Svenskt Tenn

In 1933, Frank emigrated from Vienna to Sweden where he soon began working for Estrid Ericson and her design firm Svenskt Tenn (in English, “Swedish Pewter”) which was known for its eclectic range of fabric, pewter ware, and furniture. As head designer of Svenskt Tenn, Frank created patterns for rugs, textiles, wallpaper, and furniture. The first success of the pair came in 1939, when an interior that Frank and Ericson designed for Svenskt Tenn was on display at the Swedish Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair “World of Tomorrow.” Frank’s furniture in the display featured warm woods and sinuous curves coupled with biomorphic shapes. Frank and Ericson’s brand of “humanistic modernism” was a widely admired, and the New York Times praised the interior for its “lightness and effects of simplicity.”

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Josef Frank

Josef Frank

Josef Frank was one of the most prolific designers of the 20th century known for his work in the fields of furniture, textiles, and architecture. Frank was born in the town Baden near Vienna where he grew up in a tactile household with his father, a textile merchant, and his mother, a skilled sewer. In 1903, Frank attended the Technische Hochschule in Vienna, where he studied architecture under Karl König. In his teaching, König placed an emphasis on the quality of material, design, and planning rather than a strict adherence to style. Frank took the philosophy of König to heart and found inspiration in both the past and present to create designs with quality in mind. In 1925, Frank founded the firm Haus und Garten with fellow architects Oskar Wlach and Walter Sobotka. Unlike the Wiener Werstatte which lauded Gesamtkunstwerks, the three architects believed in creating livable spaces.

In 1933, with Hitler’s rise to power in Austria, Frank and his wife Anna move to Sweden. At first, Frank found it difficult to find work but he soon began working with Estrid Ericson at her interior design firm, Svenskt Tenn. It was with Svenskt Tenn that Frank was at his most prolific, designing over 1,000 furniture pieces and over 200 patterns for rugs, wallpaper, and textiles several of which are still in production today. In 1941, Frank and Anna moved yet again, this time to New York. He remained close with Estrid Ericson gifting her fifty pattern designs inspired by the natural life and city landscapes of the US on her fiftieth birthday.

Frank subscribed the idea that homes are flexible and ever-changing, and he believed that designers should put clients’ needs first when considering an interior. He coined the term “Accidentalism” in his manifesto published in Form magazine in 1958, in expressing the idea that an interior should be a fluid space that changes with the desires of its inhabitants. Frank died in 1967, leaving behind a legacy of bold patterns and masterfully crafted furniture. His work can be found in the permanent collections around the world.

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