If it wouldn’t sound so terribly clichéd, I’d happily venture into interior design. Not the one with the fluffy pillows, trinkets, knickknacks and rugs, but the one with the tiles, wall colours, walls (knocked down or put in), new windows and side extensions. Or is that interior architecture?
Anyhow, a house tour has long been overdue. And now that we have sold our house in Sweden and bought a new one (read: old and in terrible need of TLC and then some) here in California, I feel like I can show off a house that for the longest time has felt a little too big and a little too grown-up for my liking.
We bought the plot for our house five years ago. You know how some people have that dream of one day building their own house? Yah, that’s not me. We decided to go down that road because there just wasn’t anything on the market that worked for us. Looking back, I am glad that we did it, but I don’t think it’s something I am going to do again.
The inspiration for the exterior came from scouting the area for old villas we liked. We wanted a typical Djursholm Villa with a metal roof, lots of windows to let as much light in as possible, high ceilings, a covered small porch to the front and balconies to both the back and the front of the house.
You can see the sea from the front balcony and my study, especially during the time of year when the leaves are down (read: seven to eight months).
The house is set on 1,500 sqm. Once the builders had left and we had cleared all the rubbish from the plot, I was left with a vast field of mud and a handful of mature trees. I always wanted to create a garden, but until building this house, my gardening experience had been limited to tending to ten flower pots on a patio in North London that was half the size of my now kitchen. But being an avid Gardeners World viewer (why is Monty Don so dreamily distracting?!) I had a solid, albeit slightly theoretical, knowledge of how to do this.
I opted for a greenhouse with reclaimed brick to give the rectangular space more structure, and to have somewhere to store my olive trees and roses during the leafless period (see above). The raised beds next to it have been made by our builders – I planted strawberries, sowed carrots and kitchen herbs and had covers made from chicken wire, so the deer wouldn’t eat them.
A greenhouse also is a very nice place to hide from demanding children with a glass of wine, should this situation ever arise… Just place your trees strategically.
The girls’ dream was to have a playhouse. Ours came flat packed (this is Sweden, after all) from Lektma. It’s one of their standard models called ‘Djursholm,’ like the town we lived in, and it looks like a smaller version of our house. The girls loved it even in winter. We installed lights and a plug-in heater, which was put to good use to enjoy fika with their friends if they needed to hide from me. Life being a two-way street and all that…
One thing that made me apprehensive about building a house is the fact that I don’t like new houses that much. We created our first home together in a Georgian townhouse that dates back to the early 1800s. It’s hard to find that kind of charm in a new house, if not impossible.
To add a little charm, we opted for a classic ‘Kalkelugn,’ a Swedish wood burner that’s tiled from top to bottom and radiates warmth for hours after being used. The oak floors are engineered wood over underfloor heating (a big plus of a new home) with a lot of profile. Walking over them barefoot makes you feel the grain of the wood and almost feels like a little massage. I’ll never go back to completely flat floors!
The petrol blue kitchen has been a dream of mine for a long time and our lack of fear when it comes to colour shows just for how long we have lived in England. You won’t find much colour in Swedish homes, preferred palettes range from white to very light grey to beige and then back to white again. We hand imported the knobs and handles from London – nothing beats solid brass that lies heavy in your hand when you open a cupboard.
To add texture and warmth, we went for heavy velvet curtains for most of the house. Swedish windows are a far cry from their drafty cousins in England, so you don’t really need curtains in winter, but they make a house a home and also help to limit the ‘open plan echo issue.’
Want to know a surefire way to make a wardrobe look ten times more expensive than it actually was? Our walk-in wardrobe (yes, we’ve been THAT grown-up for a while) was kitted out with the IKEA Pax system and finished with custom made doors. The doors were spray painted in the same colour code as all our walls (Farrow and Balls’ Old White, as you were asking) with laser-cut handles with a brass coloured recess. Pax is an amazing system to organise all your stuff, and put together expertly (thank you, Marc), will withstand heavy use without budging as much as a millimetre.
We went all in on the bathrooms with Fired Earth tiles, bathroom suits and tabs. I know that even in the sales, it’s more pricey than what you’d find at The Bathroom Store, but Lord did I LOVE our bathrooms. The ceramics are easy to clean, the heavy chrome keeps its shine even under the most OCD’ed homeowner’s scrubbing, and it will pay back once you decide to sell your house again.
And last but not least – the garage. I thought about leaving this out, but if you spend as much time in a garage as my husband, you might as well make it a place that’s worthwhile. Again, a really nice hiding spot from children, if needed 😉