• March 2022

    Sara Lindqvist – master upholsterer at Norrgavel

    An unusually handy sister, encouraging parents and a TV programme are some of the clues as to why Sara Lindqvist chose to enrol in an upper secondary school course specialising in upholstery. Almost 30 years later, Sara is a prominent professional in her field and has managed to train at Carl Malmsten's workshop school, work as an upholsterer in France, work in the studio of master upholsterer Bernt Stenberg, be a vocational teacher at Malmsten's for many years, run her own company with several prestigious assignments on her CV - and most recently be part of the team at Norrgavel.

    That Sara accepted the offer of employment at Norrgavel was not at all obvious. With a thriving upholstery company, an apartment in Stockholm and two school-age children, the move to Malmö was not a decision to be taken lightly. But if you are a problem solver through and through, most things work out and the move to Skåne happened. Since the autumn of 2021, Sara is responsible for quality assurance and implementing improvements in the existing range at Norrgavel, being involved in the process of developing new furniture and being an important link between Norrgavel's development team and manufacturing. Sara's focus on working with traditional natural materials, combined with her solid knowledge and experience in the upholstery profession, made her a dream candidate for Norrgavel. And sometimes things just fall into place.

    – The fact that the question came from Norrgavel was crucial. If someone else had asked, I would probably have said no, says Sara.

    “If someone else had asked, I would probably have said no.”

    In an old brick building in the middle of Kockum's former industrial area in the Dockan neighbourhood, Sara has her workplace at Norrgavel. Next door to the office is the furniture workshop where all furniture prototypes are created and polished before they get the green light and eventually end up in the seven Norrgavel stores. In the room is a shell sofa with open plush seats, mounted on wooden trestles. Various stuffing materials, upholstery tools, fabrics and sewing machines also share the space. Despite the amount of stuff, there is an ordered calmness in the room and even Sara radiates an impressive calmness in the midst of all the work waiting to be done.

    Her own company Trådrakt AB, with premises in Hägersten, is still active even though Sara is only on site one week a month these days. But thanks to the company's two employees, the business is still going strong. And the focus there is mainly on furniture with hand-laced elastic, loose horsehair and traditional upholstery - but also lampshades.

    – I've specialised in 20th century furniture, up to the 50s and 60s, and it's basically all natural materials, says Sara.

    Sara opens up the Norrgavel sofa and shows the natural contents.

    It is mostly governmental institutions and corporate clients who turn to Sara's upholstery workshop for assistance. One particularly large and prestigious assignment that Sara completed a few years ago was the 25 benches for the National Museum in Stockholm. The museum chose to invest in quality, and the benches are constructed essentially in the same way as upholstered Norrgavel furniture. To top it off, the benches received a beautiful covering of vegetable-tanned Tärnsjö leather. The assignment was carried out in collaboration with the design duo Folkform. The museum's decision to proceed with a newly designed piece of furniture with only natural materials in the upholstery was remarkable and very pleasing.

    But back to Norrgavel to take a closer look at the upholstered furniture, which is Sara's area of focus.

    How are Norrgavel's upholstered furniture constructed compared to a 'standard sofa,' and how does this affect durability?
    – It's both the same and vastly different. At first glance, it might be challenging to discern the differences between them. However, it's when you open them up and see the contents that the distinction becomes striking. Norrgavel's furniture is mostly constructed from natural materials, whereas most standard sofas have foam padding. Regarding foam padding, there's a whole spectrum of different qualities depending on the desired characteristics for a specific piece of furniture. It's a versatile material to work with, and as an upholsterer, I can understand why it has had such a significant impact. However. The material itself originates from an oil-based product, which of course poses a problem even if it's easy to work with and sometimes relatively cheap. Additionally, it may contain flame retardants and other additives to enhance its durability.

