I was thinking a lot about Swedish style & design while I was there. On the one hand, there's the "traditional" style, what gets marketed as "Scandinavian Country" – muted yellows, greens, & blues, whitewashed pine furniture, lovely detail painting. A certain amount of that in people's interiors, tho not nearly as much as you'll find in US antique shops. (We never visited anyone's country home, however, so I can only vouch for the urban interiors – admittedly, it's pretty hard to place an 8-foot armoire in one of those 400-square-foot apartments.)
Far more common – indeed, ubiquitous – is the high modernist, Bauhaus-derived Ikea style. Not just Ikea style, either, but literal Ikea. Everybody, but everybody, seems to do at least some of their furnishing – the younger folks, almost all – from Ikea. It appeals to my Samuel Beckett side, I must admit, but gets a bit oppressive after a while. So much white, so many clean lines. I found myself longing for a bit of colorful, texturally various just plain clutter. (No lack of that back home, I assure you...)
Most shocking of all, however, was the general sense of personal style. I had the mistaken impression – derived mostly from a regular diet of Hannah Anderson catalogues – that the Swedes were a nation who dressed with a wonderful, colorful flair: lots of pastels, stripes & patterns, etc. I even bought a couple of pairs of eye-poppingly colorful striped socks to wear with my red Diesel trainers, just to fit in with this fashionable race. Instead, I found a bunch of folks whose passion for earth tones, clunky shoes, and muted sweaters would make them fit right in in, say, Portland, Maine, or Waukegan. Occasionally you'd see something cool – a sixtyish man with spiky grey hair in a magenta sweater, or a pair of running shoes in colors that don't occur in nature – and the children, to be sure, are miniature palettes of bright color; but for the most part the Swedes I saw seem to melt right into the countryside.
Worst of all, I must confess, was the youth style. Aside from a half-dozen weird approximations of American hip hop wear, the default mode for the Swede of 15 – 21 seems to be, of all things, "New Wave" styles, MTV circa 1983. Much black, usually accessorized with chains & studs; fishnet hose; stovepipe trousers, inevitably worn with Chuck Taylor sneakers; lots of dyed hair; many Robert Smith asparagus hairdos (the Cure must still be really big in Sweden, judging by the number of t-shirts on people who weren't born the first time they played Stockholm). I felt like I was in a time warp back to the "new wave nights" at the local Marriott, Blacksburg Virginia, during my undergraduate days.
Alas, with a 4- and 6-year old in tow, there was little time for sampling Stockholm's cultural pleasures (tho I do have a good working knowledge of the city's playgrounds now, & have been to Junibacken – read "Pippi Longstocking Land" – twice). But I'm happy to report that the architecture is magnificent, the public transit system is extraordinary, the people are uniformly friendly and welcoming even to an American ugly as I, and the Modern Museum ("Moderna Museet") is absolutely first-rate. The weather – at least for our two weeks – could use some work.