On the 6th of April, Gustav Johansson acquires a plot in Åsbogatan, Kvänum. The purchase price amounts to 1 000 Swedish kronor and the size of the plot is 1091 m². The seller is one Johan Edvin Karlsson. On his own, Gustav builds a house of 105 m² with an apartment above and premises for his registered joinery Gustav Johansson’s Snickeriverkstad on the ground floor. His firm manufactures chairs, cabinets, windows, and doors. When orders are scarce, he works as a contractor on building sites.
By and by, Gustav purchases saw, planer, jointer, drill, and milling machines. The equipment is operated with an electric engine and line shaft. Material is brought in through a door in the gable wall. Boards are kept on consoles along one of the long walls, and in hydrofoils hanging from the ceiling. Space is used in an optimal manner. The fireplace is lit with wooden waste and chips. A long flue tube spreads the heat throughout the workshop. Sawdust is gathered in banks on the floor – there’s no suction device. Occasionally, the sawdust is swept up, collected in bags, and sold as insulation for walls and joists.
His first ever kitchen, in a way the progenote of Kvänum, Gustav delivers to his own mother and father-in-law. The original kitchen can be seen at Kökets hus, House of kitchen, in Jung next to E 20, our permanent exposition- and conference centre. This little rural kitchen is a humble greeting from the past. Even so, the recessed door with its broad frame appears to foresee modernity. The shelves of the top cupboard have visible consoles and on top there’s a lovely cornice.
His family is growing. Gustav moves into the white house in Storgatan, High Street of Kvänum. He is one of the first in Kvänum to install electricity. The family is also among the select few to have a phone line, number 12. Orders are dropping in – doors, staircases, window sashes from heartwood. Bench joinery is alternated with building trade. Gustav and his employees cycle to work. It’s often cold, wet, windy and far to go. Gustav’s wife Anna oversees the food for all – fried eggs on crisp bread, bacon and beans in a canister, and coffee in a sock-covered bottle.
At times there are a few employees. Since the mid-20s there’s a minor production of looms. By now, it has become a major article. The poor relief in Malmö pays 50 kronor per device, and a small export operation has emerged. The building kits are made up of frame, sleys of lay, shuttles, shuttle boxes, pickers, reeds, warp beams, back beams, breast beams, cloth beams, heddles and harnesses. The goods are reloaded in Falköping and shipped by train to Holland and Germany.
Every now and then he gets a brilliant idea, like the combined bedside and reading table, a collapsible creation with a base, stand, and an adjustable tabletop. Long before Ikea, Gustav delivers flat packs by rail. As a carpenter and entrepreneur, he’s prepared for all sorts of things. Local demand partly decides his daily routine – a honey super for a beehive, a baluster for a railing, a stick for a thresher sieve; the thin wooden lath is supposed to be straight, tough and elastic. If it breaks during the harvest, the carpenter has an urgent order. Now Gustav puts his bicycle away in favour of his first car, a Ford Model A from 1928 with the registration plate R 4160.
Warfare and alert, hardship and rationing, ragu on rabbit and surrogate coffee on chicory. During the war, business is in abeyance. Gustav goes to construction sites in the area with a gas generator in tow. In the workshop, there isn’t even a job for his son Rune, now approaching adulthood, nor for his future son-in-law, Göran. During the mid-40s, things start looking up. The looms are on the way out. When Gustav takes the final order, the stockroom is empty. He solves it by selling his wife’s loom. Gustav never gets round to replacing it. Anna, who’s busy with other things, doesn’t mind.
War is over. Gustav receives a request from Ramnäs Bruk in Västmanland. They wish a delivery of wooden carcasses for sinks, to be shown at an exhibit. Rune and Göran ask to put together a quotation. The bid is accepted and the two of them start making carcasses until the early mornings. Late one night, someone walking past the workshop notices that the light is on, knocks on the door, and asks whether they can mend a garden chair for him. And so, the idea of making garden furniture is born.
At last, peace in our time, and spring farming underway. “Grålle”, the little grey Massey Ferguson TE-20, is ploughing the fields of Kvänum. It’s all starting anew. Prospects seem to sprout. Rune and Göran are now buying the firm from Gustav. They pay 6 000 kronor. The joinery is registered under the name of Svensson & Jonsson Snickerifabrik. Gustav has named all his children Jonsson, since John is his first name, and he thinks Johansson too common. The firm specialises in chairs and windows. But soon enough, they will fit their first kitchen in Rune and his wife Stina’s home.
