Fredrik Karlsson, Interior Designer

Interview, 5 March 2020

Meet the former professional golfer who used the power of social media to build a successful career as an interior designer.

Having adapted a more professional approach to his Instagram account in May of 2019, Fredrik Karlsson quickly amassed a global following. The allure was his carefully curated images – most of them from his Stockholm apartment – that focused on minimalistic interior design and vintage furniture.

Before long he was receiving commissions to do both interior design, furniture design as well as overseeing complete overhauls of private homes from start to finish.
Apart from his interest in interior design, a passion that had brewed within him for years, it was his own experience of having redone seven apartments in seven years that gave him his credibility and refined taste.

Seven apartments that were bought, fixed up, decorated and sold at a profit, leaving the former pro golfer and personal trainer with a solid financial platform. One that allowed him to delve deeper into his passion projects.

The sudden ascension to prominence within the design world was unexpected, but Karlsson quickly realized the need to seize the moment. Today he does work for fashion brands, stores and private clients alike – and his calendar is filled to the brim.

We caught up with Fredrik Karlsson to ask him about dreams of playing professional sports, the power of social media – and why Virgil Abloh is such a big fan.

You grew up in the small city of Södertälje, just south of Stockholm; what was your childhood like?

– It was good. Fairly ordinary. I grew up in an apartment, but we also had a house in the Swedish countryside where we would spend our summers. I loved spending time there because it was a very rural environment and I got to hang around the local farmers with their tractors and other heavy machinery. The ultimate dream for a little kid. I also started playing golf during the summers.

Photo: Felix Winqvist

What sort of child were you?

– Pretty independent and a little geeky, I think. It was easy for me to sink into things and have them absorb all of my time. I played basically every sport you can imagine. 

You ultimately decided on golf. Did you choose golf because it was what you were best at or was there another reason behind that choice?

– I noticed early on that I had talent. I found refuge in the tedious hours of practicing my swing, which required spending a lot of time in solitude. I enjoyed that, grinding and improving my technique was a joyful task.

“I find myself in a position where I’m doing what I love, and I have to make the most out of this opportunity”

Photo: Fredrik Karlsson

You then spent a few years in Arizona on a golf-scholarship, what was that experience like? 

– It was a massive contrast to the life I was living back home.I had never been that far away from home in my life, and I was all alone. I was nineteen at the time, but once I got there, I felt like a lost child wondering where his parents are. It was tough but it forced me to grow up fast and made me a stronger person. I stayed for two years before heading back home. It was a great experience, in hindsight. 

How did you get into interior design?

– It actually started in Arizona, where I decorated my own little studio apartment. I liked having a clean and tidy space. I’ve been told that when I was a kid, I would make a big mess playing with my toys, but once it was time for bed, everything was neatly put back in its place. Maybe it’s always been in me. One thing is for sure: I’ve always been organized and fixed on having things a certain way at home. I can’t leave the house if things are not in order.

Is there a minimalistic vein that runs through you?

– Absolutely. Especially when it comes to nice furniture or objects, I want them on full display, rather than having them drown in a pile of other stuff.

The self-made bookshelf in Fredrik’s Stockholm apartment

So, what is it that you do today, exactly?

– At the moment, it feels like a lot of different things. On the one hand I do interior decorating for private clients, who just want everything tied together. On the other hand, I manage projects from start to finish, with the refurbishment and the interior decoration to follow. 
I also help private clients, stores and businesses source furnitureand I help them find them at a decent price point. 

How do you go about sourcing the items, what is your search process like?

– I scan the internet as well as attending physical auctions. Plus, I have managed to establish good connections within the gallery world. But then of course we are talking about a certain segment of furniture.

What was your first project?

I am currently living in my seventh apartment in as many years. I’ve bought a place, fixed it up and sold it with a profit. That has enabled me to be where I am today. I was working as a salesman and a personal trainer a few years back but gravitated more towards the aesthetics of things as I got into re-doing my own apartments. I also started collecting furniture at an early stage. But I was always wary of doing what I loved for a living, I was afraid it might eventually kill my joy of doing it. But this is a different kind of stimulant. No job is ever the same as the one before it. That keeps me on my toes and my inspiration alive.

“I haven’t set any specific goals, it will have to land wherever it lands, simply because of the fact that I am still in unchartered territory”

What is your favorite coffee table book?

– I have a few that are very dear to me. I don’t know if you can call them coffee table books, but I have a few original catalogues by Serge Moullie and Jean Prouvé that I am really fond of. But the absolute favorite is one that was given to me, it’s a book by Marseille-based Gerald Moreau. Him and another gallerist from Paris did a book about their journey documenting a ton of furniture by Pierre Jeanneret. Moreau personally gave me my signed copy, that one is very special.

Virgil Abloh reached out to you when he needed help decorating the Off White-store in Milan. How did that come about?

– I found out that he had started following me on Instagram, where I have amassed a decent following over the past year. I didn’t notice at first, but a friend notified me of the fact. 
A few weeks before that I was part of a small group who were invited to Switzerland where furniture designer house Vitra was presenting their collaboration with Virgil, and he held a super interesting talk for about an hour. So, I DM’d him and said I enjoyed his lecture and was stoked that he had started following me. He replied and told me he was a fan and it turned out we shared a lot of common interests. It’s funny, because I feel that we are all equal on Instagram, and as long as you respect each other’s craft the hierarchies are not really there. You can access a lot of brilliant minds and interact with them if there is chemistry. Nowhere else could the lead designer for one of the biggest fashion houses in the world and a washed-up golfer interact the way that we did. His design team got in touch with me a few weeks later and asked if I wanted to help with their Milan showroom. And if I go by what he has told me, we will continue working together in the near future. 

Photo courtesy of OutfitWeek

You have quite a few prolific fans who follow your work, what is it about you that make people take notice?

–  I’m not sure, to be honest. But it might have to do with the fact that I am a young male interested in this type of stuff. Barring architects, which is a field heavily dominated by males, I would say the sort of account I run is very much dominated by women. If we speak of “soft values”, such as interior design, there are so many of them. I think I stand out a little bit in a very crowded field. But most of all I do this because I love it. People send me all sorts of questions as if I was an expert, but I’m really just a layman doing what he loves. 

Do you sometimes feel as if you’ve “faked it ‘til you made it”, and that you all of a sudden have a responsibility to take it more seriously than when you just decided to start an Instagram account for the love of interior design?

– Absolutely. I have come to this realization and I now do this with all my heart. I haven’t set any specific goals, it will have to land wherever it lands, simply because of the fact that I am still in unchartered territory. I have no clue as to where this will lead, but I’m enjoying the hell out of the ride so far. I find myself in a position where I’m doing what I love, and I have to make the most out of this opportunity.