Friday, 27 December 2013

Swedish Countryside Mudroom at Christmas Time

Things are quiet these days.  People are enjoying time with family and loved ones.  We are spending our holidays at the country house.  It was an unusually nice day yesterday and after many days of rain combined with the seasonally short days I couldn't help but take some pictures of the house.  We've been fixing up the country house for nearly 2 years now and the mudroom, while still not completely finished, is one of my favorite transformations. 

The country house has always been a special retreat for the family at Christmas time and that is something I've kept in mind when designing each of the common spaces.  The red paint is custom, mixed with rödfärg and black facade paint (click here for the recipe).  The draft curtains were shipped with us from Toronto and are a thick, wonderful linen, which I managed to get for a steal from Robert Allen.  The patchwork of rugs are from a late beloved Aunt.  The elk head was found in the forest near the house this summer.  I couldn't help but think that the elk was a little gruesome so I painted it a shimmering grey-blue, which is carried out in accents throughout the house.

and those are the pea green wellies I mentioned here.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

White Christmas Centrepiece

A centerpiece doesn't have to be big or fancy or expensive.  Here is our centerpiece this year. White poinsettias, white tulips and white hyacinth.  We painted the some pine cones white then covered them and some birch in white glitter.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Glögg Martini

I was preparing to make a traditional glögg but I realized that it would be ... boring.  So, as promised, here's a drink full of real booze.  Introducing the Glögg Martini!



Mix equal parts sugar and cinnamon on a small plate.   Moisten the rim the glass with a lemon wedge and then dip the rim in the cinnamon mixture.


2 oz       Red Wine
1/2 oz    Vodka
1/2 oz    Cointreau
pinch of ground cloves
cinnamon stick

Fill a martini shaker about half way with ice.  Add the wine, vodka, cointreau and crushed cloves and shake vigorously - you want to break up the ice a bit so that the martini ends up being very cold.  Strain into the prepared glass.  You can add some of the ice too if you want to keep your drink cold.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick and raisins.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Ultimate Swedish Glögg Tasting 2013

Glögg is Swedish mulled wine that the Swedes enjoy during the Jul season.  It comes in either a stronger version available at the systembolaget and a lighter version (2.2%) available at the grocery store.  We decided to try out a few of the lighter version and report on how they faired.  I have to say that after this taste test I was inspired to make my own (strong) glögg ... a little closer to the weekend.  So you lushes will have to sit tight until later this week to bust out the real booze.  Until then, let's keep it lagom*.

No. 1

Dulvenkrooks Chili Choklad

Dulvenkrooks Chili Choklad

The top place goes to a flavoured glögg and with that Design Stockholm's findings fail to meet the requirements of a controlled study but this isn't exactly dissertation material either.  So Dulvenkrooks Chili Choklad is my favorite.  It has lots of punch and character.  You don't drink a lot of this stuff so you might as well make it count.

No. 2



Last Christmas some Swedish friends of mine broke out into song with "B-L-O-S-S-A, glöggen heter Blossa".  So there it is. Blossa is the go-to glögg over here.  They have that catchy tune and they make different labels for each Jul season.  I guess we need to give them some credit for their marketing clout but how does it taste?  Good.  I like it.  In fact it has a piney flavor that reminds me a bit of Greek retsina (I think I may have revealed something very telling about myself with that).

No. 3

Dulvenkrooks Original

Dulvenkrooks Original

Dulvenkrooks Original is a tasty glögg with a bit of a kick so you know it will warm you up on a cold December night.  Nice.

No. 4

Per Morberg

Per Morberg

Upon further research on this glögg I discovered that it is made by a very famous (and temperamental ) actor and chef here in Sweden and I think the picture on the label is supposed to be an elf version of Per.  So here I am giving it the No. 4 spot.  If he were here right now I'd be in deep sh*t but I'm sticking to my decision.  It is just simply too mild.  Ok fine, we'll call it "smooth" but its elegance is lost on me.  I guess I'm just not refined enough to appreciate it.

No. 5


COOP Glogg
Didn't think it had much kick at all.  Maybe a little closer to retirement.

* Lagom is a Swedish term meaning "just the right amount", a constant reminder to "keep yourself in check".

Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas Wish List

As I was looking for some last minute shopping ideas for one of our Julafton countdown posts, Emma over at Emma's Designblogg, reminded me about wish lists.  Wish lists are one of my favorite things to do because they don't have to be based in reality.  So to kick-off the last shopping week before Christmas, here is my ultimate Christmas 2013 wish list.

Hermès Silk Scarf

I love Hermès everything but their scarves are quintessential elegance.


