Tuesday, February 19, 2008

House Voyeur: Simple and Serene in Sweden

I got an email the other day from Heike Schmidt, a reader in Sweden, offering up her home for a "House Voyeur" tour -- but warning me that it might not be up to my standards. Once I started looking through the pictures, though, it was clear that Heike was being unnecessarily modest. The 1901 red brick farmhouse outside Malmö, Sweden that the German native shares with her Danish partner, Erik Mortensen, is simply beautiful.

Looking at the photos of Heike and Erik's retreat in the southern Swedish countryside literally transports me. It's so different from most North American homes -- and so very lovely and serene.

I love how light floods through the windows and imbues the home with a sense of happiness and calm. I love the stripped-down simplicity with which the couple has approached each room -- and though the result is clean and uncluttered, it's anything but cold. I love the mix of high and low and new and old, with inexpensive IKEA pieces harmonizing wonderfully with pricier designer items, and new furnishings sitting side-by-side with well-loved treasures rescued from secondhand stores or passed down from Heike and Erik's families. I love the bright white palette accented with punches of vibrant color (so very Scandinavian!). Most of all, I love the dashes of humor and playfulness they've incorporated into their spaces -- I can't imagine stepping through the door and not having my mood instantly brighten.

Here, Heike takes us on a virtual tour of the place that she and Erik call home:

"We are Heike and Erik, and currently we share our home with a lot of stuffed toys. We both commute to our communications jobs in Denmark (half an hour across the Øresund Bridge). In our spare time, we like to read, go for walks or ride our bicycles, cook food that needs to be in the oven for interminable amounts of time, and sail in our kayak.

Our favorite thing about our home is the space and quiet. We used to have a small house on a tiny plot close to the city center in Copenhagen (population 1.5 million), and the noise and bustle and crampedness of it all was driving us nuts. Here, even though the center of Malmö is just ten minutes away by car, we only have two neighbors and enjoy a view of open fields and horses in their paddocks. Our garden is populated by pheasants and deer. It's incredible.

We moved in less than a year ago, and our biggest challenge was not breaking down in a crying fit when we first took over the house. It had been lived in by two old ladies for 17 years and looked the part: Yellowing walls, ugly wallpaper, and dirty corners galore. Gradually, it got better. The next project is a new bathroom. We're dreading that, even with professional help. I wish we'd started with the bathroom before we settled in and became lazy.

I don't know what our style would be called or whether we even have one -- it's just things we liked and dragged home. We're inspired by looking at lots of books, magazines, and blogs about design and decorating, and by wandering around local shops. Shameless idea-stealing, really!

We have too many books. They keep overflowing, so shelving is cheap and comes from IKEA. We've color-coded our books, and I think it looks nice. The big beanbag is a Fatboy and the black bean sitting in it is a Barbapapa toy we have around to cheer us up -- his smile is infectious. Secretly, he's the king of this castle.

We had the wood-burning stove put in last week -- just in time for the last cold days of the year! The sofa, armchair, table, and white cabinets are from IKEA. The brown cabinet beside the stove was inherited from Erik's granddad. The light fixture is called the Urchin and was from Snowhome (unfortunately, it's no longer available).

If I had to point to the single most expensive piece of furniture in our home, that was bought entirely because we were giving ourselves a present, it would have to be our Stingray rocking chair. It was designed by Thomas Pedersen and produced by Fredericia Furniture in Denmark. In fact, the chair was Pedersen's final project in design school and because the school had no facilities for fiberglass molding, he made the prototype in the school's parking lot.

The painting on the left is by Erik's granddad. The other two came cheap from secondhand shops. The thermos on the left is called Ole and was designed by Ole Jensen. The two blue ones are by Alfi from Germany and the one on the right is called Quack and was designed by Georg Jensen. (Why we have that many thermoses, we don't know.)

When we moved in we ripped out the old kitchen and put in a new one. We're really proud of our kitchen, even if it's IKEA. We put it in all by ourselves. And our relationship survived the process!

The inevitable mixture of secondhand cups with retro patterns, 'that' Canada mug, the comic strip mug, and a lot of Swedish Höganäs plates and cups.

We actually walled up a door in the kitchen and converted the former dining room into our bedroom. We'd rather eat in the kitchen, so that we can cook and chat. The lamp above the dining table is the I Spy, which is made from 85 magnifying glasses. We got it from Habitat, although it's no longer sold there. (Editor's note: The "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster is available here.)

In the foreground is some of the blue Mr. Signoret pottery we picked up in Le Barroux in Provence, France. The vase in the back we found secondhand.

