When we think of Swedish design, images of iconic mid-century furniture and glassware or our handcrafted Gustavian antiques come to mind. But did you know that the roots of Swedish design can be traced back to the 18th century botanist Carl Linnaeus?
Linnaeus is most famous for his contributions to the field of taxonomy, or the classification of living things. His Systema Naturae, published in 1735, laid the groundwork for the modern system of scientific classification still used today. But Linnaeus was also a lover of design; his observations of the natural world influenced his aesthetic sensibilities and serve as an inspiration to us all.
That’s why we asked illustrator extraordinaire Tug Rice to create this enchanting spring image of Carl Linnaeus with our bees buzzing around.
One of Linnaeus's most enduring contributions to design is his use of color. He developed a system of color classification that was used to describe the hues of plants and animals. This system not only helped him accurately describe the colors he observed, but also inspired artists and designers to experiment with new color combinations.
The bold, bright hues that Eva Gassne-Jeckelmann & Christoph Jeckelmann use in Aveva, their line of handcrafted items for the home, are reminiscent of the vibrant colors found in nature. While their use of natural fibers such as wool also reflects his emphasis on the ‘economy of nature’ by using sustainable materials. The collection of 100% linen table linens by Axlings we carry in both natural and bold tones—as well as the boldly painted Rolf candlesticks—are further examples of his influence.
Another way in which Linnaeus's work influenced Swedish design is through his emphasis on functionalism. He believed that every part of a plant or animal served a specific purpose, and that these parts could be studied and understood in isolation.
The brass candle holders in the shape of chestnut and avocado leaves by Appelgren are inspired by the shapes and textures of plant life. Their organic curves and natural materials evoke a sense of calm and tranquility, much like a walk through a forest; while the sinuous shapes of Georg Jensen designs are perfectly designed functional objects.
Here is an image of Carl Linnaeus’ country home, Hammarby, in Uppsala, Sweden. Here he lived passionately with the botanical world, his rooms are personal, beautiful and soothing.
This was the inspiration for so many designers, including one of the great Bunny Mellon’s early designer’s Paul Leonard.
Carl Linnaeus's contributions to the field of science have had a lasting impact on Swedish design. His system of color classification and emphasis on functionalism continue to inspire designers to this day. Whether you're admiring a sleek piece of furniture or a colorful piece of fabric, chances are that Carl Linnaeus's legacy is not far away.