Gemla Fabrikers AB is an esteemed furniture company grown directly from the roots of the deep forests of Småland. With wit and ingenuity, they have managed to stay at the forefront of Swedish furniture design ever since their establishment in 1861. Design and quality are meant to last, and Gemla’s continuous longevity and success on the furniture market stands as solid proof: they are creating something that stands the test of time.
TEXT: NINA BRESSLER | PHOTOS : GEMLA FABRIKERS AB
MAIN IMAGE: Gemla Fabrikers AB creates unique and contemporary design – built to last for generations.
The production takes place in the small town of Diö, located in the south of Sweden, where easy access to transport, water power and raw material has made for an ideal location ever since the founding days in the 19th century. While the company has changed owners and even items of production over the years, the importance of providing durable craftsmanship has always stayed at the core of the business.
Benny Hermansson has been the owner since 2016. Having spent many years in another successful furniture business from the same area, he received the offer to become part-owner, which later turned into full ownership. A great design and furniture enthusiast, he found the decision easy enough, and he talks enthusiastically about the importance of sustainability as well as durability in all their products. “We build our furniture to last not only the next 50, but 100 years to come; it’s a given for us to offer restoration of our chairs to enable a second, or third round of life for the next generation of owners,” he says.
Beauty, comfort and sustainability – essential trademarks of production
Gemla’s range consists of tables, headboards and mirrors, but what has become synonymous with the brand’s name is the chairs: their durability has made them a beloved item in the hotel and restaurant industry. “Many have probably sat in a Gemla chair without even knowing it,” Hermansson says. The product’s appeal is made possible thanks to three pillars that firmly set out the product development process: desirable design, functionality and sustainability.
Since the 1930s, Gemla has continuously worked with the most talented designers, Swedish as well as international, and is conscious to work closely with only a small handful in order to keep the spirit of the company intact and continue to capture customers’ attention with the visual details that signify the craftsmanship. The functionality of the products is the second step: the products need to have the form and function to be comfortable, and sturdy enough to last. Thirdly, sustainability is key – ranging from the choice of material to packaging and long-lasting quality. Gemla uses beech and ash tree, strictly ordered from certified forests; the padding is made from natural materials; and the chairs are adorned with vegetable-tanned leather. Using wholesome materials where every detail is thoroughly checked is how they ensure the beauty and longevity of each product.
Taming wood – the characteristic trait of Gemla
The unique method of taming massive wood arrived with Bohemian craftsmen during the 18th century, where the so-called Wiener furniture would turn into the trademark of the Gemla production. They are the only company in Sweden that still masters this method, meaning that the material is steamed for six to 12 hours, whereby the wood will become flexible enough to be bent and processed by an experienced craftsman. Each chair spends days, if not weeks, in production, before it leaves with a stamp of approval.
This method is the core behind the rounded, light form, and a way to keep the design simple yet elegant. It gives a natural flexibility that plays a big part during production, and which also helps to enhance the quality. Moreover, it makes for less production waste and is a natural way to work the wood without chemical additives – another part of the brand’s sustainable promise.
Contemporary design leading the way
Despite the hospitality business historically representing the biggest clientele, Gemla’s target group is spreading increasingly into the private customer realm, much thanks to chairs being spotted in well-placed locations throughout fine-dining restaurants and hotels. Hermansson envisions a bright future, where the historical trademark and long reputation for providing handmade quality furniture with a Scandinavian touch will allow Gemla to enter the global market. “We want Gemla to become one of the most exciting and interesting furniture producers on a global level. We are always aiming to reinvent ourselves in order to stay in touch with what’s contemporary and at the top of our game, while at the same time holding on to our well-preserved traditions,” Hermansson says. And with the connection between the past, the present and the future, always firmly rooted in the Småland soil, the journey of spreading their masterly crafted furniture to generations to come continues.