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History

The 1600s The old brickworks

In the mid-1600s, Gustav Gabrielsson Oxenstierna and his wife Maria de la Gardie inherit two freehold farms and a number of other Värmdö farms from the crown. Brick was needed to build a robust, sturdy home so they set up a brickworks by the bay in Farsta. Gustav Gabrielsson Oxenstierna died before the house was completed and to honour his memory, Maria de la Gardie changed the name of the property to Gustavsberg.

1825 Porcelain manufacture commenced

The 200-year-old brickworks is closed, and in 1825, the owner of national board of trade is commissioned to “establish and operate a factory for miscellaneous porcelain”. Around the middle of the 1800s, Gustavsberg starts to manufacture its own products in English style, and to mark the change, the now-familiar anchor stamp is introduced in 1839. For more than 100 years, Gustavsberg primarily concentrates on making household porcelain and decorative items. Under the leadership of proprietor Wilhelm Odelberg, the foundations are laid for the major company that Gustavsberg will become at the end of the century.

1840–1850 The Porcelain Achieves International Recognition

The manufacture of porcelain takes off, and Gustavsberg becomes something of a pioneer in its field, winning a variety of international awards. By nurturing the artistic talents of the age, the business lays the foundations for the artistic tradition that Gustavsberg will later develop even further.

1920 The Vårgårda mixer is born

In 1920, elsewhere in Sweden, Gustav Hedblom is laying plans to open his own factory to manufacture taps. The idea increasingly occupies his thoughts and he soon decides to put his plan into action with the support of two friends. The Vårgårda mixer is born. By 1922, the company has expanded to employ 38 people, and it is with pride that they present a fine range of products and sales totalling SEK 66,550.

1939 New factory for sanitary porcelain opened

Gustavsberg’s new factory for sanitary porcelain is officially opened. The factory was delivered by the Berlin oven manufacturer Kerabedarf as a turnkey installation comprising new machinery and buildings.

1940 WC 306

Gustavsberg introduces its first low-flush wc: model 306. Axel Nilsson’s unique construction is awarded a patent in 1940. Design: Carl Emil Benda.

The 1940s Washbasins for single-hole mixers

Gustavsberg introduces the first washbasin designed for the new single-hole mixers, which eliminate the need for separate taps for hot and cold water.

1947 Bathtub manufacture commences

The first Gustavsberg bathtub is unveiled on new year’s eve 1947. It is the fruit of a unique partnership between Gustavsberg and the american automotive industry. The new form-pressed steel bathtub is easier to handle than the previous heavy and clumsy cast iron tubs. The Gustavsberg bathtub soon comes to dominate the market.

1949 WC 307

WC 307 features a significantly improved flushing effect compared to the old 306 model as the bowl walls are almost vertical and the flush mechanism features a new, quick-close floater valve. Design: Eric Svensson.

The 1950s Designer washbasin

It is in the 1950s that design finally moves into the bathroom. Gustavsberg had succeeded in attracting star designers Wilhelm Kåge and Stig Lindberg. Despite his unwillingness to adapt his models to standard dimensions and production conditions, Stig Lindberg still succeeded in developing a couple of washbasins.

1952 Single-Hole Mixer

In 1952, Gustavsberg starts to deliver its washbasins with factory-fitted single-hole mixers. This significantly reduces the costs for fitting the units at the building sites.

1953 WC 315

In 1953, the company launches wc model 315, the successor to model 306. The porcelain is the same, but the flush technology has been improved even further. Gustavsberg provides a 10-year guarantee on the new flush technology. Wc 315 is also fitted with a seat mounted on liftable hinges.

1953 Washbasin 525

Washbasin 525 sets new standards as the first washbasin ever without a rim (edge). This has always been considered an essential feature to prevent the washbasin losing stability and collapsing in the firing oven. However, Carl-Arne Breger succeeds in developing a solution. With its innovative design, washbasin 525 becomes Gustavsberg’s best-seller in any category to date. Design: Carl-Arne Breger.

1953 Bathtubs with front and side panels

Gustavsberg starts to make bathtubs with front and side panels for freestanding installation. Bathtubs had previously been designed exclusively for building in. Design: Wilhelm Kåge.

1957 Colour moves into the bathroom

Gustavsberg plays the role of pioneer, bringing colour to the bathroom. As early as the 1950s, the Gustavsberg bathroom range features no fewer than eight colours. Even the bathtub is available in different shades.

