When Stefan Andrén moved to Portland in 2003 to become design director for Nike+ and began designing his own house, he wanted sliding doors. “You can more seamlessly tie one interior space to another without losing a bunch of square footage from swinging doors,” he explains. He never expected to slide into a whole different life.
The Skybox, the modernist loft Andrén built in Portland’s West Hills, began getting national attention from publications like Dwell. Readers coveted the sliding doors he’d designed and had custom-made by a Portland metalworker friend, Rob Roy, with double wheels supporting wood or glass door panels while rolling along a steel track above the opening. That’s when the calls and emails started. “For a long time,” Andrén recalls, “I said, sorry, it was custom made, can’t really help you. I figured it would go away, you know? But it didn’t.”
Andrén asked Roy to make fifty more of the wheeled door assemblies. “If somebody bugged me long enough,” he says, “I sent them one, rolled it up and shipped it from my garage.” When the calls kept coming, he decided to take a closer look at the sliding door market. What had been an inconvenience became an opportunity. Andrén left Nike to start Krownlab, which now markets three families of his sliding door hardware. The crown, he says, is a national symbol in his native Sweden, and represents something “a cut above.” Lab, he says, comes from “the idea of experimentation, pushing the boundaries, doing something new.”
Krownlab named its first model after Rob Roy, who made the prototypes, and another two after Viking gods Oden and Baldur. All three feature exposed hardware, which Andrén says appeals to those who want to make an architectural statement. The visible bearings make for the bold look Andrén originally wanted for his own residence. “I like objects that are simple in the way they appear,” he says, “and honest in the way that you can tell what something does. You can see the movement when the door moves back and forth.”
- Photography: Rachel Hadiashar