For Bengt Thornefors and Nina Norgen, inspiration can be found everywhere. The couple, who launched their company Magniberg in 2016, recently dropped a brightly coloured line of bed linens called Candy Shop, featuring 16 shades with playful names like Happy Pink and Lemonade. This spring, with flowers blooming everywhere, the two see new hues wherever they go – and not just in nature: ‘The shelf with candy in Sweden is extremely big,’ says Nina with a laugh. ‘Almost ridiculous. Imagine in Easter time, it’s just so many colours!’
An instinctive understanding of how design and colour work has fed well into their brand. They recently sold a 50% share of Magniberg to the Danish textile business Kvadrat, giving them more money and room to play with designs. ‘With this partnership, we now have the chance to do what we wanted to back then,’ Bengt says. ‘We had this conversation with the business controller and he said, “Can you do 12 colours instead of 14?” We added two more and had 16!’
Bengt – who has a background in fashion and used to work with Acne Studios – and Nina – who began her career in floristry – named the company after their 18th-century house. Located in the southern harbour city of Nyköping and surrounded by nature, their home has sparse decor accentuated with bunches of flowers in every room and favourite pieces of furniture.
By moving from Stockholm to the more rural area, the pair have found space to breathe and connect with nature. Today, they’re excited to get out into the sun: ‘The spring is so present right now,’ says Nina, and Bengt adds that they’re ready for a half day before a long spring break.
Being business owners comes with some downsides, they say (‘When you want to relax, everything needs to be fixed before that’), but it also means having control over their schedule and getting to hang out with their two active sons, who Bengt plays sports with – including as the coach of the eldest boy’s floorball team.
‘Two days per week I get the chance to really think about something else,’ he says. ‘You have to be there with the boys. You forget about work and everything else. You’re just there.’
Nina: ‘We wake up around 6.30am and give the kids breakfast and get them ready for school and kindergarten. We leave them around 8am and then we start working. My morning routine is different from Bengt’s. There’s a woman on TV who does a great workout every morning, and I love it. She’s just amazing, she is happy – and it’s only 20 minutes.’
Bengt: ‘We split our time between home and our studio in Stockholm. We have our colleague Petter there too, so we work with him. Normally we go there by train, but we tend to take the car these days.’
Nina: ‘A year ago, when everyone fled the city, we worked every day from home. After a while you get crazy. We needed something else. We can’t just eat and sleep and work in the same room.’
Bengt: ‘We’re lucky enough to have a big space. We have a little office in our place as well.’
Nina: ‘For me it wasn’t about the space, it was about every time we get fabrics or boxes or anything delivered. After a while, you have a big mountain of things. You almost can’t see the TV. I can work and plan from home, but when everything else comes there, too, that’s when I get upset.’
Bengt: ‘Nyköping is a harbour city. It’s pretty close for us to go to the ocean and we tend to do that quite often in the afternoons. There’s a nature reserve on the water. When we do these things, I still think about work, too, somehow. It’s hard for me to separate.’
Nina: ‘We have a flower that’s blooming right now, hepatica. There’s a place where it is just blooming like an explosion, so we’re going to go there this Easter. The kids, you can just leave them and they run around in the forest and you see this very beautiful path of flowers.’
Nina: ‘In the evenings, we love to eat. We love to cook at home. We like to eat Asian food as often as we can.’
Bengt: ‘I’m half-Asian.’
Nina: ‘It’s not because of that, it’s because we like the food!’
Bengt: ‘It makes sense. I grew up with rice.’
Nina: ‘Vietnamese food. Or Thai.’
Nina: ‘We’ve been lucky because the kids like sushi, so we make it a lot, actually.’
Bengt: ‘Or even noodle soups. In the evenings after the kids go to bed, or if they’re awake, we try to have a walk. Nina does it every day. After that, we try to watch something. Something that has nothing to do with work.’
Nina: ‘I love Disney. So I always want to choose!’