1961 The Removable Wc Seat

The removable wc seat makes cleaning easier. The product development project led by Bertil Dahllöf was rewarded with the 1961 plastic prize. With designers Stig Lindberg, Peter Pien and Carl-Arne Breger, Gustavsberg creates a plastic profile in the 1960s that is just as highly rated as the company’s porcelain.

1964 The first quiet one

Gustavsberg launches a special quiet-flush wc – the 315t with mechanical components designed by Bertil Dahllöf. At the same time, the porcelain design is given a make-over by Gustavsberg’s first industrial designer: Jan Landqvist.

1965 The Ready-To-Install Bathtub

At around the same time as “the first quiet one” is launched, Gustavsberg makes another giant leap on the bathroom market in the form of the ready-to-install bathtub. The tub is stackable for easier delivery and features adjustable feet and a complete bottom valve unit with drain pipe. At the same time, it is a decimetre lower, to make it easier to enter and exit – and to cover the needs of elderly users and people with disabilities.

1968 Drinking Fountain 1011

The drinking fountain 1011 solves an important problem. The earlier models with the prominent mouthpiece were the source of many dental injuries – particularly in schools, where children would often push the drinker’s head towards the fountain “for a joke”. The solution consists of positioning the button high up on the fountain side so that the drinker is forced into a position that makes it possible to parry a sudden push on the back of the head.

1968 Ergonomics

Interest in the ergonomic design of bathroom products starts to rise in the 1960s. Previously taboo issues such as the posture and height of the body on the toilet are now openly examined, resulting in new and more ergonomic industrial design.

1968 Hospital 70

Washbasin, bidet and wc with accessories specially designed to minimise the places where bacteria can accumulate. The products can also be used by users facing the wall where a rail grip has been attached. This means that wheelchair users can move close to the unit without having to turn around. Everything is secured behind enamelled sheet metal.
Design: Jan Landqvist and Rolf Ling.

The 1970s New colour scheme

Gustavsberg starts to make washbasins of enamelled sheet steel and begins to introduce new, strong and clear colours. The porcelain range has long been dominated by soft pastel shades, but in 1974 Gustavsberg unleashes three new colours for sanitary units: golden brown, olive green and chestnut.

1972 The Design Prince Gives Design To A Thermostatic Mixer

Working with thermostatic mixers, Sigvard Bernadotte designs an exclusive thermostatic model for bathtubs. A limited edition of just 3,000 units is produced.

1972 Strong pipes to facilitate installation

By making sanitary units (bathtubs, wcs, bidets and washbasins) that are ready to install, Gustavsberg facilitates the installation work even further. The common denominator of all the units is “strong pipe” – a bendable pipe made of EPDM rubber.

1972 The first thermostatic washbasin mixer

Gustavsberg becomes the first company to supply a thermostatic washbasin mixer. The new mixer is part of a full range of thermostatic models for bathtubs, showers, bidets, kitchen sinks and washbasins, and boosts the position of thermostatic mixers on the market.

1974 Oil crisis forces new solutions

As a result of the oil crisis in 1974, people start to become seriously interested in energy-saving measures. Gustavsberg launches a new shower cabin for people who do not have space for a bathtub.

1974 Water-Saving Toilets

Gustavsberg has now succeeded in developing four different water-saving wc systems: the Bioloo that uses no water at all, the vacuum toilet that uses just 1.2 litres of water, a toilet for connection to a tank that uses 3.5 litres, and the standard model 315 that uses 6 litres instead of the previous 9.

1975 Washbasin 5080

Manufacturing large washbasins in porcelain leads to a rise in the level of rejects as the material has a tendency to curl during firing. Washbasin 5080 is made of enamelled sheet metal for Huddinge Hospital.

1977 Shower Cabins

Gustavsberg is focusing increasingly on its core business – bathrooms – and invests heavily in supplementing its range of shower cabins.

1977 Gustavsberg’s First Standard Range Launched

Gustavsberg launches its first standard range in 1977. The new wcs, bidets and washbasins feature a distinctive, gently rounded rectangular design. Bathrooms are becoming more spacious, which means that washbasins are now available in larger sizes. Design: Jan Landqvist.

