The Man Who Puts the D in Design – Jimmy Schönning

The Man Who Puts the D in Design –  Jimmy Schönning
By Ekaterina Larsson

We sometimes go through life and meet people who bring warmth and some kind of magic. This is how I felt when I met Jimmy Schönning,during Press Days in Stockholm. Now Press Days can be very exciting – going around the PR agencies, checking out new collections of clothes, accessories, cosmetics and interior design. On one of these days I was ready to go home after visiting a few presentations but then changed my mind and went to one more space specializing in interior design. I entered and heard laughter which made me feel relaxed and welcome, although I did not know any of the people there. The laughter came from Jimmy, who later on showed me the glamping tent in the garden.


Image: Per Magnus Persson

Stockholm is rather chilly in autumn and winter but the tent was so cozy! It had lanterns with lit candles, rattan chairs and tables, throws and pillows, everything tastefully arranged, in earthy tones and colours. The sound of crickets was playing from the loudspeakers. I felt as if I was in the savannas of Africa! I loved the designs and asked to interview Jimmy. I had no clue he was famous in Sweden, mostly from interior design and styling TV shows.


Image: Ekaterina Larsson

We agreed to meet at his studio/ shop one Monday. I came at the appointed time but Jimmy was not there. After some browsing in the shop I was eventually greeted by his partner Marcello, who treated me to some spinach soup and some nice conversation, while we were waiting for Jimmy. He finally came, apologized for mixing up the time and we sat for our interview.

How did your career start?

I have a music background – I went to the Ballet Academy in Gothenburg, the School of Performing Arts. We had drama teachers there from all over the world. It was Lia Shubert who had this idea of performing arts. We were studying ballet, jazz and modern singing, musical singing, tap and all the drama studies. It was a very practical school because we did several productions every year. Then I worked mostly in theatre, in the production of musicals, for many years.

I was a musical performer – acting, singing and dancing at the same time.

I worked at Oscars teatern, for example, doing cabaret and drama theatre.


Image: Jimmy Schönning

Which one is your favourite musical?

A Chorus line. I did one version of it in the Swedish Theater in Helsinki plus another, very different version, in the Gothenburg Opera. It was the same musical but two different versions. Such a great experience! I played two different characters in the different versions so I really could look at it from two different angles.

Do you have any interesting stories from that time?

I loved the feeling I had at the time! Being on stage, singing and dancing on set, is just something so powerful that nothing can ever compete with that! It is like a drug!

Doing a play together and then being rewarded by applause is like nothing else on this world! So this is my most amazing experience. Because when you do something well and you need each other to do it well and afterwards, when you are done, people are sitting or standing clapping and showing their gratitude and love. Wow! I wish someone did that everyday here when I finished work, haha!



Why did you decide to leave that world?

I did not decide that. Life happened. At some point I felt I was not going any further and it was a bit frustrating. I was offered the opportunity to do something completely different – to be on the production of TV4 and a program called Emmas hus, a magazine type of lifestyle program that aired Monday through Friday. It focused on fashion, gardening, interiors and food. Annika Lindblad was Emma. The only thing left from that show was Emmas kök and that lasted for two – three years.

I worked as a slave basically on Emmas hus – I supported everyone, did research, was an assistant. It was very good for me to do that so that I could learn and see TV from that angle. Very helpful for when I did it myself!

Afterwards I did Styling Akuten with a stylist who did the clothes and I did the room styling. Fab 5 was on TV, on Channel 3, and TV4 wanted a similar show. It aired only for one season but it gave me Äntligen hemma which was on for 5 years! 10 seasons which in TV is an eternity! It was a lot of DIY which I liked. I think it is amazing when you are helping people do the best out of what they have.

Did you study design in the meantime? How did get into your own design label?

No, I never studied designed formally, I learned by myself. My very first own design was a collection with suede – pillows, throws and runners. My mother worked with suede all her life, making clothes and she suggested it to me. It was so easy for me and I was so spoiled because she already had all the contacts, haha!

I designed the pieces and started the production in another country, which is quite challenging. You are working in another language as well or depend on interpreters. If I knew Hindi, it would have been great! So I had a lot of problems, it was not successful and did not go well. But it was great because I learned how things need to be done from the beginning to the end, and I made all the mistakes you could make, haha.

After that I dared to do another project – lamp shades, handmade in Thailand by people who made chicken cages. They were made by bamboo and they were a success!

