Kosta is the epicenter of art glass production in Sweden and boasts the perfect hotel for those seeking to know more: Kosta Boda Art Hotel, Storavägen 75, Kosta, Småland, Sweden.
Although I could have specified a glassmaker whose works I wanted to see in my guestroom, when I went to Sweden’s Glasriket (“Kingdom of Crystal”) I wasn’t familiar with the artists (seven have hallways of rooms). Taking potluck, I ended up in Room 121 with original art by Kjell Engman, but I could have “stayed” with Anna Ehrner, Goran Wärff, Bertil Vallien, Ulrica Hydman-Vallien, Asa Jungnelius or Ludvig Löfgren.
Engman designed that orange fish leaping from a “block” of water (above) I found in the bathroom, as well as several pieces of wall art, a lamp and a vase reflecting sunlight on the windowsill.
It turns out that Engman also created nine underwater exhibitions of art glass in the hotel’s indoor pool and the glass bar (pictured, below) — which gives the feeling of being under water, with everything in shades of ocean blue from the illuminated wavy counter to the billowing blue ceiling above.
Even if you didn’t pay attention to the hotel’s name, you’d know it focused on glass the minute you walked in the lobby. In the center is not the expected bouquet of flowers, but a giant floor-to-ceiling “balloon” filled with glass “bubbles”.
Kosta is, of course, located in Sweden’s Glasriket — the Kingdom of Crystal. Claiming a total population of less than 900, this decidedly small town has been the Scandinavian country’s center of glass production since the mid 1700s. Stop at the Tourist Information Office in town to pick up a “KulTuren” map showing a 140-kilometer driving route that links the glassmaking studios in this region of southern Sweden.
In 1742, two Swedish generals (Anders Koskull and Georg Bogislaus Staël von Holstein) founded the Kosta glassworks and laid the foundation for what today is the Orrefors Kosta Boda, one of Sweden’s most famous brands. The factory makes all the glass in the Kosta Boda Art Hotel — each and every piece (those in the guest rooms and those in the public spaces — such as the piece below) is for sale.
Insider tip: before you think about buying any Kosta Boda glass, check into the hotel: the rate includes breakfast and a 10%-off voucher for the factory outlet store across the street.
Next to the store is the factory — and of course you’ll want to sit and watch the glassblowers in action. Molten before it hardens, glistening as it refracts and reflects light, crystal clear or seeming to glow with color from within glass is an ethereal medium.
You can watch the painstaking creation of bowls, vases and more by two-person glassblowing teams, or marvel at the consistency of the wine glasses created by well-choreographed groups of glassmakers.
Walking the hallways back in the Kosta Boda Art Hotel, you’ll find yourself looking at the myriad forms, shapes and colors of glass on display and wondering how the various effects were achieved.
The hotel’s website says that more than $2 million worth of art is on display. Even the dishes used in the restaurants are Kosta Boda glass.
When you browse that website, don’t panic when the pages come up all in Swedish. Scroll down, and you’ll see at bottom-left an option to chose English.
You can book online, either through the hotel’s website or on Expedia, Hotels.com and others. I paid about $170, including a lavish Scandinavian buffet breakfast in the hotel’s Linnéa Art Restaurant that’s decorated with the distinctive hand-painted glass art by Ulrica Hydman-Vallien including the vase (below — if it hasn’t already been sold!) in the restaurant’s window that you might want to post to Pinterest.
(All photos by Susan McKee)