The 1980s Enamelled sheet steel

The bathtub factory now also manufactures decorative items, signs and cladding panels in enamelled sheet steel, e.g. the 

The 1980s The first water-saving mixer in the world

Gustavsberg develops unique water-saving technology for its single-lever mixers, which results in a global patent. The design is as simple as it is brilliant. The mixer is fitted with a flow stop, which ensures that users never use more water than necessary. Thanks to this system, users save vast amounts of water over the course of a year, which means both lower operating costs and less environmental impact. The water-saving mixers become a huge export success.

1981 Arkipelag: An Exclusive Bathroom Range

The innovative spirit that reigns at Gustavsberg also comprises ideas for supplementing the sanitary range with an exclusive collection of porcelain. Inspiration is drawn from the Stockholm archipelago. The flush cistern is designed as a covering shell concealing a plastic tank. The sales price is 30% higher than that of the standard range, but the new models still sell well.

1987 Gustavsberg purchases Vårgårda armatur

Gustavsberg acquires Vårgårda Armatur, whose range of products includes mixers for all household uses and a system of connectors and ball valves for plumbers.

 

1987 Nordic thermostatic mixer

The new Nordic thermostatic mixer gets of to a brilliant start by winning the prestigious HBV competition. HBV is a financial association owned by its members, primarily municipal housing companies.

1991 Gustavsberg purchases German Koralle

Gustavsberg purchases the German company Koralle, a leading player on the european shower market.

1992 Dubbla sparfunktioner i blandarna

For the past decade, Gustavsberg mixers have featured globally patented water-saving technology. The company now adds energy-saving technology as well. The energy-saving properties of the new mixer soon prove to be almost incredible, and the effect can be compared to swapping a standard car for an eco-friendly model. The real difference is that the mixer is appreciably cheaper.

1993 Nordic 390

Nordic 390 finally appears sixteen years after Gustavsberg launched its first standard range. One of many innovations in the new Nordic range is the replacement of the porcelain cistern cover with a plastic one. The porcelain cover has been discontinued for two reasons: because the manufacturing process is very time-consuming, and because the covers are made to match specific cisterns – which makes it very difficult to replace them if they are damaged. The new washbasin is designed for installation using bolts or brackets. This makes the manufacturing process more cost-efficient and helps broaden the range.

1994 Gustavsberg AB sold

The financial crisis of the 1990s starts to bite at KF, owners of Gustavsberg. As a result, a number of companies that KF owns are put up for sale, including Gustavsberg AB. A buyer is soon found in the Dutch company N.V. Koninklijke Sphinx. Gustavsberg’s sales remain relatively strong under the new owner. The “Sphinx era” does not make a lasting impression, and no major innovations are introduced in the field of sanitary porcelain. The marriage to Sphinx lasts six years, and the organisation is left almost completely intact.

1995 Scandic: The Complete Bathroom

The Scandic range is launched and comprises all areas of the bathroom. The pictures show a wall-mounted wc and bidet, a floor-mounted wc and a washbasin with a single-lever mixer. Design: Peter Nordgren.

1997 Prestigious award for mixer

In 1997, Gustavsberg wins the Swedish energy agency’s technology competition for its unique energy and water-saving functions.

1999 Gustavsberg Changes Hands Again

Gustavsberg finds itself with a new majority owner once more when the sanitary group Sanitec purchases Sphinx Nordic AB.

The group already comprises Porsgrunn, IDO and IFÖ, which, with the acquisition of Gustavsberg, gives Sanitec a very strong position in the Nordic region (75% of the market) and in the Benelux countries (50%).

This leads the EU commission to investigate the merger’s dominant effect on the market. As a result, the merger is not approved and the group is forced to sell off Gustavsberg.

2000 Villeroy & Boch Buys Gustavsberg

The German bathroom manufacturer Villeroy & Boch becomes the new owner of AB Gustavsberg. The acquisition comprises AB Gustavsberg along with the subsidiaries Gustavsberg VVS AB and Gustavsberg Vårgårda Armatur AB, as well as the marketing organisations in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic states. Villeroy & Boch is one of the best-known brands of sanitary porcelain in Europe and is also famous for its tiles and household porcelain.