All three of them, their first employed joiner, Karl-Erik Johansson, Långe-Karl or Long Tall Charles, and Svensson & Jonsson, Göran and Rune, young and cheerful. Optimism is budding; now’s the time for creating the welfare state, once visualised by Swedish PM Per Albin Hansson as ‘the good home’. And it needs decorating. The future is plain doors, nickel-plated “5006” hinges, and wooden drawers. They dream of a factory and rational production. Both are interested in new technique, and they’ve already installed a sawdust extractor, thereby improving the working environment substantially.
The first veneered interiors are ordered by the local education authority in Gothenburg. The customer is indeed very particular and carries out an inspection. A smaller delegacy arrives one day, when the interiors are being coated in the shade of the blossoming apple trees. The education authority has no objections to the arrangement. Afterwards there’s coffee with cinnamon buns.
It’s ready, their fine red brick factory on the other side of the street. An aerial photo shows the building, surrounded by fields and meadows with heaps of hay. Maybe the picture is taken from a SAAB SK 50 Safir, the same plane that a year later is flown in a nerve-wracking maneuver under Västerbron, West Bridge, in Stockholm, by captain Sven Lampell with horrified young Swedish actress Meg Westergren in the passenger seat, captured in a scene of the film Yellow Division. Meg is newly married to Tore Wretman, famed chef and renowned from radio. We’ll get back to him, or rather, he will get back to us.
Göran and Rune, Rune and Göran, through thick and thin. The sink carcasses for Ramnäs had whetted their appetite. Their virgin kitchen is followed by more. The first big order comes from a construction contractor in Partille, outside Gothenburg; eight kitchens in an apartment building. Even larger orders are placed, and so the wheels are in motion. From now on, Svensson & Jonsson is considered an established kitchen manufacturer.
Sweden plays West Germany in the World Cup semi-final in Gothenburg. The whole workforce goes to watch the game. They all fit into one car, two in the front and three in the back. Well on their way, Göran asks Rune if he has the tickets. Rune checks his pockets but cannot find them. They phone home from a booth in Vårgårda. Stina sets off at express speed with the tickets. A close call; they’re on the verge of missing Hamrin’s classic goal. The total for the whole event – including the journey, tickets, and coffee afterwards – came to 120 kronor.
The turnover is 525 000 SEK and there are 8 employees. Moreover, Svensson & Jonsson wins the award “Best Kitchen” at a fair in venerable Osterman’s Marble Halls in Stockholm, an old Jugend palace of stone, steel, wood, and glass, from the early 20s Osterman’s a salon for fancy American cars such as Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet with an inline-six engine, but nowadays serving as a general fair.
Svensson & Jonsson starts collaborating with Canada köket, a kitchen brand owned by a timber yard on Lidingö, Stockholms Brädgård AB, and named after one of the blocks where timber is stored. Kitchens are still sold in these draughty timber yards in the outskirts of town. One fine day things will be different. But we’re not there yet.
Sven Nahlin and his wife Ingrid from Hägersten make a request to have a kitchen fit in their home. They want it to be manufactured of oak from Vasa, a ship-of-the-line that sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm. The wreck was found more than 300 hundred years later by Sven and his brother Erik who are both divers. Rune tells his client that three strips are missing. The customer may have his doubts but sends the strips. Rune keeps the spare strips for his sons Stefan, Olle och Anders. The lavish waterlogged oak kitchen is presented in a magazine.
They decide it’s time to get visible. Svensson & Jonsson starts building trademark. The blue lorry leaves for Stockholms once or twice a week. A light sign is mounted on top of the cabin. The sign reads KVÄNUM and in slightly smaller but still capital letters, CANADA KÖKET. The same text is written in the back and on both sides. Now they´re clearly visible.
Paris in May, and uprising. The winds of change are blowing – brass pin hinges are standard, carcasses with an edging, frame panelling, exclusive wood like oak, beech, and walnut, and exotic varieties no one has heard of like oregon pine, sapeli and panga-panga. But seriously, plastic drawers? Nothing will ever be the same.
A termite proof kitchen is sent to a project in Iraq supervised by SIDA, Swedish International Development Agency. Wood is obviously ruled out in a hot desert where termite stacks stand like stalagmites. The problem is solved with a shiny armor of laminate, no trace of wood. Probably not anticipated by the small warriors.
Svensson & Jonsson’s first catalogue is a simple A3 format, a four-colour folder, a flyer, a paper swallow.
At last! Marilyn and Lars have moved into their new house on Videgatan in Falköping. This is a photo from their family album. They bought their kitchen at Svensson & Jonsson in Kvänum, full covering walnut doors and panga-panga work tops. It’s a happy ending to a fearful drama. The kitchen plus eight cabinets cost 10 668 kronor. They have two young sons, Magnus and Niklas. Bear their names in mind.
