Meet the furniture designer
Gustaf Westman

 Name: Gustaf Westman / Occupation: Furniture designer / Age: 27 / Resides in: Stockholm / Latest news: Design of the Gina Lab furniture concept for stores / Follow: @gustafwestman

We hold the interview on Zoom, with me in my simple home office in Gothenburg, and Gustaf in his poster-filled living room in Stockholm. Right away, Gustaf’s cheerful Borås dialect and charming smile get our on-screen meeting off to a good start. Gustaf grew up in Dalsjöfors, just outside Gina Tricot’s hometown of Borås. His relaxed and easy-going personality emerges as we talk about his childhood in the quiet Swedish countryside. As a new talent who has taken the contemporary design world by storm, Gustaf Westman has us all dreaming about decorating our homes with soft shapes and candy colours. But his rapid rise in the industry has not gone to his head. Gustaf is genuine, honest, and appealing in his account of his journey and his collaboration with Gina Tricot to develop a new furniture concept for the Gina Lab innovation program.

“After studying architecture in Gothenburg for a few years, I took a break and found an internship at an architecture firm. I wanted to develop my portfolio with my own projects. That led me to work with Daniel Redgert on the interior design of his PR office. I took several different projects, and discovered that furniture was fun to design. About a year ago, I began focusing on creating my own furniture – this really felt like my calling. I discovered my style and began working with things that inspired me, sketching and creating small models; after that I started making full-size furniture. Now, together with my team, I run the Gustaf Westman Objects design studio in Stockholm, where I design custom furniture (made to order).”

 Have you always been keen to work with interior design and furniture?
“I’ve always found it interesting, and I enjoy painting, being imaginative, and being able to create. You’ll almost never see me without a sketchbook in my hand. It’s always been that way. There are very few pictures of me from my childhood where I’m not busy drawing. Back then, I pretended to be a furniture designer! Now that’s what I do for a living. I am living the dream, even if I haven’t fully comprehended that myself. I love being able to shut out distractions and just sketch.”

2020 seems to have been your year. How did your furniture become such a great (and rapid) success?
“I think it’s because I’m able to design things that people think are attractive. I have a unique style that’s not restricted or adapted to fit traditional norms. I design what I like, based on the things that I like, and my work is well-suited to modern times. The pandemic has influenced all designers. The limits have melted away and up-and-coming designers like me can now occupy a new space in social media, where we can be just as inspiring as larger players. If you “stick out” in social media feeds, loads of people will see you and pay attention. I think it’s easy to like what I create, the colours and the soft shapes. People understand immediately what my furniture is saying, in about the same amount of time that it takes to get a person’s attention on Instagram. My furniture contrasts with all the beige and earth tones in interiors. I think people are very happy to see something that awakens the senses.”

How would you describe your design style in three words?
“Inclusive, colourful, and uninhibited. Playful as well, if I’m allowed a fourth word.”

What are you trying to communicate with your design?
“I want you to feel joy. That it’s great to have these pieces that stand out from the rest of the interior, while they also create harmony. I want people to have that feeling of coming home and being welcomed by my furniture – that it’s a place of relaxation, enjoyment, and comfort. Everyone has the opportunity to enjoy my furniture, in a way, whether they buy the designs or see them in social media and are inspired by them. I like to feel a connection with people and my social media followers. Those who like and buy my furniture can be young women who’ve seen my work in Instagram to design collectors in Los Angeles.”
For Gina Lab, Gina Tricot’s new innovation program that focuses on more sustainable and circular fashion, Gustaf has designed a furniture concept that brings playful and intriguing colour and shape to the Gina Lab departments in selected Gina Tricot stores.

 Tell us more about the furniture concept that you’ve designed for Gina Lab.
“I was given more or less free rein to develop furniture as a way to enhance the Gina Lab concept in selected stores. It feels almost surreal. Who in the world gets a chance like this?! A large, established fashion company like Gina Tricot, letting a young designer like me create freely – fantastic and incredibly cool! It feels both innovative and cutting-edge, but at the same time, they are keen to preserve the ideas of Swedish design and gain the participation of local, Swedish talent.”
What furniture is included in the concept, and how have you brought more sustainable and circular thinking to your work?
“The concept consists of a table, a shelf system, a mirror, and upcycled clothing racks and boxes. Gina’s clothing racks have been given new life and are now covered in clay. The boxes are made of clay and old wooden planks from my parents’ house. It’s a fun mix of old Gina fittings and my childhood home. I love to see old things that find a new purpose and re-using existing objects. The furniture was made in by a carpentry shop in Småland, Sweden. This is genuine, old-fashioned artisan craft, but with a modern twist.”
What's the best thing about the collaboration?
“When I went to upper secondary school, the big glass-walled building that was to be Gina Tricot’s headquarters was being built right across the street. Gert Wingårdh, the architect, was one of my early role models, and watching the building take shape from the school window was absolute magic for a teenager with dreams of becoming a designer. I was so impressed and full of admiration. Of course, one of the best parts of the collaboration was finally going inside that amazing building. It was fantastic!”

How do you focus on more sustainable, circular efforts in your daily creative work?
“I love finding new materials to work with. For example, I’ve made furniture from things like paper and recycled tights, and upcycled items from found objects and materials to create something fresh and more personal. It’s essential to make good environmental choices, and opt for genuine, Swedish, and local resources. A lot of this thinking comes naturally to my generation; we’re generally more environmentally conscious and we have the right mind set to create beautiful things in more sustainable ways.”

When do you feel most creative?
“I have loads of energy and enjoy being outdoors. I love running, especially in the forest, without a phone and with the sounds of nature in my ears. It helps me find my creativity, and when I’m back indoors, I can channel that to sketch all night – or a week! Much of my inspiration also comes from friends and family. It’s definitely not great that socializing isn’t happening under the pandemic, but at the same time, I find it easy to adapt.“

How would you describe your personal decorating and fashion style?
“My home is like my furniture design, in a very literal sense, because I use my furniture here. I enjoy combining the unexpected in colours and patterns, but also old with new. Many of my possessions are second hand or from flea markets. I’ve always been interested in fashion, but my clothing purchases are well-considered. I choose garments that I know I’ll use often and that I’ll keep for a long time.”

It’s been an exciting year for you. What are your plans for 2021?
“This year, I’ll be carving more free time out of my schedule. I want to reflect more, and simply enjoy more. This has been an amazing and fun year, but it’s also been quite intense. I need time to slow down a bit and focus on my own projects, so we’ll see what the future holds. One project that’s underway is to find a new place to live – preferably on Söder in Stockholm – that I can furnish and decorate as I choose.”

In addition to designing for your new flat, what’s your dream project?
“It would be fantastic to get the opportunity to design a complete hotel interior. Imagine a charming boutique hotel, in Borås, perhaps. The best of both worlds would be working with such a great project so close to my hometown!”

 And of course, I have to ask: What’s your best decorating tip?
“Don’t match! Combine colours and patterns in unusual ways, create contrast, pair new items with second hand. Whatever makes you happy!”