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Open houses become real-time design museums in Sweden

The Home Viewing Exhibitions turn everyday houses into showcases for contemporary Swedish design

“The Home Viewing Exhibitions,” a new program launched by the Swedish Design Museum, seeks to showcase the country’s design heritage by giving tourists a first-hand experience in a curated group of homes.
Swedish Design Museum

Design trends and architectural movements usually take years, if not decades, to filter down from private residences into home museums or exhibitions. An innovative new program in Sweden aims to offer visitors a real-time tour of contemporary design trends by simply bringing the museum into private residences.

The Home Viewing Exhibitions, a new program launched by the Swedish Design Museum last month, seeks to showcase the country’s design heritage by giving tourists a first-hand experience in a curated group of homes. Spread across the country, from downtown Stockholm apartments to rural villas and country homes on Baltic Sea islands, the constellation of well-designed spaces seeks to turn the open house experience into a snapshot of Scandinavian design and culture.

“Swedish design and architecture come in many shapes and sizes,” said Jennie Skogsborn Missuna, chief experience officer at Visit Sweden, in a statement. “To truly show the diversity we could never collect enough objects in one place. By changing perspective and looking at regular home viewings as exhibitions, we don’t have to.”

Recently renovated, this minimalist 1950’s coastal cottage, located in Degeberga, on Sweden’s southeast coast and one of the first homes included in the exhibit, has been decorated with natural materials that blend the interior with the exterior.
Swedish Design Museum
This summer cottage is an “attefallshus,” a new type of home that takes advantage of 2014 legislation that allows home owners to build a permanent residence measuring up to 25-meter square (270 square feet) and 4 meters high without seeking planning permission. Originally designed to alleviate housing shortages, these structures have become particularly popular at summer residences such as this one, to accommodate growing and extended families.
Swedish Design Museum

Each of the participating homes, all currently on the market, was selected by British design writer Niki Brantmark, who started the My Scandinavian Home blog. The current roster of open houses can be visited person through November 17, though Missuna says they might offer another round of tours in the future. The tours will also live online for an unlimited amount of time.

Missuna told Curbed the concept fits into the goals of the country’s Visit Sweden tourist initiative, which helped create and design the tours. Internationally, Sweden is perceived as a country that promotes design for everyone—hello, Ikea—so what better way to show design in an authentic, non-exclusive way than to literally invite travelers inside? The online itinerary, and handouts inside the homes, also include suggested design-focused places to visit near the homes on display, which contain no additional curation.

“Design isn’t put on a pedestal here, or placed behind glass,” she says.

The street-level signage used as part of the Swedish Design Museum’s new, rotating home tour exhibition.
Swedish Design Museum
“To truly show the diversity we could never collect enough objects in one place. By changing perspective and looking at regular home viewings as exhibitions, we don’t have to.”
Swedish Design Museum

The program offers a cost-effective departure for the online-only museum, using the real estate agents as on-site guides. It also picks up on a public hunger for experiencing everyday design, fusing the exploratory nature of large-scale public architecture tours, such as the Open House exhibitions found in many major U.S. cities, with the voyeuristic joy of open houses and Zillow binging. Missuna didn’t have visitor numbers to share yet, but says web traffic has increased significantly since the exhibition started.