Everything is the same again more or less. The plastic is gone, and wooden drawers are back. Okay – plywood! The Farmer’s door is launched. It’s made of walnut, oak, ash, pine, and somewhat unexpected, tropical teak.
The companionship with Canada Köket seems increasingly creaky. It’s a story worthy the plot of Åke Holmberg’s much loved children’s book Ture Sventon in Paris; things towering up and suddenly melting down like a meringue. The collaboration ceases. Svensson & Jonsson later receives an offer to buy their former partner. Olle, Rune’s son who recently joined the firm, bids 2 kronor. Generous, he says. His bid is aptly turned down.
A new generation carries on. The Jonsson trio, Stefan, Olle, and Anders, buys the business. Svensson & Jonsson is turned into a limited company, Kvänum kök AB. They’re kick starting with ball bearing drawer as additional accessory. Kitchens are now sold by appliance companies who expose entire kitchens to demonstrate their own range of white goods. The exhibitions attract lots of visitors. Going there is weekend fun and Kvänum sells kitchens like never before.
The turnover is 8 million SEK and there are 35 employees.
The Jonsson brothers have a significant heritage to look after. Since long, quality is key. Kvänum is the only kitchen brand to meet Swedish quality label Möbelfakta’s highest level requirements.
Ball bearing drawers become standard, high standard.
The turnover is 15 million SEK and there are 35 employees. The full covering Royal series doors Napoleon, Caesar, and Wasa are launched. The annual fair in Cologne is a great inspiration. Stefan, Olle, and Anders bring their wifes. The train leaves from Gothenburg around four pm and from Copenhagen at nine sharp. They’re having salami, cream cheese, bread and a bottle of wine on board. Next morning, they wake up early, get off the train in Köln-Deutz, cross the street to Köln Messe, and overlook an ocean of kitchens. Olle remember it as great times, perhaps the best.
Not until now is he retiring, the cheerful Karl-Erik Johansson, Långe-Karl, in the doorway on Åsbogatan, if you remember, Svensson & Jonsson’s first employee and a man of honour.
Kvänum presents its new logo. Three geometric shapes, two triangles combined with one rhomb; in a jiffy you’ve got a crown or a serviette. Whatever you wish. It’s burgundy red and accompanied by KVÄNUM in capital letters.
Fat years are followed by lean. From one day to another the telephone stops ringing. Swedes are mortgaged over the roof top, and no one buys a kitchen. Order drought, financial famine. In autumn, Riksbanken, Bank of Sweden, raises the base rate to 500 percent. Kvänum is forced to a layoff. The owners themselves work in the factory and take care of the cleaning, and their wifes are deployed with bucket and scrubber.
France calling! Who’s on the line? It’s Tore! Tore who? Tore Wretman, the celebrated Swedish chef. He’s tired of his old glossy laminate kitchen on the French Riviera. He wishes a new. Olle provides for the freight. And then no one hears a squeak. The kitchen has gone astray. A fortnight later it’s found. The chauffeur took a trip to Saint-Tropez with his wife and kids. Kvänum sends fitters. They see no other solution than sawing a cabinet in two; Tore took the measures with a tailor’s tape. Now all’s fine. You don’t see joiners like that in France, says Tore, when he’s on phone next time.
It will be named Köket hus, House of kitchen, and the projecting is in full swing. Architect Akke Simdahl is drawing a prefab concrete mansion next to E 20 in Jung, 1 200 m² permanent exhibition space for exposure of Kvänum interiors in a neat setting. Salespersons and interior decorators take care of visitors, and the café serves tasty home baked bread. Further training, lectures, press previews, and customer events are arranged on the premise. That’s the plan.
Swedish gastronomy’s doyen Tore Wretman cracks an egg in a bowl and declares Kökets hus inaugurated. It’s the start of a strategic staking on boutiques of our own. On Ikano’s behalf we’re fitting 35 kitchens in a magnificent building on Parizska in Prague with precious wood, mosaic floors, and gold plating. The founder of Ikea and Ikano bank, Ingvar Kamprad, was anxious to have premium and chose Kvänum. He is now taken on a tour around the house, chuckling seemingly very pleased in self-made English.
The turnover is 39 million SEK and there are 53 employees.
From now on the kitchen will be slightly more silent. The first generation of drawer cushioning is introduced. We’re delivering 50 swank kitchens to posh Mumford Mills in London.
