Street Style: Midsommarkransen

| Words: Peter Steen-Christensen

Over the past decade, Midsommarkransen has been evolving into a “suburban Södermalm”, something of a bohemian outpost on the fringes of the city centre. This trend escalated when Konstfack opened up in the old Ericsson building by Telefonplan a few years back, although the neighbourhood has long been known for its many artisan and handicraft stores.

Midsommarkransen was originally the name of a restaurant that belonged to the Hägersten farm. In 1901, the land was sold to a property company, which built the first multi-family houses in 1908, and over the decades the area developed into a somewhat rough working-class area. Those times have now been left behind, and the Midsommarkransen of today is one of the most sought-after addresses in the city.

Kransen feels more like an idyllic village in the country than a metropolitan suburb. The quarter is dotted with many small parks, some of which host music festivals in the summertime. The neighbourhood even boasts its very own movie theatre, as well as cafés, restaurants, and shops that easily hold a candle to their counterparts within the city limits, and they give the tight-knit community of Midsommarkransen a good reason to be proud of living there.

Culture in Kransen

Tellus is the true cultural heart of Midsommarkransen. The theatre opened at Vattenledningsvägen 46 in 1920 and was run as a commercial movie theatre until the mid-eighties, when it was taken over by a non-profit organization. Tellus is one of the few independent cinemas left in Stockholm, but it offers much more than just film screenings. Events include after-work jazz concerts, poetry readings, art exhibitions, knitting clubs, game nights and language exchanges. Then there’s the café with its scrumptious homemade goods created by the various members of the organization.

At the beginning of summer and the end of the cinema season, Tellus organises its very own Woodstock: the Motborgarmusikfesten. The free music festival has been held in Svandammsparken for 14 years in a row now and is a smashing success.

MusikMACKen

MACK was founded in Midsommarkransen in 1912 by four friends: Mathiesen, Andersson, Collin and Key. Their initials would form the word that would go on to be the standard Swedish word for gas station. The site has since served many other companies, but in the early 1990s Tellus contacted the current resident, Dahl’s Forging and Welding, and asked if it would be possible to use the space for a gig. The event was a triumph and the pair would go on to collaborate regularly on similar projects. In 2002, Göte Dahl decided to close the workshop altogether and instead open up a music café.

MusikMACKen’s free music festival celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and the festivities (including 12 hours of non-stop music) are scheduled for August 25th at Julikullen.

To get there

An outing in Midsommarkransen can easily be arranged by taking the red subway line heading towards Fruängen, and stop at the Midsommarkransen station. Or do as the local denizens and ride your bike there!

Shops and services

Mimmi Staaf Möbelmakeri & Butik, Ringdansvägen 3

“About three years ago I sat in the subway and saw an ad for upholstery evening classes. I decided to start and got hooked immediately and all I wanted to do was travel to flea markets and get furniture to upholster, paint and re-make,” says Mimmi Staaf.

After two years of studies she started up her own store last January, just around the corner from where she lives. The shop is petite but perfectly arranged, displaying a candy-colour collection of chairs, pillows and blankets ideal for a summer picnic. The various animal prints give it a cutesy quality, and there’s something extremely nostalgic about the old wooden box filled with pink raspberry soda that serves as window display.

“The premise of the company is to remake furniture I find at flea markets, auctions, the internet et cetera with different colour and textiles. I also sell design products from smaller producers who fit my concept.

“My clientele is very mixed, but mostly people around 30 that appreciate the mix of the retro, modern, and graphic style that I try to express with the furniture. I think and hope that the people who live around here fit the concept of the store and understand the value of crafts and design and the idea of recycling.”

“I grew up in a small town and like the feeling here as Midsommarkransen is like a small town in the big city. It’s in some way relaxed and hip without trying.”

Hallmans, Svandammsvägen 18

Christian Wiklund is in the business of producing pride and glory. His company, Hallmans, is a staple in the award-making trade and their specialty is sports trophies and medals. The shop demonstrates this splendour well, with towering rows of prizes of all shapes and sizes.

“We work with national and regional associations in all kinds of sports as well as large and small companies,” says Christian. “We moved the company to Midsommerkransen three years ago, as the area is very easy to access via underground and by road and the premises suited our needs for having both a shop, warehouse space and a production area.”

And what has his impression of the neighbourhood been since? “I think the area is quite unique with lots of small shops and restaurants but it doesn’t have the hectic environment of the centre of Stockholm. You see all kinds of people here, from young mothers having coffee with their friends to teenagers from the school nearby to older people who have lived here a long time. We also have a lot of different people coming to our store, from embassy people to the husband who wants to buy a medal for his wife.”

Lyckliga Gatan, Svandammsvägen 8

“I love clothes and fashion, especially old clothes of good design and quality that have their own story and soul. Mix that with newer clothes and accessories and you have your own personal style,” says owner Elin Broberg.

