Stockholm’s gallery-centric Ostermalm area abounds with antiques dealers and design purveyors, but real aficionados of vintage Nordic design all know one name by heart: Modernity. The exquisitely curated shop was opened in 1998 by Andrew Duncanson, a Scot with a design retail background (who was later joined by Isaac Pineus with Duncanson), and is anything but a typically spare Scandi-chic setting. “I wanted to get away from the 50-shades-of-white Swedish norm,” says Duncanson, “so I opted for grey walls.”
Within those walls you’ll find a bounty of furniture, lighting, jewellery and decorative objects by the greats of 20th-century design, including Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl, Georg Jensen, Arne Jacobsen, Poul Hennigsen and Alvar Aalto, as well as works by lesser-known but equally accomplished artisans. While 99 per cent of the pieces are by midcentury Nordic designers, there are a few contemporary items – and Isamu Noguchi’s famous Akari paper lamps (£630) as “the Japanese aesthetic works well with the Swedish sensibility”.
The jewellery and ceramics section is especially eye-catching. Custom shelves and glass vitrines highlight dramatic pieces, such as 1960s silver collar necklaces (from £1,000) by Ibe Dahlquist for Georg Jensen, and a gold and moonstone ring (£1,889) by Swedish maker Sigurd Persson, to dazzling effect. Delicate ceramic and porcelain objects are a passion for Duncanson, whose own Wilhelm Kåge ceramic sculpture and a glass vessel by Tapio Wirkkala were among the store’s first sales. Current highlights include ethereal, organic vases (from £3,500) by sought-after contemporary Italian maker Sandra Davolio; a 1980s celadon-glazed teapot (£598) by Signe Persson Melin for Rörstrand; and a rare, signed Axel Salto for Royal Copenhagen vessel (£50,000) from the 1950s.
Duncanson specialises in provenance: a 1949 Finn Juhl for Niels Vodder sculptural Chieftain armchair (£165,000) in teak and leather is “in mint condition, which is almost impossible to find”; and an iconic Poul Hennigsen Question Mark floor lamp (£22,000) from the 1930s is a rare find. Among Modernity’s most prized offerings is a one-of-a-kind Brazilian rosewood and brass sideboard (£35,000) designed by Ernst Kühn in 1935; it contrasts beautifully with a sleek, customisable bar cabinet (to order, from £30,000) by Ilse Crawford.
An array of 1930s textiles – hand-knotted kilims (from £15,000) by Märta Måås-Fjetterström; a leather and fabric 1950s tapestry (£2,917) by Sten Kauppi – lend the showroom a homely feel. Candlesticks (£533) by Swedish maker Stig Lindberg; a Finnish leaded-glass vase (£2,917) by Gunnel Nyman for Nuutajärvi Notsjö; and sculptural wooden bowls (from £300) by Jonny Mattsson from the 1950s round out the design delights.
With a client base that ranges from MoMA and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to “people who just come in and want to buy something small and beautiful”, Duncanson buys with a breadth of products in mind. “With pieces ranging from £1,000 to £250,000, the whole concept is to offer an experience. Every object has a story to tell, and I really feel like each one ultimately finds its right home.”