Turning Torso in Malmö is finalised. In Spanish architect Calatrava’s spectacular spiral, right angles are banned. Kvänum fits kitchen, bath, and storage in all 147 flats. Stefan manages the operation on site. One day they’re having lunch sitting atop the skyscraper far out on a beam, dangling legs like Iroquois in New York, eyes wide open following the winding coastline of south Sweden into Öresund with Copenhagen and island Ven in sun haze, realising that it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
The turnover shows a steep increase up to 175 million SEK, partly as a result of the investment in new showrooms and boutiques of our own, allowing us to fully focus on our customers and their needs. 40 licensed kitchens are delivered to Benwell Road in London, and at Stockholm Furniture Fair, we present the intriguing wardrobe concept Cube with sliding doors and walk in closet. The greatest hit, though, seems to be our retro kitchens.
Stefan and Anders fit a kitchen in Paris. The French plumber is on booze. Madam tells him to behave. His wife turns up for a sobriety check. He blows reluctantly. A cabinet needs gluing. The joiners find antique clamps in a hardware store around the corner. When they’re done, cartoon, well pap, board patches, and straps are stowed on the trailer. They ruminate on a problem; how can one best hide two cases of wine in the package? The plumber might know, he is the expert. But he’s gone. They just leave them in the trunk. At the Swedish border, ardent custom officers search through the trailer. No one looks in the trunk.
Kvänum is granted a warrant as Purveyor to the Royal Court of Sweden. In Milan it’s the same procedure as every year, and as the first ever Scandinavian kitchen company, Kvänum is invited to the fashionable furniture fair, I Saloni Internazionale del Mobile e Eurocucina. The reception is overwhelming. We’re bonding all over Europe. We brought our own musicians. Their version of O sole mio is highly appreciated by the Italian audience. Broby Pure White is on show, and we’re celebrating with a glass of bubble from Franciacorta. Cin cin!
Salone del Mobile in Milan is as successful as last time. Stefan and Anders are on the loose again. They’ve just torn the showcase and filled the bus with props. While waiting for the truck to come and get the rest, they decide to go out of town and have a nice meal somewhere by a little lago. Suddenly the lorry ahead of them slams on the brakes on green light. With a bang cutlery and flowerpots come flying from behind, and in front, the coolant flows like the Trevi Fountain. Their buggered bus is loaded on a truck, and they catch a flight home.
We’re celebrating our 90th anniversary with coffee, a cake, and a book – Kvänum inside.
After much thought, Stefan, Olle and Anders have decided on selling their beloved Kvänum. Magnus and Niklas Efraimsson, brothers and fourth-generation owners of Vedum, Sweden’s largest family joinery, are approached and seriously consider buying. It wasn’t our intention, says Niklas later. We had already dug deep in our pockets to invest in Vedum.
A new office is erected. Heavy rain and flood complicate the process. But there it is, at last, floating up to the surface, side by side with the factory, light and spacious with facilities like dressing rooms, showers, conference rooms equipped with advanced electronic devices, archive, a common canteen for all on ground floor, and the administration upstairs.
Wood is trend, Intro is more than that, an interior with soul and sheer transparency. Light and air seem to be loadbearing elements. The concept is created by our in-house designer Per Fernholm who receives this year’s well-earned ELLE Decoration Swedish Design Awards.
In quest for the source of Swedish Classicism, Real Classic founds itself in the late and lush 18th century, a period of unprecedented cultural blooming in our country. In September we’re hosting a well-attended press preview at the petite rococo castle Stora Ek outside Mariestad, where our new kitchen Karleby is presented.
“Powerful and minimalistic, rustic and exquisite”. Our new kitchen Liljencrantz for Kvänum, attracts much attention and is very well-received both at home and abroad. For the very first time, Kvänum engages an external designer, acclaimed artist Louise Liljencrantz.
We’re launching our new kitchen Modern Classic Steneby, a graceful mix of old and new, open storage on ribbed shelves and hand-painted woodwork, a new take on bold Swedish Grace – a wink to the simple and subtle 20s classicism.
The turnover is all time high 300 million SEK and there are 143 employees. We’re proud to present Palazzo, a luxurious concept for dressing room and walk in closet, once again a joint venture with Louise Liljencrantz. It’s inspired by Italian Renaissance with double pearl, glass and light plaster, stone and dark plate, coffered ceiling and high base – grandezza from top to toe.
This year’s novelty Spira, takes each day as it comes, in a house by the sea or a chalet in the mountains. The atmosphere of Spira is always the same; relaxed, calm, cool, and inviting. The classic and sometimes distained round rod, is here rightly rectified and elevated to a refined architectural element and load bearing part.
Hello, hooray! Now is now, and we are one hundred years, celebrating a century of genuine craft.