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Scandinavian Design at Austere, Downtown Los Angeles

The new concept retail space brings Sweden's classic aesthetic to SoCal

by Phuong-Cac Nguyen in Design on 23 May 2014

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It was an old auto showroom sitting empty at 9th Avenue and Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles, but as soon as brand consultant Fredrik Carlström—who originally hails from Sweden and now lives in New York—laid his eyes on it, he quickly knew it would become the home for his brand new Scandinavian design store, Austere. This "magazine you can walk through” is a new concept store located on the same block that has become the SoCal home to a handful of boutiques and operations that coincidentally also start with the letter A (Ace Hotel, Acne, Aesop and the soon-to-come APC). "My wife says it’s more like my brain that you can walk through," Carlström says. Whichever way you look at it, the store’s opening is yet another sign of downtown’s continual revival.

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Inside the store are 100 examples of Scandinavian design, and while these examples are all beautifully and classically utilitarian (and available for purchase), the most interesting element behind the shop is seeing Carlström's selections in the curation. Of course, it ranges from the iconic (standard-issue, colorful dish brushes found in most homes in Sweden, IKEA packaging design samples from Stockholm Design Lab and rubber raincoats by Stutterheim) to the new-to-many Americans (ottomans created from airbags by Marie-Louise Hellgren, glassware by Iittala and furniture by Artek). Upstairs is a gallery that seamlessly blends into the showcase-style space.

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Overall, the mood of the collection is fun and upbeat, and that’s the point, Carlström says. "There’s a sense of humor that’s really special," he says. One of the pieces that probably best reflects this approach is an LED swing that merges rustic rope with a transparent seat embedded with bright LED lights.

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Carlström's idea is to open Austere in different cities, and rotate the pieces out as he goes along. While his goal is to deepen American knowledge of Scandinavian design, he also wants to show buyers how to incorporate beautiful products into their surroundings. "This idea of scaled-back and clean and cold or even austere is some people’s perception of Scandinavian design," Carlström observes. "But the houses are very comfortable. The average person’s house in Sweden is better designed. I would like people to take with them the idea that you should surround yourself with things that have a purpose and make you happy."

Austere is located at 912 South Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 9001, and closed on Mondays.

Photo of scrubs and swing by Phuong-Cac Nguyen, all other images courtesy of Melissa Di Meglio

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