In the six months Lyckliga Gatan has been open, Elin has managed to create that personal touch she so cherishes. Her shop is located right in the heart of Kransen, across from the café-filled Skvallertorget. This vintage utopia is an amalgam of 20th century elements, composed of colourful dresses, natural history classroom posters, handmade hats, funky lamps, teak furniture, chic sunglasses, and design glassware, all jumbled together in a true curiosity shop fashion. “Every little thing I sell makes a tiny hole in my heart but at the same time it makes me happy to see my items get a new home and add to their story.”

“My family was always into antiques and design and my parents have their own auction business which I’ve worked with since I was a kid. After I moved to Stockholm I worked with second hand for many years and always had the dream of owning my shop. The name of my store comes from a very beautiful old song of the same name that Anna-Lena Löfgren sang in the sixties. It’s about the old times that have been taken from her and she sings in a very melancholy way about the good old times in the Stockholm suburbs.”

“Midsommarkransen doesn’t feel like a typical suburb; it’s more like a small town in the country. It feels like time goes by slowly out here, but in a good way! Here you’ll find the man with the dogs that everyone knows, the smoking lady outside the bet store, the trendy gay couple, the lonely woman who always wants to chat, the lonely man who doesn’t want to chat, the vintage blogger, the drunks, the regular Swedish family, the regular foreign family, the irregular family, the grownup teenager that still lives with his mother and plays computer games the whole night, the art student from Konstfack, and the hipster kids from Söder that have grown up, got a job in the media business and are now walking their first kid around in a retro stroller.”

Möbelgruppen, Svandammsvägen 15

Kransen’s oldest antique shop is a wonderful hodgepodge of collectable film star cards, soviet era badges, sturdy furniture, old globes, electric guitars hanging from the ceiling alongside fancy chandeliers, a tin can collection perfect for storing home-baked cookies, and an army of porcelain statues only an eccentric aunt could assemble.

I catch owner Calle Berggren organizing his record collection outside his shop, which he opened up over two decades ago. “It was a coincidence I got into the antique business and my enthusiasm has just continued to grow ever since.”

“I like it here in Midsommarkransen. Even though it’s a suburb it has the mood of the city. My costumers are mostly young people, which is also who you find living in this neighbourhood nowadays. The biggest change since I’ve been here is that people here have more money than they used to. This is no white-trash neighbourhood anymore.”

Eating and drinking

Majkens Café, Tegelbruksvägen 2

The staff at Majkens is getting ready to open for the day. The place is full of energy as 1970s rock music fills the room and Monica Eklöf, co-owner, dashes around the kitchen, preparing for the expected lunch rush. She looks like a country girl in her summer dress, apron and clogs, her braids completing the look.

“As returning expats we looked for something both of us (me and my husband Anders) could pour our soul into. We thought a traditional family-run café with a personal touch combined with a selection of home-made pastries, sandwiches and light dishes and coffee from a small but serious coffee-roasting house would suit us perfectly.”

The café has a snug and settled-in feel and the real gem is the beautiful backroom with its floral and frilly antique furniture and colourful rugs and lamps collected by Monica from Laos and Vietnam. The café doubles as an ice-cream bar, and the cool refreshment can be enjoyed on the red plush sofa on the outdoor terrace, right on Skvallertorget.

“Midsommarkransen is an area that is rapidly changing from its original purpose as a working-class suburb to a high-end chic neighbourhood. It’s a calm, friendly oasis close to the city centre but without its drawbacks. The population here is a dynamic and vibrant mix of young and old with a growing number of slightly bohemian art students. And our café is a natural meeting hub in the area.”

Muffinsfabriken, Nioörtsvägen 26

Picking a muffin at Muffinsfabriken is a daunting task as their assortment spans over 30 mouth-watering flavours. Not to mention that each muffin is enormous, making them extra appetizing. I finally settle on chocolate-banana, and it tastes every bit as good as it looks.

“In the late nineties I worked at a café that was the only place in Sweden where you could get these big muffins. So I thought to myself ‘How can I make these bigger and better?’ The idea was to make the best muffin in Sweden, and many people say we have accomplished that!” says owner Kenneth Bergman.

“We moved here a couple of years ago as the company got too big for our premises in Mörby Centrum. My brother and I have been living in Midsommarkransen since we were boys and used to buy pizza at this pizzeria here, and one day we saw they were moving so we grabbed the opportunity. I like Midsommarkransen for its proximity to town, but it’s a nice and quiet neighbourhood with lots of nature around. And since it’s small everybody knows everybody and says hi to each other. It’s kind of like SoFo was before, but now it’s so crowded there. There are more and more young people moving here, lots of families with kids. When I was younger there were a lot more older people here, as well as many drug addicts and so on, which you don’t see anymore.”

