The Home And Studio Of Swedish Furniture Upholsterer Carina Grefmar

I moved into my studio in the centre of Malmö exactly one year ago. It was such a relief to leave my home office behind me, I was honestly climbing the walls (for those of you who may have experienced it for the first time this year, I'm sure you can relate!). But the absolute best thing of all was acquiring two new 'colleagues' one off whom, came in the shape of furniture upholsterer and craftsperson extraordinaire Carina Grefmar

I'd met Carina several times before at events around Malmö (loves a party this one!) but it was only chatting and seeing her work on a daily basis that I got to understand her sheer talent for craftsmanship: if you're looking to restore a piece of furniture, Carina's Sweden's finest. 

I decided it was time to put on (another) pot of coffee and quiz Carina about her passion for good design and craftsmanship, her lovely home and vast shoe collection! 

You must have the shortest commute of anyone I know!
I've had my studio for around sixteen years, I love it, it's my safe place - no matter how rocky life gets, it's my one stability. I always dreamt of being my own neighbour, so when the apartment next door came up around five years ago, I jumped at it. 

A vintage Eames armchair rocker, Alf Svensson side cabinet, and the Guariche lamp (one of Carina's favourites) take centre-stage in Carina's bedroom. 

What drew you to the studio and apartment? 
The building dates back to 1895 and has a ceiling height of 3,60 which is really high - I love that! You can put anything in this space and it will look good. 

The Stålhane vase was one of the very first ceramic pieces carina bought. 

Did you make any changes to your rented apartment?
The previous owner had a huge flat TV in the middle of the room, and everything was white. I don't like white, it's not a colour, so that had to change!  

Carina made her patchwork bed spread using scraps from her upholstery work over the years. 

You don't like white? How very un-Scandinavian!
Yes, but like many Scandinavians, I also don't go for bright colours, I appreciate subtle, calm shades like a hint of earthy green.  Some of my pieces of furniture and accessories are colourful but the background is always calm.

An Ax chair by Hvidt & Mølgaard, which Carina has upholstered in non-tanned vegetable leather, sits beside a side-table - a prototype designed by Louise Hederström - which Carina also updated with leather.

Your home is full of vintage design treasures and fun, quirky touches. When did your passion for design begin? 
I've loved well-crafted shoes since I was seven. And then I lived abroad in my late teens and experienced some fantastic, well-made lamps and furniture which I'd never seen before - that's when my passion for collecting design classics began.  

These days, I collect pieces from all over the world. I'm particularly drawn to Scandinavian furniture since I like the clean lines and light wood. I also love classic Italian and French lighting. My home is full of small knick-knacks collected over time, such Swedish ceramics (some of which are made by designer friends) and other pieces I really like and feel a connection to. 

How does your passion for the environment and sustainability translate into the world of design and home decor? 
Today there are so many badly made products on the market. The price-tag may make them seem cheap, but don't be fooled, they're actually very expensive. If you have to buy a new sofa every five years, it makes it expensive. When my grandparents got married, they invested in expensive furniture for their home and they enjoyed them until the day they died. 

Well executed design lasts longer. It makes sense to invest in pieces made from solid, honest materials that can be fixed when they break. Vintage items from the fifties and sixties are particularly well-made!

A pendant lamp by Max Sauze hangs over a Finn Juhl coffee table and a 50s floor lamp by Stilnovo. The bench is by Carina's friend, Malmö designer Louise Hederström.

What are your go-to resources for second-hand / Scandinavian design originals? 
I source items from all over the world both for myself and clients - mainly using online auctions, but also some dealers and contacts I've made in the business over the years. 

Do you have a favourite piece?
I don't have one favourite item - although, I do love my rare porcelain Swedish baby dragons! My lamps and shoes are probably my most treasured pieces. 

Table lamp by Cosack Leuchten 

You have more shoes than anyone else I know! How many pairs do you have?
More than 100! I love how I feel in really well-made shoes. 

Have you ever thought about making shoes? 
Yes, I have! Maybe in the future, who knows?

How did you get into upholstery? 
I had a serious motorbike accident and realised I was living someone else's life. I quit my job in search of something that would ensure I was self-sufficient at the same time as being interesting and fun. I made a list of things I enjoyed and that I was good at - and came to the conclusion that upholstery would be a good idea. I was accepted into upholstery school and have been working as an upholsterer for 22 years. I love it! 

What do you love most about your work?
It's very diverse and involves many different techniques and materials. I am constantly evolving and growing with every piece I rebuild. It's a constant challenge, which I really enjoy.  

What is the hardest thing about your job?
Upholstery is incredibly physical and really takes its toll on your body. It also requires a wide skillset. You need to be a problem-solver, have an eye for what a furniture should look like compared to its current state and also be knowledgeable about furniture design, colour and fabrics. It requires a serious amount of dedication! 

I love seeing the incredible pieces that come into the studio. What is the most memorable item you've refurbished? 
I once refurbished a magnificent AP45 Wegner Wing chair from the 1960s that wasn't in production at that time. I worked from pictures to restore it to its former glory and remodelled it in leather. I was so pleased with the results and was a little sad to say goodbye to it by the end! Recently, I refurbished a set of limited-edition Arne Jacobsen Giraffe chairs, working again from pictures. It was a real challenge, but the client was thrilled with the results! 

You also work with new designs, what's the background to this?  
A few years ago, I was paired up with Swedish designer Louise Hederström to create the Ticka shelves. She knew I was good at strange shapes - and she certainly challenged me! It was a strong partnership from start to finish. I could tell from Louise's sketches what would work and what wouldn't, and she adapted the design accordingly. I then made them by hand here in the studio. Today, the Ticka shelves can be found in the Hostler Burrows galleries in LA and New York - and one even made its way into the home of Robert Downey Junior! Louise and I continue to work together on new products using untreated Swedish vegetable leather under the brand G+H (Grefmar Hederström).

How do you feel your work will pave the way for future upholsterers and craftspeople?  
We often hear the name of the designer behind a piece of furniture, but it's rare to know the craftsperson. I've always felt inspired by Ivan Schlecter whose name was etched on the furniture he made in partnership with big-name Danish designers such as Klint and Kjærholm. In fact, his stamp made the furniture more valuable. And now, after a lot of dedication, my name is starting to appear on the furniture I make. I hope this will inspire other craftspeople, and help them to be recognised for their work. It's important for people to understand the hard work that goes into making furniture - so they appreciate it even more. 

The Spoar bench is a Grefmar + Hederström design. 

I did say Carina's one impressive lady, didn't I?

This has given me so much food for thought, how about you? I particularly appreciate the point about investing in well-made pieces. 

I hope you feel as inspired by this interview, as I feel inspired by Carina on a daily basis! 

Do follow @carinagrefmar on Instagram to see her latest projects and shenanigans! 

Wishing y'all a fabulous Tuesday! 



  1. She has such a great eye for unique pieces. I would love every one of the lamps. Thank you for introducing me to some unknown to me lighting.

  2. Scandinavian design is marked by a focus on clean, simple lines, minimalism, and functionality without sacrificing beauty. It's awesome!


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