Stockholm interior design amounts to much more than Ikea. Sweden's capital is renowned for stores that will make any homemaker's heart sing - and credit card twitch. Forget quick-assembly pine furniture; glassware is deservedly Sweden's most illustrious export.
Traditionally clear, 'smoked' or green-hued designs have prevailed. But as the nation's reputation for all things hip rose in the late 1990s (perceptions changed in earnest when pop-rock band The Cardigans replaced memories of pre-irony Abba), so its glassware became more adventurous and colourful.
The best glass - traditional and trendy - is manufactured in the southern province of Sm?land, home to glass giants such as Orrefors and Kosta Boda, as well as myriad small, independent players of superb quality. Much of Sm?land's output ends in the capital's two chic main department stores. The vast Nordiska Kompaniet (Hamngatan, tel: 46 8 762 8000; www.nk.se), the Harrods of the North, is older and more venerable. Even bigger is the chain, ?hlens (Master Samuelsgatan, tel: 46 8 676 6000; www.ahlens.com). The young upstart has a comparable glassware range, offering everything from crystal wine glasses and frosted glass candlestick holders to modish lamps and glass sculptures.
Nordiska Kristall (Kungsgatan 9, tel: 46 8 104 372; www.nordiska
kristall.com) is the most famous of the specialist outlets, with all the usual makers represented, plus Transeo, a highly regarded brand among the aristocracy. The store also hosts excellent glass exhibitions, including sculptural and free-form shows featuring up-and-coming glass designers. DesignTorget (Kulturhuset, Norrmalm, tel: 46 8 508 31520) is a terrific place to browse the work of designers on the cusp of greatness.
In the tourist honey pot of Gamla Stan (Old Town), one can find Kristallbutiken (Vaster
langgatan, Gamla Stan, tel: 46 8 22 91 02), a quaint shop nestled amid some marvellous baroque architecture. There's good Swedish ceramic art here too.
From Gamla Stan to Kulturhuset runs Drottninggatan - Stockholm's Nathan Road - the busiest street in town, famed for its tourist tack and bargains. The retail trend here is beer glasses with tiny bubbles inside the glass, making for a simple, elegant effect. Plain, engraved, or painted designs featuring motifs such as elk or Viking longboats are popular.
For visitors with children, two of the most rewarding of Stockholm's draws are its glassworks (both provide tours and glass-blowing viewings). Stockholm's Glasbruk Skansen (Djurg?rden, tel: 46 8 662 8448; www.stockholms-glasbruk.se), has been working its magic with silica since 1936. Just out of town, the glassworks at the Steninge Palace Cultural Centre (Steninge Glasbruk, tel: 46 8 592 5950; www.steningeslott.com) offers opportunities for visitors to do their own glass-blowing.
Finally, if you can't resist, the world's largest Ikea (Kungens Kurva, Skarholmen, tel: 46 8 744 8300) is to be found in the suburbs of Stockholm. Its glassware selection is impressive, with the usual emphasis on the utilitarian.