The Atelier chair was designed for the newly renovated Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. We chatted with designers Mattias Ståhlbom and Gabriella Gustafson – better known as TAF Studio – about Atelier and their work with Artek.
TAF Studio is a Stockholm-based design and architecture practice founded by Gabriella Gustafson and Mattias Ståhlbom.
THE SWEDISH DESIGNERS Mattias Ståhlbom and Gabriella Gustafson, also known as TAF Studio, have been working together for over 16 years. Their latest project was to redesign the interior of the Nationalmuseum’s restaurant together with Matti Klenell, Carina Seth Andersson and Stina Löfgren.
During the massive three-year project, TAF Studio teamed up with Artek and the result is a beautiful and stackable wooden chair called Atelier. We met Gustafson and Ståhlbom in their office in Södermalm, Stockholm.
The slender proportions and geometric lines of the Atelier Chair are combined with simple yet elegant details, such as the connecting bars that wrap around the front legs.
How did the collaboration with Artek get started?
Mattias Ståhlbom: “We have always wanted to work with Artek. The company has such a strong history but also interesting contemporary designs. We love to work with wood and try to accomplish accessible design with high quality. We think this is something that Artek, too, has always done. We are also looking forward to spending more time in Finland!”
Did the design change a lot from the first sketches?
Gabriella Gustafson: “The over-all principle and expression of the chair remained the same. There was a need for a durable but also stackable chair because of the character of the restaurant in the Nationalmuseum. In terms of ergonomics and visual aspects, we spent a lot of time designing the back of the chair. We did a number of versions before arriving at the final one.”
The interior, furniture and lighting of the Nationalmuseum's restaurant was designed by a team led by Matti Klenell. The project took three years from start to finish.
The Atelier chair is available in beech, oak and ash. TAF Studio wanted to combine the warm and pleasant feel of wood with durability and strength. Besides natural wood, the stackable Atelier chair comes in three colours: green, dark red and black.
How did you come up with the colors for the Atelier chair?
Mattias: “The black and green originated from various discussions with the Artek team while the dark red came from the work with the museum. On one of our travels, we headed to the Dalarna region in Sweden, where we visited Falu Rödfärg. The company produces the red ochre house paint that is traditionally used on exterior walls in the Nordic countries. We thought it would be interesting to integrate the color to the Nationalmuseum, but indoors and on an object.”
“We thought it would be interesting to integrate the traditional red ochre color to the Nationalmuseum, but indoors and on an object.”
The Nationalmuseum was opened in October 2018. Now that your work is done, how would you describe the process?
Gabriella: “We worked with the project for about three years and spent a lot of time travelling in Scandinavia to see what kind of production possibilities we have in the area. There are many things that we did not even know about: so much knowledge and interesting techniques, craftsmanship and producers. We worked on the Atelier chair for two years. It is a long time, so it feels very nice that it is now out there.”
The development and testing of the Atelier chair was done by the owner of Artek, Vitra. ”It was, of course, a lot of work but it did not feel like it since we really enjoyed every phase. The chair really went through hell in all the testing machines!”
How did you start working together?
Mattias: “We founded TAF Architects in 2002 together with Daniel Franzén, who moved on to establish his own studio in 2005. We all met at Konstfack in 1997 and collaborated already during our studies. In the beginning, we had our own projects but now we do almost everything together. In June 2018, TAF turned already 16.”
Gabriella: “Recently, we changed the name to TAF Studio – we’re not a big architecture company so ‘studio’ describes better what we are and do.”
The Control table lamp for Muuto features a playful design that refers to industrial control panels. “The light is controlled by a switch that bears resemblance to a volume knob and invites the user to interact.”
Could you describe the style of TAF Studio?
Gabriella: “We like to leave the structure visible, if it makes sense. It makes it easier for the user to understand the product. We also really like to work with wood: it’s a material that has followed us from school and a common material in the Nordic countries. I want our designs to be understandable and not too complicated, neither visually or functionally.”
“I want the designs of TAF Studio to be understandable and not too complicated, neither visually or functionally.”
Mattias: “We work a lot with references. There can be a detail that is borrowed from another context. For example, the switch in the Control Lamp comes from hi-fi equipment and industrial control panels.”
Mattias Ståhlbom designed the popular E27 lamp for Muuto. “The simplicity of the naked bulb is hard to compete with and I wanted to add a new perspective to it with the E27.”
Muuto's Ambit pendant lamp features a sharp and timeless silhouette. It has grown in to a family with various colours and sizes.
The Ambit lamp for Muuto is one of your most popular products.
Gabriella: “The brief from Muuto was to design a lamp that would be easy to add to any interior or space. In addition to the shape, the details have a great impact on the over-all design. For example, the pendant’s shade and the cord are the same color.”
Mattias: “The Ambit lamp was popular from day one, but designing it was quite a big challenge. We used the most common technique to make a spun aluminum lamp shade, which made it actually harder to be consistent when working on the shape.”
The Brut table for Skagerak was called Champagne in the beginning. “We got an email from France stating we cannot use the name since it’s copyrighted. So we changed it to Brut.”
You were awarded with the prestigious Bruno Mathsson Award in 2017, followed by the Elle Decoration Swedish Design Award in 2018. How did it feel to receive these acknowledgments?
Gabriella: “We are, of course, very happy about all the prizes. They are important for us but also for the manufacturers. The Bruno Mathsson Award is one of the most important ones in Scandinavia. It also included an exhibition in three cities.”
Mattias: “We had to go through our work for the exhibition. We had never really taken the time to do that before, and it was actually the most fun part! We did not call the exhibition a retrospective but it ended up being like one.”
How did you learn that you had won the Bruno Mathsson Award?
Gabriella: “I was skiing when they called!”
Mattias: “And then you called me. I was at the country house.”
Gabriella: “Yes, the jury was very kind. They wanted to tell us both at the exact same time but they could not reach you!”
Since TAF Studio's foundation in 2002, the team has achieved international acclaim and won various design prizes.
Where does the name TAF comes from?
Mattias: “When we started in 2002, we thought about using our last names: “Franzén, Gustafson, Ståhlbom” – but the name was super long. So we picked three letters, “TAF”, right from the middle.”
• Founded in 2002 and based in Stockholm, Sweden
• Works in architecture, furniture and lighting design
• Awards: Bruno Mathsson Award 2017, Form Award 2017, Furniture of the Year by Sköna Hem 2017, among others
• Designer of the Year by Elle Decoration Swedish Design Awards 2018
• Works for brands such as Artek, Muuto, Skagerak, NakNak, Gärsnäs, Arita and Fogia
• Popular designs include the Ambit lamp, 70/70 table, E27 lamp, Knock Knock door knocker and Bleck sofa
Text: Mikko Vaija Images: Pia Ulin, TAF Studio and manufacturers