The name chosen for Hjo Municipality’s new school sets a high bar. Estrid Ericson lived in Hjo and founded interior decorating company Svenskt Tenn in the 1920s. Her groundbreaking ideas about the positive impact of good design on people have strongly influenced the school’s interior design. “You immediately notice how much our students and staff enjoy spending time in this flexible, stimulating and long-term sustainable environment,” says school principal Susanne Appelberg.
The step from Estrid Ericson’s revolutionary ideas about interior design to modern requirements for learning spaces is shorter than you might think. Essentially, it’s about investing in aspects such as quality, creativity, individuality, functionality – and beauty.
Estrid Ericson grew up in Hjo, attended college in Stockholm and then spent some time working as an art teacher back in her hometown. She founded Svenskt Tenn in 1924 and worked with designer Josef Frank to develop a completely new interior design style, with colours, patterns and shapes characterised by elegance and warmth, beauty and function.
Here we’ve been able to create spaces with an underlying theme, which reflect the school’s visions and help us to realise our student-centric educational philosophy. Taking a holistic approach to the interior design has been incredibly important to us and helped us to live up to our quality requirements.
The Estrid Ericson School is located on the outskirts of Hjo, close to the woods and the valley of the River Hjo, and has a generous playground for the children. The fact that the municipality decided to build a new school rather than expand an existing one has made it possible to carefully consider everything from scratch: to do “everything right from the start”, as Susanne Appelberg puts it. “It’s been a long process, characterised the whole time by close cooperation between all parties, where the support and commitment of the teaching staff has been particularly strong. The constant encouragement we’ve received from Svenskt Tenn has also been amazing and important,” she says.
The influence of Estrid Ericson is immediately apparent on the exterior in the form of the architectural design, choice of materials, and various iconic oversized design elements in the outdoor environment and on the facade – such as Svenskt Tenn’s classic elephant and the equally classic Alfa Omega bookend.
The spirit of Estrid Ericson is even more evident in the interior, with rounded organic shapes, classic prints, and the delightful colours, tactile materials, timeless style and flexible functions of the interior design. Simple and elegant, yet warm and colourful. It’s all based on contemporary research findings on how the physical environment and the way it’s designed affect the well-being and performance of people – in this case students and staff.
“Kinnarps came on board at an early stage and started working with a project group that included school leaders and school developers. Later on, they also met the teaching staff to hear their views and ideas,” says Susanne Appelberg. She underlines the importance of Kinnarps as an expert on learning spaces, a proponent of the latest research and a provider of total solutions.
Kinnarps has an extraordinary holistic perspective in that they understand the prerequisites of the school, can analyse our needs, and are experts in interior design and furniture. They’ve been a good sounding board and have come up with suggestions that we’d never have thought of ourselves.
The watchwords for the Estrid Ericson School – sustainability, movement and literature – have also guided the interior design work. The word movement is reflected not only in products such as height-adjustable tables, tables of different heights, stools with springiness, beanbags and sitting balls, but also in the choice of lightweight, movable furniture and the general variation and flexibility of the interior design, with its focus on holistic ergonomics. Screens for creating privacy, for instance, are a consistent feature, as well as dimmable lighting throughout the building. “This is also related to what I said about quality and sustainable total economy. We mustn’t forget that our spaces and furniture need to withstand the way children use them, and children are and should be physically active and lively,” says Susanne Appelberg.
We think sustainability in several different perspectives. Most importantly, schools should be educationally, socially and physically sustainable for students and staff. We’ve also invested in economically sustainable interior design, i.e. high-quality interiors that we can use for a long time, withstand intensive use, and can also be renovated and refreshed when needed.
And last but not least – literature. In the middle of the school is the school library – an inviting, homely space for reading, inspired by Estrid Ericson’s own living room, where her books were a natural feature in the furnishings. It’s open, welcoming and furnished with warm green colours, wooden surfaces and both cosy, secluded spaces with high, enveloping backs as well as desks for different school assignments.
“This is probably the best school library I’ve ever seen; we’re incredibly proud of it. The idea is for it to be the beating heart of the school, a place to which you are naturally drawn and that feels welcoming, inspiring and yet calm,” explains Susanne Appelberg.
She concludes: “Choosing the name Estrid Ericson for our school is obviously something we need to live up to, but is a great source of inspiration. She’s a role model in so many ways, not just as an interior design icon but also as a brave and empowered woman who dared to follow her dreams. I believe that we’ve created a learning space that sends this message to all our students.”