We put our bedroom in the former dining room, which has the best morning light. Where better to wake up? The ceiling fixture is the Midsummer Light by Tord Boontje -- we love it. The dressers are from IKEA. I made the big gold-colored thing from some IKEA fabric and old letters.

The map of Scandinavia came from a secondhand shop and cost all of $4. The chair is an heirloom of Erik's, and the side table is from IKEA. I sewed the cushion on the chair out of an old curtain -- intolerable pattern as a curtain, but fine as a cushion.

The chair is by Eames and the little guy in it is by Curster, which I found on Etsy.

The chest of drawers came with the house. The two red lamps are from IKEA and the stuff on the shelf is all secondhand. This little guy cost about a dollar at a secondhand shop. We had to take him home.

The built-in closets in the guest room recently got covered in dirt-cheap wrapping paper (a dollar a roll) and some silk band.

Our TV corner upstairs. The Pac-Man decoration on the wall was an idea I stole from somewhere and then cut out of silvery adhesive. The sofa is from IKEA.

The lamp is secondhand. The animals were made by me at various stages of youth. And the yetti, which I found on Etsy, is by Owlyshadowpuppets.

We painted the floor white. Originally we meant to paint the table as well, after dragging it home from a secondhand shop, but that never happened. The chairs are also secondhand apart from the one behind the table, which Erik inherited. I reupholstered the chair on the left with some Chinese silk. I'm very proud of the result, and like looking at the chair more than sitting in it.

I made these from old library books, shamelessly stealing the idea from someone (though I don't remember who).

This is my room for sewing, painting, and other ongoing DIY projects. The desktop and trestles are from IKEA, and the chair is secondhand.

I got this little guy on the left as a present when I was in kindergarten. He's followed me ever since. On the right: The obligatory elk, since we're in Sweden and all. I did the drawings behind it.

This is the greenhouse: Some secondhand paintings and a crumbling butterfly display we bought secondhand, with a table and some old pots that came with the house. Filled with sugary water, the hanging glass jars keep the bees away from us.

Our advice: Steal ideas from everyone and everywhere. Keep your eyes open. Never, ever listen to shop assistants. Google stuff -- even generic terms like 'lamp' can turn up great things you've never seen before. Keep moving your furniture around until it's right. Consider a Dutch tub. (Just joking, but the concept does seem fantastic.)"

Want to see more? Click here to view the entire slideshow -- and here to see the state of the house before the couple worked their magic on it.

Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of your beautiful home, Heike and Erik! I feel almost as though I've been on holiday. (So, umm ... Heike, when can I come to visit for real?)

P.S. Want to see more? Click here for a peek inside other readers' homes.

12 comments:

Amanda said...

Heike & Erik, your house is amazing!!!!!

Bethany said...

beautiful house! i LOVE LOVE LOVE the color coded books on the shelves!!!!

corine said...

This house is fun, lovely and inviting. I'd totally live there. (But would there be room left on the shelves for my books?)

girl meets glamour said...

What a fun home, but I just love that Habitat light fixture!!

~Kate

cardboard said...

Hey! I've met the girl behind Owlyshadowpuppets! She's nice! Yay, yetti!

I love so much of this house that I can't even remember it all now...
-Wrapping paper on the closet doors!
-Habitat light!
-Little round-headed dude with no pants on atop the white bureau

Beautiful home & thanks for sharing it with us!

Heike said...

Hello,
Thanks ever so much for all the nice comments about our house. Erik thinks we're famous now .-)
Also, the little round-headed dude IS wearing pants.
No naked toys in our house. Apart from the ones that are "naturally naked" (yeti...).
Cheers,
Heike

cardboard said...

Flesh-colored pants, maybe.

Betty said...

I love your house. My special favorites are the art space, the paintings, the kitchen, that staircase (wowza), your tableware (going to hunt some hoganas down), your dresser birdies and outdoor furniture. Whew. Want to house-swap for a couple of weeks? :D (I wonder why I never find any good paintings at secondhand shops?)

Kate of All Trades said...

Wow, I love that house! What a treat to see. Loving this segment, by the way. Looking forward to many more. Maybe I'll even submit my own....

SGM said...

Amazing! Can I come too?
The tree-lined street alone makes me happy.

Pixie said...

That is lovely! Such a beautiful place. I visited Copenhagen last year and took a day trip to Malmo. This brought back many happy memories of my vacation.

Lisa Howells GP Canada said...

I feel so at comfortable in your design and I'd love to do similar art/decor. Thanks for the breath of fresh air!

 

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