Welcome to Nyköping
‘We moved here a long time ago, almost 13 years,’ Nina says. ‘Recently we actually discussed, if we didn’t live here, where would we live? Would we go up to Stockholm and live there again? We said no way. We need a balance.’ Nyköping, located an hour south of Stockholm, is one of the older county capital cities in Sweden. ‘We have a big castle here. It has a very nice mix of architecture, with some very old houses. It’s very beautiful in the city, old banks and stuff. There are also quite new areas. It’s a good mix,’ says Nina. ‘In the wintertime, the kids go to the castle to ice-skate on the pond in front of it. It’s really cute. Not last year but before that, every kid when they’re off school, they went there to sing songs together. It’s so good.’
Two days a week, Bengt coaches his eldest son’s team at floorball, a type of floor hockey developed in the seventies in Sweden. ‘It’s a passion for Bengt. He was extremely talented; he was in the best team in Sweden, like, 20 years ago,’ Nina says. ‘Now he’s the one who’s always there. They want him to be the coach of our youngest son’s team as well.’ Bengt adds: ‘There were reasons why I stopped playing floorball when I became an adult. It’s kind of a fun sport to play, but I’m not sure if it’s that fun to watch! It’s great that the kids play sports, they do swim school, football and floorball.’
In the garden
‘My hobby is my garden,’ Nina says. ‘I’m growing in the summertime. My gardening time starts now because I’m putting all the seeds in water to make them moist and I’m planning a lot. I’m in the garden as often as I can be now, to prepare the soil. I left the flower industry for this, but the thing is, every time someone in my family dies I do all the decorations, which is quite sad, but the best flowers are quite often for funerals. When I know someone, it’s really nice to be able to put that into flowers. It’s sad and beautiful. My grandpa is the one who taught me how to grow things; my grandma and grandpa were amazing with the garden. When he died, I put carrots in his flowers because he always grew them in his garden.’
Favourite brands and shops
‘I like to go and look at Paul Jackson’s store in Stockholm,’ says Bengt. ‘It’s so amazing. He sells high-end designer furniture from mostly Scandinavian and other international designers. I can’t even afford it! Somehow we became friends a few years ago. Our first photo shoot for Magniberg was in a gallery and I called him up and we borrowed pieces from him. He said he liked our ideas and asked me if we could rent [some of his furniture] and I said I can’t afford it. He said, “Do you have insurance?” but we didn’t, actually. Then he drove the pieces to us. He’s been really supportive of us. I think often, when I find something at an auction house, I’m pretty sure he’s the one I’m betting against, so I’m never going to win. Everything is not that super expensive, but you have to be curious and you need to be interested in it. It’s always fascinating to go there. Nina says I’m a hoarder, but I’m not. I’ve been buying a couple of pieces through the years that later on became good investments. You can learn how to curate them and put them next to something new, that’s what we do.’
‘We love to bring the kids up to Stockholm. We stay at Hotel Skeppsholmen, on a little island in the middle of the city,’ says Nina. ‘You can go by boat or bus and you’re surrounded by water. We love to stay there for one or two nights. It’s next to the Museum of Modern Art. We’ve become friends with a lot of the staff and they’re so friendly and welcoming. On a rainy Sunday you can have the nicest brunch indoors, and in the summertime or spring you can eat in the garden, which is amazing. You have all the blossoming trees around you. I would say that’s the most perfect way to have lunch or dinner.’
‘I love Stockholm’s Antikvariat bookstore, which sells photo books second-hand,’ says Bengt. ‘When I was at Acne, [my boss] asked me to buy books for one of the brand’s first stores in Sweden and I went there and came home with a lot of Mapplethorpe. My boss was like, “You only bought nudes?” So, since then, I’ve been going back and forth. I kept my eyes on it. It’s a really good space in Stockholm.’
‘My favourite flower shop is Stockholm’s Christoffers Blommor,’ says Nina.
‘I’m a very big fan of Cecilie Bahnsen,’ says Bengt. ‘She’s a friend of ours. We work with her, too, and Nina wears her clothes. I love her universe.’
This article was first published in Courier issue 41, June/July 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.