2000 Gustavsberg celebrates its 175th anniversary with a new range

The start of the new millennium coincides with Gustavsberg’s 175th anniversary as a porcelain manufacturer. To celebrate the event, the company develops an anniversary range: Classic. The inspiration for this range with its functional aesthetics has been drawn from Gustavsberg’s predecessor from the 1940s. Design: Rolf Ling

2000 … And is environmentally certified

The Gustavsberg factory was quick to install its own purification plant, and the factory floors are washed with water from a private lake. In addition; excess heat from the ovens is used to heat the premises. On the back of this assiduous environmental work, Gustavsberg is awarded environmental certification in 2000.

2002 Nordic 2002 – timeless design

Designer Rolf Herrström brings many of his ideas to life in the new, timeless bathroom range: Nordic 2002. The picture shows the wc and washbasin that were specially designed for the national renovation and repair scheme in Sweden, whose aim was to build and renovate 425,000 properties.

2004 Exclusive Artic

With its daring forms in authentic material, Artic becomes Gustavsberg’s most exclusive bathroom range for many years. The pure lines are more than just a treat for the eye, however. Along with the smooth surfaces, a concealed drain connection on the wc and hidden fixtures in the washbasin makes the products hygienic and easy to clean. The Artic washbasin also features generous flat surfaces.

2006 Smart, eco-friendly connection hoses

Soft PEX is a new type of approved connection hose for use with kitchen, washbasin and bidet mixers. The advantage of Soft PEX is that it is eco-friendly during the manufacturing phase and recyclable on disposal. The hoses are also corrosion-resistant, which means an end to harmful deposits. Thanks to its flexibility, the material also adds versatility during installations.

2007 Exclusive And Eco-Friendly Mixer

The unique, future-oriented design of the Coloric mixer and its exclusive colours have not gone unnoticed. But if Coloric makes a big impact on the bathroom, it makes little mark on the environment as it is made of aluminium. This is a light metal that requires less fuel for transport and is 100% recyclable. In addition, Coloric is not chromed – which is another big plus for the environment. Design: Jon Eliasson.

2007 European champion in environmental work

Gustavsberg becomes the first Scandinavian company to win the 2007 EMAS award – the EU’s environmental management and green audit scheme.

 

2007 Logic: for small bathrooms

The new Logic range makes it possible to use every last centimetre of space in the bathroom. With its neat, versatile shapes – as regards both porcelain and furniture – the range frees up plenty of space, which means that even small bathrooms can look big. The furniture range comprises everything from small cassette cabinets to broad bottom cabinets that are slim to save space. Even though they may be small, Logic units have been design-optimised to fulfil storage requirements and provide plenty of flat surfaces. Design: Rolf Herrström.

2009 System Vatette cuts water damage

With system Vatette, Gustavsberg introduces a new installation system that significantly reduces the risk of water damage. This is made possible by the use of a neat fixture system that involves no screws at all. As such, there is only a minimal risk of moisture penetrating the sealant layer.

2010 Nautic: designed by you

Function and design have always gone hand in hand at Gustavsberg. The Nautic range makes additional leaps in the area as both fitters and consumers are invited to participate in the design process. The Nautic range becomes Gustavsberg’s most functional bathroom range ever, packed with technological finesses that make life easier for both users and fitters. Nautic replaces the Nordic 2002 standard range. Design: Myra industriell design led by Peter Nordgren.

2011 Triomont System For Wall-Mounted Wcs And Washbasins

Triomont is a smart system for wall-mounted wcs and washbasins. It suits most bathrooms, eliminates major renovation work and allows the installation of wall-mounted bathroom products with a minimum of lost surface area. All that is required is a 14 cm recess.

2012 An exchange-able world-first with a mood

The Logic range is updated with mixers for washbasins, showers, baths and kitchens. In addition to saving energy and water, the new mixers can even change colour. The mixer handles are available in four different mood colours – as are the furniture unit doors and the bathtub front panels. The unique exchangeable aspect makes the bathroom more personal. Design: Jon Eliasson.

2014 Official Opening Of Gustavsberg’s New Factory

Gustavsberg started manufacturing sanitary porcelain back in 1939 in a new and (for the time) ultra-modern porcelain factory. Even though the company has reinvented itself continuously over the years, developing into something of a role model as regards eco-friendliness, there is little doubt that it is time for Gustavsberg to move to new and more appropriate premises. The new factory building is scheduled for completion in 2014.

Source: Muggar och ställ. En berättelse om Gustavsbergs sanitetsporslinsfabrik. Author: Bengt Norling