Yngve Ekström (Sweden)

Yngve Ekström (1913-1988), an architect, woodworker, and furniture designer hailing from Hagafors, Småland, in Southern Sweden, had a diverse range of skills and experiences. Following the death of his father, Ekström joined the Hagafors Chair Factory, Sweden’s oldest furniture factory, at the age of thirteen. The combination of his family’s carpentry background and the knowledge acquired at the factory laid a strong foundation of artisanal expertise.

At the age of eighteen, Ekström set out to pursue a career in design. He enrolled in courses on drawing, painting, and sculpture, and visited the Röhsska Museum for decorative and applied arts in Gothenburg. In 1945, Ekström, along with his older brother Jerker (1911-2006) and friend Bertil Sjöqvist, established ESE Furniture in their hometown. Although they faced initial challenges, the company achieved a breakthrough with their laminated veneer chair called Thema (1952). The chair, designed for efficient shipping as it could be flat-packed, gained popularity and propelled the company forward. After Sjöqvist’s departure, the company was rebranded as Swedese. Although it was sold in 1974, Ekström remained an active contributor to the company until his demise in 1988.

Ekström, along with renowned designers such as Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971), and Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980), played a pivotal role in shaping the midcentury Scandinavian modern style. One of Ekström’s most celebrated works is the Lamino Chair, designed for Swedese in 1956, which continues to be produced today. This iconic armchair features a minimalist design with an undulating shape and a wooden frame crafted from layered bentwood, supported by bent tubular steel legs. In 1999, the chair was honored as the “20th-Century’s Best Swedish Furniture Design” by the Swedish magazine Sköna Hems. Additionally, it received the Design Innovation Award from IMM Cologne in 2003.