofa dwells in Åke’s kitchen.
Table, 2008, steel and painted birch. For the foyer and shop in the art museum Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum in Stockholm. The construction of the yellow painted legs is a reference to Otto G. Carlsund’s famous painting Stolen (The Chair, 1928) and to the content of the building.
’My first cabinet’, 1944, pinewood. Built in the school’s wood shop by Åke at 12 years of age. The prince on horseback is Åke himself, headed into the world.
Toy horse, 1944, pinewood. Made by Åke as a present for his eight years younger sister Siv.
Apprenticeship test piece, 1951, cabinet in mahogany and pearwood. The 19-year-old Åke’s apprenticeship test piece after five years at the cabinetmaking school in Visby. The cabinet took all of spring to complete. Designed by the architect David Rosén at NK. ‘There was never the notion that we might design anything ourselves; we had to pick a piece from a model book. It was all about testing our skills, not about free design, which was the right idea.’
Bookcase, 1947, pinewood. Made by Åke at the age of 15 years at a summer course in woodworking at Tingsryd technical college.
Table, 1948, birch and curled birch. Made by af Åke as the age of 16 years at the cabinetmaking school in Visby. A present to his mother for her 50th birthday.
Easy chair on a swivel base, 2002, laminated ash plywood. Prototype for the Zenit series for Gärsnäs.
Filing cabinets, early 1990s, pinewood. Design by Åke, made by Westlings in Gränna.
Library table, 2009, oak. Unique table for the ’1806 Library’ at the Swedish Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, a unique collection of art literature from the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries, for which Åke designed book cabinets, a unique book table and the general interior. The tabletop is height-adjustable by means of a crank and cogs – a tangible and visible mechanical solution and a nod to the inventor Christopher Polhem. The table speaks the same language as the collection.
Kuben, easy chairs, 2008, beech. A system of easy chairs that can be coupled together. Made in Åke’s workshop. For the art museum Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum. Kuben was mass-produced by Gärsnäs.
Allround, 2019, bentwood ash and birch plywood and a variant featuring certified khaya mahogany. A versatile, stackable chair for meeting rooms, churches, museums. Can be coupled together in rows.
‘The plank’, Cuban mahogany. A 452-centimetre-long plank from a tree that likely grew in Cuba during the 18th century. After centuries of over-exploitation, the export of Cuban mahogany was banned in 1946. At Bohman’s veneer factory in Oskarshamn, a mahogany trunk was cut into planks, probably in the early 1950s. Forty years later, Åke Axelsson spotted this plank in the storeroom of Carlsén’s chair factory in Skirö, which Åke’s studio, Galleri Stolen (The Chair Gallery), was renting at the time. When the factory closed down he took the plank with him to preserve it as a testimony of history with roots extending into the future.
Riksdagen, chair, 1981, beech, mahogany. In connection with a comprehensive interior design project at the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag, Åke designed three chair models: a chair with armrests, a club chair, also called London, and an ‘assessor’s chair’. They are a study of sustainability. The chairs are easy to assemble, for example to be re-upholstered or if parts need to be replaced. According to the maintenance plan, the chairs will remain in use into the 2040s. A commercial success for Gärsnäs for use in public spaces. The Australian Parliament also uses the chairs.
Y, folding chair, 2013, steam-bent beech. A versatile museum chair and a member of the Nomad family along with the X chair. Was manufactured by Gemla.
The Deputy Speaker’s chair, 1970, birch, prototype. Made by Åke before the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag’s, temporary relocation to Kulturhuset (The House of Culture). Leather upholstery by Gösta Engström.
Rocking chair, 2007–08, beech. Developed at Åke’s factory in Skirö for an intended collaboration with Svenskt Tenn on furniture for elderly people. Textile by Josef Frank. The project was not realized.
Easy chair, 1990, birch plywood and beech. Made by Åke for an exhibition at Artek in Helsinki, 1990. His choice of simple plywood was a sort of material-driven protest against the pretentious furniture culture of the 1980s. Painting by Nini Sandström.
Easy chair, 1990, beech. ‘Chair in a dress,’ made by Åke. Udstillet på Artek i 1990.
Chair, 1987, oak. Chair made for exhibition in the Österdahl gallery, an important platform for Åke’s furniture experiments. The chair is part of a group of four around a square table. ‘The most non-functional chair I ever made,’ Åke claims.
Chair, 1993, oak. Made by Åke for an exhibition at the Österdahl gallery. ‘A chair from my craft period.’
Bohem 1, 1989, beech. The model was created for the Berns restaurant in Stockholm. Produced by Gemla.
Step ladder, 1980s, oak. Originally created for the library at the Stockholm School of Economics, later used in several other projects, including the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, the Riksdag Library, the Värmlands Museum and others.
Reading desk for the Riksdag Library, Stockholm, ca. 1992, oak. Produced in large numbers at Westling’s cabinetmaking workshop in Gränna.
Merkurius, 1992, beech. A variant on Åke’s popular Gästis chair, with a taller, Windsor-style back. Designed for the Riksdag Library in Stockholm’s Merkurius district. Originally made at Galleri Stolen’s (The Chair Gallery’s) factory in Skirö and later, since, 2003 at Gärsnäs.
Model of the Riksdag Library hall, early 1990s. Built on a scale of 1:50 by Åke Axelsson and this then assistant Leó Jóhannsson.
Ararat, bench, 2018, pinewood, beech, elm. The bench, with span legs, was inspired by a bench made for the 1976 Ararat exhibition. The construction was further refined in 2018. Four versions in various materials, from unfinished pinewood to variants with a seat in elm, parchment, leather or velvet. Made and sold online from Åke’s workshop.
Table, made 1990, oak, exhibited at Artek.
Light & Easy, 2004, beech. The name says it all: lightweight, comfortable, minimal use of materials. The chair was designed in the Thonet tradition with a view to mass-production. One of Gärsnäs’s most popular chairs.
Recliner, ca. 2002, Cuban mahogany and dyed leather. Åke made the chair during a period when he chose to focus on essential craftsmanship. ‘I was a little tired of always working with holes, rods and spokes, so I took a refreshing excursion into genuine craftsmanship with no claim of being innovative.’ Mahogany from the old timber store at Åke’s factory in Skirö. Upholstery made by Gösta Engström in leather from the tannery Tärnsjö Garveri. Thank you to Boris Berlin for letting us use the recliner in the exhibition!
The Small Chair
Glasses are kindly lent by Skruf, a glassworks in Skruv, Småland, in southern Sweden. Founded in 1897, it was one of the most successful glassworks in Sweden during the 1950s and 1960s but went bankrupt in the late 1970s. SKRUF was reconstructed in 1981 by four former employees. Today, it is owned by former glass-blower Kent Elm, who bought and rescued the company in 2006. The glasses in the cabinet were designed by Skruf’s artisans.