A Collector’s Guide to Scandinavia
1stdibs founder Michael Bruno heads to the Land of the Midnight Sun for a design getaway that’s equal parts business and pleasure
Michael Bruno has a job that most people would envy. The former real estate magnate and founder of 1stdibs—an online marketplace for distinctive vintage furniture, jewelry, art, and antiques—has scoured the planet in search of rare treasures, from Berber rugs sourced in Marrakech to midcentury furniture in Rome. His discoveries are readily available to anyone with an Internet connection, an appreciation for good design, and, more often than not, some serious cash to spare.
Bruno’s concept has brought the antiques industry into the 21st century for an ever-growing network of international dealers (currently more than 1,800) and buyers (over 11,000 items are sold each month). But until late last year, one iconic region remained astonishingly absent from Bruno’s roster: Scandinavia. So the intrepid collector organized a five-day trip through the Land of the Midnight Sun, from Stockholm to Copenhagen, recruiting Swedish and Danish dealers to sell their wares on his site. What began as a business venture quickly expanded into a personal tour as his contacts revealed the local gems in one of the world’s most stylish destinations. Now Bruno is once again sharing his takeaways, from the best-designed boutique hotels to the must-visit restaurants, and offering a behind-the-scenes peek at the pieces that are now part of his inventory.
While much has been said of the Scandinavian design scene, Bruno was surprised by the general atmosphere of the region. “There was a remarkably gentle feeling to the whole place—a feminine, airy quality,” he says. “They use these amazing shades of gray and taupe and tan to play off the light. Everything has a certain delicateness; designs are not as ornate as they are in other places in Europe. I think it stems from living somewhere that is dark for so long—the need to reflect light all winter.” In fact, Bruno was so inspired by the palette that he adopted it in the stairwell of his Manhattan townhouse.
Bruno happily threw himself into his work, spending much of the trip browsing through galleries and showrooms. “Sibyllegatan, in the Östermalm neighborhood of Stockholm, is the best street for vintage design and antiques,” he says. One dealer not to miss: Modernity, at Sibyllegatan 6, for big-name Nordic pieces (Jacobsen, Aalto) as well as furniture and decorative accessories from more obscure yet equally intriguing lines.
He also found a bit of time to play tourist, relishing his explorations of Stockholm’s Skeppsholmen Island—“a gorgeous place to walk, like being out in the country but near important sites such as the Moderna Museet, the Nationalmuseum, and the Royal Palace.” In Copenhagen, the sprawling, colorful commune of Christiania got his attention, as did the gourmet food store Løgismose (“where everything is neat and well organized”). His favorite place to stay? The city’s Nimb Hotel, located at the edge of the historic amusement park Tivoli Gardens and set in a 1909 Moroccan-inspired structure. “The decor is beyond chic,” says Bruno of the sleek black, white, and gray interiors.
Given his insider access, Bruno also enjoyed the kinds of leisure activities most visitors aren’t fortunate enough to experience. “Meeting Alexander From, who owns the Gustavian-focused Selected Antiques in Aalsgaarde [, Denmark], was a highlight of my trip,” says Bruno. “I was thrilled to have him recommend Café Victor, a local favorite.” The fashionable Copenhagen brasserie also yields some of the best people-watching opportunities in town.
From and his wife, an artist, invited Bruno and the 1stdibs team for tea at their home, a minimalist contemporary space in Malmö on the Øresund Strait. Through Selected Antiques, Bruno also sourced his favorite souvenir of the journey: a Danish ceramic deer by Dahl Jensen Royal Copenhagen designer Knud Kyhn. “The piece wasn’t for sale, yet somehow I convinced them to part with it,” he says with evident satisfaction. Just don’t expect to find it on 1stdibs.