It was 1889 and electricity had just been introduced to Sweden when designer Ludvig Andersson launched Kasthall to produce rugs and curtains designed in collaboration with Scandinavia’s best creatives.
In the small town of Kinna four hours south-west of Stockholm, Kasthall was Sweden's first industrial rug factory and its growing reputation for beauty and quality drew prominent designers including Astrid Sampe who had become well known for her innovative take on textiles. Mixing industrial production with the traditions of Nordic textile design, Astrid was a rising star in her own right who studied in Sweden and at the Royal College of Art in London. She first gained experience running the textile department at the Nordiska Kompaniet department store, now known as NK, where she introduced the work of some of Scandinavia’s best designers like architect Arne Jacobsen, and textile designer Viola Gråsten who she later collaborated with at Kasthall.
Craftsmanship is central to more than a century of weaving knowledge found at Kasthall and their factory and headquarters in Kinna. Their Nordic knowhow and approach to the way natural materials perform, about patterns and colours, and a rich history of textile ingenuity, unfold here where the entire production process from yarn to finished rug remains insitu. “Product developers and designers work side by side at Kasthall” remarks the Kasthall team. “The human eye and human touch play vital parts in every stage of manufacturing."
Underlying the designs produced by Kasthall are the textiles they carefully select. Wool and linen inform the main palette which focuses on natural and renewable fibres and a philosophy that embraces a closed loop approach. Once a rug has reached the end of its life the wool or linen can be returned to the soil and will naturally compost. The wool yarn selected from New Zealand and Europe is relatively thick, with coarse fibres that produce super tough and durable rugs. While Kasthall’s European linen has been harvested using the traditional method, leaving the flax in the field to rot so that the linen fibres can be extracted naturally, instead of using chemicals that require five times the amount of water during production.
Working closely with local designers has been central to the development of the Kasthall collection, while more recent collaborations with designers Ilse Crawford, Paola Navone and Raquel Pacchini. has produced another layer to their design story.
The influence of Ilse Crawford, designer, academic and creative director, and her philosophy of putting people at ease within a space, has informed a collection of rugs that supports and enhances everyday life. The design collaboration, which began in 2017, consists of three woven rugs inspired by the rhythm and tones of nature – Fåra, Glänta and Ängmark, as well as the hand-tufted rugs Täppa and Åker. While Raquel Pacchini, a Brazilian-born Italian designer, gained experience and skills working with Patricia Urquiola across the Spanish designers multi-disciplinary studio. Now working from her own design studio in Milan, she has produced the Poppy Cloud collection that is a playful twist on the hand tufted rug Poppy and part of the Soul of Nature range. It takes inspiration from the ever-changing colours of the landscape. Curious to play with technique and explore craftsmanship, Raquel challenged the Kasthall Design Studio to create a mix of different yarns, a cut fringe border, and colour ways from Pink Sky, Sunset Orange and Twilight Gold. While a long collaboration with Paola Navone whose experience includes furniture, jewellery, architecture, clothing and ceramics, combines Paola’s highly individual design idiom with the development of the Doodle collection designed with the input of Kasthall’s craftsmanship and experience working with natural yarns.
One of the classics in the collection is Moss. Designed in the 1990s, the long-pile rug mixes long linen threads with short coarse wool yarn that "makes the rug soft and luxurious, with a distinctive character”. Its colour combinations range from bright block colours to sophisticated graphic nuances. Designed by Gunilla Lagerhielm Ullberg who was the group’s head designer for nearly 30 years and remembered as ‘The Queen of Rugs’, Gunilla is responsible for Kasthall’s classics – Moss, Fogg, Häggå and Tekla – that have won design accolades.
When the Kasthall Design Studio looked for ways to further the company’s environmental stewardship, the Harvest collection was developed. Putting leftover spools of yarn from the production process to use, the Harvest range allows each rug to develop its own unique appearance. Headed up by design director Lena Jiseborn who studied at The Swedish School of Textiles at the University of Borås, followed by design director roles at Saab and Volvo, Lena had the ideal background for the many collaborative and custom design projects Kasthall develops in-house.
From Chanel to Dior and Saint Laurent, most recently Kasthall worked with Acne Studios and Max Lamb. The collaboration began in 2016 when British designer Max Lamb and the Acne Studios team spent time with the Kasthall Design Studio experimenting with and understanding different weaving techniques. The result is a series of hand-tufted rugs, where colour was drizzled and sprayed on the yarn using a technique developed by Max Lamb.
In a year of celebrations, other projects include a book and photographic exhibition to commemorate Kasthall’s rug making heritage. Working with photographer Pär Olofsson and fashion magazine Scandinavian MAN, ‘Hover’ reimagines rugs from the collection as magical hovering objects. The photographs are now travelling the world to mark Kasthall’s 130th birthday.