    “The cushions are removable and built according to the layering principle, which is unique to Norrgavel.“

    If one is accustomed to a regular sofa filled with cold foam, what will be different when acquiring a Norrgavel piece of furniture?
    – Above all, it's a different type of care that's required for the natural materials to shine. Fluffing and airing! Essentially, it's a matter of attitude. Something I've noticed since I started working at Norrgavel is that Nirvan (Norrgavel's founder) has a different, slightly softer approach to upholstered furniture. When I see a dent in a piece of furniture, my spontaneous thought is that it's something I need to fix, whereas Nirvan sees it as 'here, someone has sat.' He sees traces of life, something positive... But of course, one must consider what suits oneself – a square cushion without maintenance needs or a plush, softly living feeling with natural materials. Many of our covers are made of linen, and linen covers sometimes have a life of their own. They expand with use and shrink after washing. It's simply something one has to live with.

    “Fluff and air! Essentially, it's a matter of attitude.“

    In what way are Norrgavel's sofas easy to live with in everyday life?
    – Firstly, Norrgavel's sofas are high-quality furniture designed to truly last. Since many hours are spent on the sofa, it's essential for it to be genuinely good and comfortable. Some customers wonder whether they should wait to buy a Norrgavel sofa when they have small children. However, it might be precisely then, when one is extra concerned about choosing non-toxic options and surrounding oneself with clean and healthy materials, that it fits best. The padding doesn't get ruined at all; it withstands jumping children. It's more about choosing the upholstery fabric based on the life stage one is in. If you have small children, it might be wise to choose a color that is forgiving of stains. But as long as you follow the washing and care instructions, the upholstery will hold up excellently over time and through different life stages. The entire sofa, from the frame and structure to the padding, is extremely well-made. It's truly worth having it reupholstered if needed in the future. Norrgavel's sofas can essentially live on for as long as possible, and as a customer, you can order new cushions and upholstery when that day comes.

    “Norrgavel's sofas can essentially live on for as long as possible.“

    But what about those clues that led to Sara's choice—how is it that a 15-year-old applies to the upholstery program in high school?
    Sara's sister Anna, who is five years older, played a decisive role in the choice of career path. Anna, who had always been incredibly interested in crafts, chose to study a scientific program but found neither joy nor a clear career path in it (eventually, she became a shoemaker instead). This sparked a thought in Sara about pursuing a vocational education that truly opened doors to employment. And if it didn't work out, she could always pursue further studies later. At the same time, Sara had full support from her parents, who had always encouraged her dreams of craftsmanship. Her mother was forced to attend home economics school when she was young but actually wanted to become a gardener, and her father worked in a photo shop. For a while, Sara actually considered becoming a stove maker, but then she saw that TV program about the upholstery profession, and the matter was settled. She applied and was accepted into the upholstery program at S:t Görans Gymnasium in Stockholm, and after completing her high school education, Sara continued with a two-year program at the Carl Malmsten Workshop School in Stockholm.

    One of the teachers at the training program was Bernt Stenberg, already a legend in the upholstery world. During her education, Sara started working part-time with Bernt and rented space in his studio in Lidingö after completing her training. It was an educational time with the man who authored the textbook 'Möbelstoppning som hantverk' in 1988—a sort of bible for upholstery training even today.

    – The book hadn't been reprinted since 1988, but there was a significant need for a comprehensive textbook. Finally, in 2019, a new edition of the book was published. Since I had worked as a teacher at Malmstens for many years, I knew which parts of the book needed further explanation or clarification. In collaboration with the editor, I was tasked with reviewing the content of the new edition. Now, the book has also been published in English, says Sara.

    Sara opens up the cushions of the Norrgavel sofa in the office and demonstrates how the recent adjustments simplify maintenance. There is no doubt that Sara is a specialist in identifying opportunities and personifies the term problem-solver. What a stroke of luck it was that Sara chose the upholstery program instead of becoming a stove maker.

    Furniture upholsterer master

    She runs her own business and is employed by Norrgavel as a product developer.

    44 years

    In Stockholm & Limhamn.