Work & Business
Huset Supplies Scandinavian Wares to American ConsumersMay 5, 2016
It was a trip to Sweden in the mid-1990s that hooked Holly Hallberg on Scandinavian design – and changed the course of her professional life.
Her father a custom homebuilder and mother an architect-designer, Hallberg always had been drawn to beautiful aesthetics. But it was the overseas trip with her now-husband that sold her on the meaning of great design.
“I was amazed at the beautiful clean lines and the gorgeous simplicity, which I hadn’t been exposed to before,” Hallberg says.
At the time, there wasn’t much she could do about her newfound passion. But as the years went on, and consumers began buying online, she tried her hand at starting a website to sell Scandinavian wares.
“I figured that if I felt this strongly about [Scandinavian design], there must be others who would be interested in it,” Hallberg said.
She called the site Huset, translated as “the house” in Swedish.
That was 2007. The site took off, and fast-forward to 2011 with a proven business online, Hallberg opened a Huset storefront on Venice’s Abbott Kinney Boulevard, dubbed by GQ magazine as “the coolest block in America.”
Huset was made for consumers with an eye for great design, offering time-tested, Scandinavian-created products such as furniture, gifts, accessories, textiles, jewelry, clothing, kids items, fine art and objects for the home. Not limiting products to one type, Hallberg says, mimics the feel of design stores found in places like Copenhagen or Oslo.
“It’s interesting when we see people come into our store who haven’t been exposed to Scandinavian design,” Hallberg said of visitors to her L.A. outpost. “They are naturally drawn to it because of the clean lines, but they are almost amazed that they haven’t been exposed to it before. In America we have everything, and to be exposed to something you haven’t seen before is pretty unusual.”
One of the biggest challenges to running the store, Hallberg says, is getting Americans to shift their mindset in the way they buy – that is, to focus on quality over quantity.
“The Scandinavian consumer buys less, but they buy better quality,” she said. “That’s a different mindset from American consumers because we buy more things that have less value.”
Consider a $46 tray from Swedish graphic designer Maria Holmer Dahlgren, for example. It’s a 17-inch-long Swedish birchwood tray exploding in color and graphics, handy for transporting a cup of tea or a platter of biscuits. The birch comes from sustainable Scandinavian forests and is partly handmade in a small factory on an island off the southeastern coast of Sweden.
“It’s educating the consumer that, ‘Yes, this is a tray, but it’s not made out of plastic that you would get at Target or Ikea,’” Hallberg explained. “This is a Scandinavian birchwood-pressed tray, but it will last you five times longer.”
And for those who get it, they keep coming back for more. Seventy percent of Huset’s business is from repeat customers.
“Because the stuff lasts,” Hallberg said. “It’s not going to fall apart. The customers we have retained understand that, and they keep coming back.”
We’d be remiss not to note that, with Huset’s location and high-end product line, that some of those regulars indeed are Hollywood royalty. Hallberg did share a few names when we asked…as long as we agreed to respect their privacy.
Sorry, E! viewers.
1316 1/2 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice CA 90291