Steffi Strom is a multi disciplinary artist, interior architect, and all around designer. She’s the founder of Sublime Studios, an international and multi-facetted design firm based in Mexico and Sweden. We talked to her about brutalist architecture, design as the backbone of good living and what it means to be unconventional.
Q: Steffi, your work is centered around the human experience through a design lens. How is your heart today and how does this feeling fuel your creative work?
A: My heart today feels full of truth. There are many perspectives that life
offers regarding truths. For instance, how you can see something from a different perspective? Seeing it from a design perspective, for example, an object can take on different shapes and forms—different angles. So, my heart stands today between perspectives and truths, but also transparency and compassion.
Q: That’s beautiful. As a multi-disciplinary artist, where do you draw inspiration from? A: What inspires me is creativity of any kind. From different sounds, to different textures, to different light shades of tones of color. Voices, heartbeats, the smell of flowers, the taste of food, culinary experiences, traveling.
Q: You have a 360-degree design firm and creative studio called Sublime Studios, encompassing from graphic design, to architecture, to sound design, to art installations. Tell me a bit about your journey, what got you to want to create in that many languages?** A: I realized very early on in my career that as a designer, I actually wanted full creative ownership over the entire process within a project. I also knew then that I didn’t want to work for someone else but wanted full creative freedom.
Q: How so? A: I believe that every aspect of our human experience can be elevated through design. I wanted to tie together all the aspects of the design process and fulfill my own 360 creative vision.
Q: This is fantastic! As a creative myself, this is truly inspiring. How do you manage your creative flows? Does it help that your creativity can be channeled into art or design one day, and furniture and music the next? A: Yes! I offer a lot because I absolutely love creating from every possible angle. It's fun that sometimes some part of the creations have a shorter timespan, and sometimes they take longer. This allows my attention span to kind of move between short and long-term. I get bored if all my products are just plain architecture, as they take too long to create while at the same time, I get a little bit overwhelmed if I take on only short-term projects, like furniture, for instance. I like to blend and go from one to the other.
Q: Any project or success story that you are proud of or want to share with us?
A: One project is called Hotel Noura. It’s my dream project. It’s at the beach in Tulum, Mexico. My firm did the architecture, interior design, interior architecture, all the furniture design and the lighting design. We’re also collaborating with Luis Fernando Sarrelangue, a Mexican musician who will compose the sounds for the hotel. The hotel itself is a 26-room boutique hotel. It has a gallery in the basement, a spa on the third floor overlooking everything. It also has a beautiful restaurant, and a lounge, something we call “the circle.”
Q: I see that every piece for this project has its own symbolism. With, for instance, the fountain in the middle representing the flow of life with its circular rebirth and death. What inspired you here? I see a lot of Mayan references with tension between light and shadow, hard surfaces vs. soft textures. A: Yes, I designed every single detail of the entire hotel, every piece with its own meaning. The huge fountain is actually an homage to the one in Mexico City’s Anthropology museum. It’s like mixing my experiences in Japan with my life Mexico, and with my Swedish identity, like a mix of brutalism, wabi sabi, and Mexican architecture—very earthly.
I had another project called Casa Shalva. We designed all the stone and outdoor furniture, plus the lighting. Here you also see this tension between light and dark, soft and hard. The yin and yang sculpture, for instance, is made from St Tomas stone and the dining table, the chairs, and the fireplace come from the same block of stone, a local Yucatán lime stone called crema Maya. This project made it to the front cover of Elle decor this past June.
Q: Your work feels very unconventional. From your approach to design, to the way you work with materials. What does ‘unconventional’ mean to you and does living unconventionally resonate with how you live your life? A: I would say the unconventional is something like living your truth, no matter where or the circumstances you find yourself in. You are always being authentic to who you are. Sometimes that looks like moving to places that make no sense to other people, taking a job that makes no sense to other people, saying no to money to actually have the freedom to be yourself. I would say that, indeed, my design is definitely unconventional. I like things when they are “unfinished”. I like the raw states of items and objects. And I'm very much into materiality, which probably is very conventional. But the unconventional aspect is, for instance, something like mixing the refined and the raw, mixing the underground with the higher levels of society. Mixing the old with the contemporary, the extremes of fashion, design and music among other things.
Q: Steffi, you’ve just become a (single) mom and chose home birth.
A: Very unconventional. Yes, I chose a home birth. Without medical staff, or (very) unconventional, especially in Sweden, it's 0.01% of the population. And usually, if you do a home birth, then you always have a midwife. I would say I definitely am far from a bring a conventional mother, with many ideas around health and well being. I believe that if my child could be created by my body's intelligence, the whole way through to birth, then a child who is well and healthy will make it. I also decided to break up with the father of my child, the father of Li, during the pregnancy, because I felt that I wanted to spare myself and her the energy that it was given to him if we were still together. So yeah, the unconventional thing of breaking up with someone in the fourth month of pregnancy, probably not very common. I don’t really know what it means to be a mom yet, (only been 4 months) but I definitely feel that I’m unconventional in everything I do and how I live my life.