So this was my first ever success story when it comes to designing my own pieces. And that gave me all the courage!


Image: Jimsch

How did the collection lift off?

In a TV program called Husräddarna I worked with companies that were sponsors, in order for us to be able to give away as much as possible to the people. May be their homes had burned down and we needed all the help we could get. It was great to use the power of TV to do something good, it was like a miracle and the program made money. Of course you can have two naked people have sex in front of the camera which would also make a lot of money, haha! Lots of people watch Paradise Hotel!

Is it still on?

Yes. But seriously, I like the part where you help people, I think it is better! So one of the sponsors, INTERSTIL, asked me if I wanted to do my own thing. My first thought was no, there is too much stuff already! But I think I was just scared, it seemed so big. The suede thing was one thing and the lamp thing was another but to do a whole collection! I got scared! But I started designing one thing and then another and then we had a collection.


Image: Husräddarna

What was the main theme of the collection?

My brief was – do small things for a table setting in one material that can be produced in the production sites we are already working in. The first thing I presented was a chair made of rattan and my CEO at the time, who was good hearted, said he liked it. Not at all what he asked for, but he liked it! So we went to their producer near Jakarta, in Indonesia, and they made the rattan chairs. And they were a success in a sense that they were shown a lot.

From the big chair down to the small spoon, that was the Jimsch collection. We have nothing bigger. The idea was that we would use nature’s material only.

Yes, it all looks very natural and earthy.

Yes, preferably we wanted natural materials. But we have some exceptions. We have this candle holder that looks like a Lucia crown. We wanted to have something that looks like leather but it is not really leather.


Image: Jimsch

What do you get inspired by?

I always say nature, because it is so fundamental. I think that you cannot make any interior without any living objects or organisms, such as plants or anything from the plant world. We need it in our homes to make it alive and organic. I have also looked at traditions – Lucia, advent, things that are important to me and looked also at how they are reflected in other cultures. Mostly when I travel and get to know other cultures helps me get better at mine.

I can see that. You have some Asian influences in your design and you weave in some humour as well.

I love Asian influence! It has been a part of Scandinavian life for so long! We cannot imagine how much China, for example, has influenced our design and history.


Image: Jimsch

Do you have a new collection coming up every year?

We have had. Jimsch has only been around for two years. We have decided that we are not coming out with a new whole collection every season. It is not possible and it is not interesting.

Some things are very easy to design and make, and some things take several years before they are ready! It is crazy!

Like this elephant statue there, Miss Ganesha or Miss G. The octopus elephant – octophant, she has no collection yet, she needs to be adopted. This vase here in black wood and glass came around very quickly – form the idea to the production it took three months. And then there are things that I have drawn that still have not been crystalized.

I saw the drawing on the wall of the turtle – candle holder, I like it!

Oh yes! It never happened because working with archetypes I have had the resistance to produce it. It is beautiful but if you believe in archetypes it will slow you down in the business. I am still researching it. I do not want to start out with something with a bad energy.

Do you go to Design Weeks?

Yes, we present at FORMEX. We presented also at AMBIENTE in Frankfurt. AMBIENTE is so international, the whole world is there!


Image: Jimsch

Do you do any mass production?

We are doing mass production in a sense. We are selling to 1600 places in Sweden. But I am a consultant more or less, I do not own the company. I just do the design. The company is INTERSTIL and Jimsch is the brand. It is their first own brand. They normally produce for other brands – Swedish, Danish and Norwegian ones.

What is the future for you? Where do you want to go?

I want to do exactly what I am doing now, I love it!

I would also love to apply my interior design skills to a hotel or a cafe, design the whole concept, for example.

But I also have so many things to do, and am interested in many things so I need to watch out so I do not try to do too many things in too little time, haha.


Image: Jimsch

What is your favorite place to travel?

I loved Colombia! My picture from media about the country was of one kind, which had no bearing of truth. I fell completely in love with the Andes! Also to come to the Caribbean and Cartagena, which has a history of 900-1200 years. We think that civilization started here and that upsets me because there are places with as much history as us. I am also looking forward to going to Japan one day, perhaps with my Brazilian friend Andre, who can take me
around there. It is tough if you do not know the language.

When it comes to other places, I always like going to NY because I have friends there but I would go back to Cartagena, definitely. In Asia I love Thailand and Chang Mai especially, it is a very special place. You simply cannot not love Thailand!

Sunset in Cartagena, Colombia


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