And what does a regular day look like for Kenneth and his brother at the bakery? “We start baking early in the morning and pretty much bake all day. When we started out we had four flavours, now we have around 35. We don’t change them that much anymore though as it’s getting harder and harder to think up new flavours! Most of our costumers come in the afternoon when they get out of work. Our clients are a mixed group, everything from kids to people in their 80s. That’s what’s so fun with muffins, everyone likes them!”

Ett Skafferi, Tegelbruksvägen 4

Ett Skafferi looks like it’s been transported from the French countryside to the suburbs of Stockholm. It has that rural, romantic look that our mums love: Bright and white and embellished with rustic gardening tools, pillow-covered benches, and flower-filled windows. Half the seating area takes up a large amount of Skvallertorget, and it’s here that the Midsommarkransen women gather for salad lunches, their kids in tow. Products are carefully selected from some of Sweden’s finest food-makers, such as Svenskt Mathantverk. And since this is Midsommarkransen, it’s natural that the café doubles as an art gallery.

“I’ve been living in Södermalm for years, and when I first visited Midsommarkransen it was love at first sight,” says owner Joakim Ekberg. “It has the same style and feeling as Söder. Most people here are quite young, and you see a lot of people with small children. The area is in transition now: it’s an old working-class neighbourhood with lots of young people so at the moment it’s the perfect mix. In ten years it will be expensive to live here, just like it is in Söder now. Midsommarkransen actually feels more like a small town than actual small towns in the rest of Sweden. Everybody knows each other here.”

Tre Vänner, Midsommarparken 2

As the name indicates, Tre Vänner was founded by three friends, and friendly atmosphere is what they created. “The main purpose of the restaurant was to give our guests a feeling of a second living room. We’ve made this dream come true, partly because we’ve had the same staff working here for several years,” says Nina Ohlson.

I have to agree with Nina’s statement. There’s a steady stream of regulars on this Friday afternoon and the ”Cheers”-like vibe is clear in the relaxed locale. The homey look is underlined with the high-ceiling bookshelves that deck the mahogany-hued room.

“The owners chose Midsommarkransen because they believed the area had potential. At that time, Midsommarkransen was not the type of neighbourhood it is today. The first two years we even had bouncers at the door, but today our clientele is families, friends, and anyone who likes a laid-back meal or drink. Midsommarkransen is like its own little society and most people seem to know each other. It has its very own special and friendly atmosphere.”

Perceptions

Mats Tiigiste (Tellus member and local legend)

“I’ve lived in Midsommarkransen since ’81. I’d been biking around the area and fell for the charming old houses and the variety of the building styles. The houses here were built up and down the slopes with nature in the foreground. The authorities are getting out of hand nowadays with their building projects and there’s been some protests taking place regarding the protection of our green spaces.

The best thing about living here is the diversity of people, and despite the lack of certain small speciality shops there’s still a wide selection of cafés and restaurants. There’s a true small-town feeling here and there are always a lot of people on the streets and in the parks.

Tellus is my centre in Midsommarkransen and I’ve been a part of it since ’88. As my biggest interest is music I’ve organised many music events there. But besides the events I’m a part of, I also find it important to just go there and meet people for a fika, read the newspaper, and listen to records.”

Göte Dahl, Proprietor of MusikMACKen

“I’ve lived in Midsommarkransen since ’74. It’s a very special area, green and pleasant with mixed inhabitants. You find all kinds of people here. It’s like a small town close to the big city which over the years has gone from being a sleepy community to being lively and full of people.”

Karin Bergström, Social welfare secretary

“I’ve lived here for three and a half years. I chose to live here after walking by the area for almost a year, finally finding a flat I could afford. It’s been love ever since and I couldn’t live anywhere else. The thing I like the most is that the pizza guys know what pizza I like and that the lady in the flower shop knows my favourite flower, and also that it’s close to go by bike to Vinterviken for a swim, to Årstaviken for a run and to the city (even if I stay in the area most of the time). My favourite thing to do here is to go to Majkens Café on Saturday mornings to play Melodikrysset. They have the crossword printed out for you and you compete with the café owners, at the same time as you eat breakfast and wake up.

Kransen is the most beautiful in the winter when it’s all covered in snow. Then the kids meet up to go sledding down Julikullen, and everything is quiet. The thing that makes the area special is that it feels like a small city. It has all you need: restaurants, cafés, shops, parks, friends. You can really tell that Kransen is built to make people meet. It’s a friendly bubble here. The neighbourhood is full of middle class intellectuals, which is the only thing that can bother me with the area, that there isn’t a big mix of people here. We all voted for Miljöpartiet (The Green party) and we all used to listen to grunge. But there is also a lot of creativity here. People have visions in Kransen.”