Johan Lindsten: A Different Kind of Sampler

Swedish designer Johan Lindsten, got his start in furniture design when at age 13 he couldn’t find a CD rack he liked. But with family in the business, “I always had a furniture culture in my life,” he said.

Geography is destiny, or at least it was for Johan Lindsten. Mr. Lindsten, 34, grew up in a forested part of Sweden called the “furniture kingdom,” which is home to Ikea and dozens of other housewares companies. Today, lo and behold, he designs furniture, including chairs with needlepoint nature scenes that have put him on an international stage.

“I always had a furniture culture in my life,” he said by phone from Stockholm, rattling off family members in the business: cabinetmaker grandfather, architect sister, structural engineer brother, and so forth.

But what really got him started was a hunt for a CD rack at age 13. He couldn’t find any he liked, so he designed and made one himself. Ever since, he said, the joy of creativity has “followed me.”

Mr. Lindsten’s Embroidery chairs pay tribute to the needlepoint he admired on his grandmother’s walls as a child. The craft, he noted, has been around for 8,000 years and was once a symbol of wealth and status. “People don’t do it anymore,” he said. “Now they watch TV.”

Giulio Cappellini, creative director of the Italian furniture company Cappellini and a celebrated talent spotter, saw an early concept a few years ago and brought out the chairs as prototypes at the 2015 Milan Furniture Fair. From May 13, a market-ready example will be shown in New York at Cappellini’s SoHo showroom during NYCxDesign.

The four chairs in the Embroidery series represent the four seasons. Each seat back has a panorama cross-stitched in tapestry wool: woodland deer for autumn; butterflies and blooming trees for spring; a flamingo against a scarlet sky for summer; and snow-covered mountains for winter. The scenes are produced by machine at a rate that would leave an Etsy crafter breathless. Even so, Mr. Lindsten said, it takes four days to make a single chair.

Not all of that labor is about the textile. The chairs are solid ash, stained in colors that coordinate with the seasons. As for the lounge-chair form, “I would say it’s a little discreet,” Mr. Lindsten said. “It has a Scandinavian personality and Italian quality.”

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