Austere isn't really a store and it isn't really an exhibition space, either; the displays tell a story, but you can also buy everything that's on view. When Fredrik Carlström decided to open up the Scandinavian concept shop in May 2014, he already had a close relationship with Swedish designers including Stutterheim, Schnayderman's, and Volvo from his days as a marketing consultant. Opening Austere in a former car showroom in downtown Los Angeles that had been vacant for a decade, Carlström sought to create a space that was not purely retail, but would give new context to the brands he had been working with for years.
Living in New York, Carlström needed to find someone local to run the space. When he met L.A.-based Caitlin Rider, who also had a marketing background with companies like Taschen, Creatures of Comfort, and Everlane, she seemed like the perfect fit. "Coming from an American background, I was brought up with big, bulky couches and large spaces," says Rider. "I've always appreciated the more pared-down, functional, but beautiful aspect of Scandinavian design."
She began directing the 5,000-square-foot space last year, and since then she's helped organize Austere collaborations with Absolut vodka for their Absolut Art program and the Los Angeles artists they support; hosted an exhibition between COS and Snarkitecture; and was behind an exhibition by Swedish rug manufacturer Henzel Studios and artists including Richard Prince, Marilyn Minter, and Juergen Teller. Here, Rider shares her favorite pieces available now at the Austere showroom.
1. Portable Synthesizer
"The OP-1 is probably the most iconic piece that Teenage Engineering has released. The design is very inviting, it almost looks like a toy from the '80s. When they came up with this, they thought there was something lacking in the world of synthesizers: They wanted to simplify everything about a modern synthesizer, make it less about being retro and analog, but rather creating something a bit more restrained so you have to really be creative in what you make from it. The limitations of the OP-1 are one of its biggest features—I think that reflects Scandinavian design in that more is not always better."
"I moved here from New York and used to ride my bike everywhere; when I thought about what you want in a bike, it's very streamlined and pragmatic, but well designed. This Danish Biomega bike is exactly that: It has integrated gears, they change on their own; the bike actually lights up at night; it's chainless with a carbon fiber belt drive, which means it lasts longer, it's less noisy, and it's less messy. The idea was to make something that was durable, would last a long time, was low maintenance, and also really beautiful."
3. Task Lamp
"Wastberg is based in Sweden. They have a very artful and philosophical approach to design and I love this particular lamp—it's a task lamp and it's so simple and clean but it does its job beautifully and calmly. It doesn't need any bells or whistles. All the pieces are also extremely easy to put together."
4. Chocolate Bar
"Mast had been working on this particular chocolate—their toasted milk bar, which is reminiscent of Swedish milk chocolate—for a couple years before we decided to work together, but the launch of the bar happened to coincide with their pop-up at Austere. The design is based on these candy bags that were huge in Sweden on lördagsgodis, or "Saturday candy"—it's almost a religious holiday every Saturday where kids get their candy, scooping it into the little bags. When we met with Mast, they came up with this beautiful wrapper that's reminiscent of the Swedish candy bags. And toasted milk chocolate seemed to perfectly pair with the design."
5. Dining Table
"We work with some designers who aren't Scandinavian, but who follow the Scandinavian ethos—I think this table fits perfectly in that sensibility. It's designed by Studioilse for De La Espada. They have a factory in Portugal specializing in traditional handcrafted, construction methods. The designer, Ilse Crawford's philosophy is to put the human being at the center. She creates items that make us happy, make us feel alive, and think about the psychology of how we relate to each other. This table has always appealed to me so much because it's part of her "seating for eating" collective where she's thought about how she could make a table fit a large group of people but still feel entirely intimate. This table is narrow enough that you don't have to lean over and talk too loudly so someone can hear you and you can extend the wings of the table, so if someone arrives late to dinner you can easily add them in."
To see more, visit austere.co or check out the Austere space in Los Angeles at 912 S. Hill Street.