‘Your home is too important to let it look like a rat hole’

The Local catches up with Simon Davies of the English-Swedish design duo Simon & Tomas to hear more about their upcoming American television show, and whether US homes are any uglier than homes in Sweden.

'Your home is too important to let it look like a rat hole'
Tomas Cederlund and Simon Davies

Earlier this week, UK-native Davies and Swedish sidekick Tomas Cederlund announced they were set to star in a new interior design programme to be broadcast in the United States on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

The show, Home Takeover with Simon & Tomas, is set to premiere on March 28th, features the “Lords of Fabulousness” as they help US homeowners correct interior design faux pas.

In an interview with The Local, Davies explains how a Brit and a Swede ended up offering design tips in connection with one of the biggest names in television.

How long have plans for a US show been in the works?

Plans have quietly been in the making since last August but naturally lawyers were involved so things took a little time.

How did you settle on the Oprah Winfrey Network?

We came out to LA and pitched the idea to 11 networks and channels; four called us and said they were interested but OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) which was being launched four months in advance of our meetings called us up 30 minutes after the pitch and said they wanted us, no trial show, straight to screen.

It was a fantastic opportunity as everything she touches is a huge success and to have your show promoted by OWN is really very flattering.

The programme sounds a lot like the shows you’ve had in Sweden in recent years. How have you altered the concept for a US audience?

We have tried to make the show about the culture clash between the US and Europe.

We have just arrived in Shreveport, Louisiana and on the way from being collected at the airport for a little local colour we stopped off at a drive through margarita shop. All rather eye popping.

We are also able to be much ruder to American families as I do not think they are so sensitive and we get lots of feedback.

Why do you think this concept is suited for the United States?

Right now on US TV Swedes and the English are quite hot property and in my experience Americans love the English accent. I do think Americans like to get beaten up a bit by the English…….it makes them feel less guilty about the colonies.

How would you compare “ugly” American homes to the “ugly” homes you found in Sweden? Do Swedes and Americans make the same interior design mistakes? Are ugly US homes “uglier” than ugly Swedish homes?

The most obvious ugly mistake we have found in America as that people simply stuff their homes with cuddly toys with ghastly logos on them like, “Mom, you are the best and I love you more than cookies”…….someone take me out and shoot me.

I also think US homes are much more extreme in their ugliness. Swedish homes are often ugly in their boringness and every home having all the same things, vitrinskåp (glass cabinet), plastmatta (plastic floor coverings) etc., etc.

What sort of differences did you notice in the way that Swedes and Americans think about design and reacted to your efforts?

Americans are much noisier and are prepared to show their emotions in a different way. They really give you all they have and let you know just what they think. Swedes are a little reserved with their emotions.

Was it easier to work with Swedes or with Americans? Why?

Working here is easier as we have a crew of 30 people out on site whereas in Sweden we might perhaps have 5. You have to remember that the TV and film business here is simply huge and there are always tens of thousands of people who will do anything to break into the business. As an example, after our first days filming they fired the 3 camera men—not good enough—and they were replaced by day 2. It is pretty cut throat.

Do you plan to continue producing your shows and running your stores in Sweden?

We have decided to close the store as we would like to concentrate on our private clients and we do not need a store to do that. As we source furniture for clients so each home is individual and tailored to suit the client a 600 sqaure metre showroom is no longer necessary.

Being in LA is a good example of how we would like to continue working, we find a wonderful pair of chairs that we know would suit a client so they get shipped back to Sweden, or perhaps it is a carpet, table or bureau. So long as we have a gorgeous office that reflects our style these pieces will fit in there, we want to have an office that feels like our home.

Any other projects abroad in the works?

We have a project in the Caribbean designing and building a house in traditional Caribbean style with traditional materials and a contemporary interior. I do not think two projects in Skåne (in southern Sweden) count.

Is the United States in danger of being “Ikea-ized” in the way may Swedish homes have been?

Absolutely not.

How has Swedish design affected interior design in the United States? How might your programme play a role in raising the profile of Swedish and Scandinavian design in the US?

I suspect the US will pay no attention at all and that is not the message of our show. Our whole point has always been your home is too important to let it look like a rat hole.

When you come home after a stressful day, awful boss, kids screaming, run out of milk you should think of home as a sanctuary, somewhere where you can relax, let your cares drift away and feel your batteries can re-charge.

Living in Sweden we are consumed by the Swedish model and we rarely look beyond our own borders for inspiration; Americans embrace everything and every style and make it their own and I have huge respect for that.

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Five questions about Formex and Nordic design

The largest Nordic design fair, Formex, kicks off on Wednesday. We asked Project Manager Christina Olsson what to expect.

Five questions about Formex and Nordic design
Photo: Formex

The semi-annual interior design fair Formex takes place January 18-21. But what's it all about? We spoke with Formex Project Manager Christina Olsson to find out. 

What exactly is Formex? Why should people go?

Formex is the largest meeting place for Nordic interior design. Visitors get information about trends, inspiration and knowledge in the form of exhibitions and lectures.

How and why did Formex start? What is its purpose?  

Formex started in 1960 and is held twice a year, in the beginning of January and in the end of August. The purpose is to be the most important meeting point for Nordic interior design, fashion and accessories.

There is a large focus on Nordic Design – the largest in both number of exhibitors and in size of designs, and not to forget unique craft from the Nordic countries.

What can visitors expect? Is it only Swedish design? Nordic? International? What different types of exhibits are there?

It is Nordic design and we have 800 exhibitors and 20 000 visitors. The fair brings together national and international buyers, agents, designers, producers and media from all over the interior design and gifts industry.

What is new or different at this event, in January 2017? 

All inspirational areas and quest exhibitors add new ideas and can hopefully give your visitors some new and inspiration for their upcoming work.

Some of the young designers at the event. Photo: Formex

Can you name five “highlights” of the event, perhaps particularly unusual or interesting exhibitors this year?

You will find some new guest exhibitors, such as the showing of Carpets as design objects. The aim of the exhibition is to display rugs that have different artistic expressions in terms of their material, technique and pattern. The rugs in the exhibition have been made by architects, artists and designers.

Also there is Sashiko  – a old Japanese technique in handcraft. 

Sashiko, which was developed in the 600s and 700s in Japan,is both a decorative reinforcement stitching and functional embroidery. In the exhibition at Formex, traditional Sashiko patterns from northern Japan meet Sashiko modern fashion patterns created by Scandinavian designers. 

And of course two large inspirational exhibits are those showing the theme Nordic space and the three trends: Austronautica, Monlith, and Milk & Flowers.

The Young Designers area is always interesting –there you can see young ad upcoming designers presenting their work.

Check out the Formex website to learn more

That's all from Christina Olsson. But want a little more Formex?

One of the many designers at Formex this year is Viktoria Månström, with her line of products Anna Viktoria. She has quickly become a leading designer in Sweden.

”Everything I design has a Scandinavian touch and a modern design, built on Swedish traditions,” the designer says. “I take the past of Sweden and bring it into the present.”

And they're covered in modern Swedish art, such as reindeer and elk.

“I actually started with the Dala horse. I come from Dalarna so it felt like the right place to begin.”

While the Dala horse is a classic Swedish symbol, Månström's version is a perfect example of contemporary Scandinavian design – clean, simple, modern and unique, mixing colours and patterns in an innovative way without looking too busy.

And of course they're made beautifully and sustainably.

”My products are truly Scandinavian; products that convey Sweden. And they also last. They're items you can really use in everyday life.”

Check out the Formex website to learn more