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Johannes Carlström Breaks with Convention

The Swedish interior architect and cofounder of Stockholm’s Note Design Studio opts for a non-hierarchical approach, proving that great ideas can come from anywhere.

By Lauren Mang

Gina Tricot concept store

In 2008, Johannes Carlström saw an opportunity to do things differently.

The Swedish designer teamed up with design strategist Cristiano Pigazzini and launched the Stockholm-based interior design and architecture firm Note Design Studio with a very unconventional twist. “I was not happy with how other firms were set up,” Carlström says. “Many of them were too traditional with fixed structures and few possibilities for newly graduated employees to be part of the creative work.” In that vein, he says, the duo opted to build an idea-led, non-hierarchical environment where anyone from a senior staffer to an intern is free to generate ideas. “This approach allows all of us to speak out with few barriers, and a lot of ideas come forward that way.”

This free-flow of ideas has led to Note’s expansion not only in size—the firm now features a team of 16 designers—but also into other disciplines, including product design, graphic design, brand identity, and design strategy. It’s earned acclaim within the design community, receiving a 2018 Salone del Mobile award for its work with Italian design company Magis, two 2018 Wallpaper* Design Awards for its airport seating collaboration with modern Spanish brand Sancal and its textural Weave tiles for Hungarian company, KAZA Concrete, and two 2018 Dezeen awards.

Gina Tricot concept store

“Even if we are a group of quite strong individuals, our work is collaborative,” Carlström says. “We try to mix our competences and get a lot of feedback from the rest of the studio.”

Given Note’s successes, working in design was not on Carlström’s radar until much later in life—in fact, as a kid in a small town in northern Sweden, he didn’t even know it was a career option. His initial interests lay in drawing and shaping things, so he studied at an art school, thinking he’d become a sculptor. “After awhile, I became more interested in working with things you can actually use and went to design school instead, which was much more progressive and stimulating,” he says.

On the horizon for Note is more international work—Carlström says they’re slowly moving their way through all seven continents—and further establishing its architectural arm. “I’m longing to see what a Note House would look like,” he says. We echo that sentiment.

Johannes Carlström is a judge for the 2019 GRAY Awards. To get your tickets to the event, taking place on November 20 at Seattle’s Nordic Museum, visit


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