La Marzocco Espresso Machine

I've said many times since coming to Sweden that one can't get a decent cup of coffee here.  Back in Toronto there were a couple of small coffee shops near our house that had the best coffee.  One of them used a La Marzocco machine.  I know my way around an espresso machine and am a bit of a coffee snob so if I'm wishing for stuff then this beauty makes the list ... and costs a little less than a small car.

Hunter Quilt Detail Wellies

My pea green Hunter wellies are nearing the end of their days.  They've been fixed a couple of times but the pure science of it is, rubber disintegrates.  Nothing can be done about that.  These are the new ones I have my eye on.

Restoration Hardware Versailles Chair

I'm an incurable francophile so naturally a Versailles chair is on the list.


Tiffany and Co. Aviator Sunglasses

Luxury.  And they would look great with the Hermès scarf, non?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Christmas Market - Gamla Stan Stockholm

The Gamla Stan Christmas Market  (to pronounce correctly you need to drag out those "A"s like an old aristocrat - Gawwmla Stawwn) begins around the 20th of November every year and ends on the 20th of December.  The square where the market is held is one of the most famous sights of Stockholm though many, I doubt, know where it actually is.  Somehow I always end up here around the last 2 weeks before Christmas.  There isn't much to buy here at all.  There are candy booths (but of course there are, this is Sweden!  Here's more on the Swedes and their godis.)  You can get fresh glögg, hard bread (knäckebröd), jam and nuts.  There's even some light gambling, for the kiddies of course.  I think the popularity of the Gamla Stan Christmas Market is the experience of being there, in the beautiful square, with the old architecture and all that culture.


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Pepparkaka - Gingerbread

Pepparkaka is how the Swedes say Gingerbread - even though ginger is ingefara here.  I don't know.  A little background, when I first came to Sweden, I had no idea how to say anything.  I was at the grocery store one day and needed peppercorns.  I found a thing called "kryddpeppar". That seemed the logical equivalent to me - krydd, like corn and peppar, like pepper.  Into the mill it went but it had a flavor of cloves.  I put up with it for a few weeks but I don't care how open minded you are, clove flavored salad is simply unpleasant.  I was later informed by an extended family member (when I warned them of my strange tasting pepper) that kryddpeppar is allspice and peppar is apparently a universal term for a spice type thing that they have run out of words for. So there, pepparkaka is spicycake.

Here's a really easy recipe for gingerbread.  However easy it may be, it will still take several hours in total.  I've taken a bit from the Swedish and the Canadian traditional recipes.

100 g       butter  
2 dl          brown sugar
2dl           dark sirap (no that isn't a typo - for North America, you can use simple syrup or light molasses)
1 tbsp       ground cinnamon
1 tbsp       ground ginger
1 tsp         ground cloves

3dl            milk
1 tsp         baking soda in a small amount of water

17 dl         all purpose flour

Melt the butter, sirap, sugar and spices in a saucepan on medium until the butter is melted.  Add the milk and let cool.  Once cool (about 10 mins) add the baking soda mixture.  In a large bowl, combine the flour and the contents of the saucepan.  Work mixture into a dough then put in the fridge for 3 hours or so.

Once out of the fridge, let the dough sit out until it is easy enough to roll with a rolling pin (it will always be tough though).  Try to get the dough to about 3 - 5mm thickness.

Cut into shapes.  Bake at 175 F on middle rack for 8 mins.  Let cool entirely.  Decorate.


4 dl        icing sugar
2            egg whites
2 tsp      lemon juice

Mix with hand blender.  Add more icing sugar if you find your icing is too runny.  It should be rather thick.  Add food colouring if desired.  For better control of the icing use a piping bag.

A note on gingerbread houses - My intention was to make this post about the most wonderful gingerbread house ever made, with complex shingles for the roof and shutters for the windows.  But ... the walls fell in ... and the roof didn't fit despite meticulous measurements.  And this was before the aforementioned shingle system was even attempted.  If you are a novice or have little patience, save yourself the agony.  Go with cookies and have a merrier Christmas baking experience.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Apartment Hunting - Södermalm Classic - Gustavian Kitchen

And back to our little castle in the sky.  In the space planning post (click here to get caught up) we decided that the client would be looking for a traditional Gustavian interior. Today we'll start with the best room in the house, the kitchen.  For a bit of context, let's first break down the Gustavian look.  Gustav III took the French Neoclassical look back to Sweden then simplified the look and muted the colours. A typical Gustavian colour scheme features muted grays, blues and greens.  For this project, we will source the paints entirely from Farrow and Ball.

I would like to make the cabinets a nice soft gray like Dimpse by Farrow and Ball

Dimpse - Farrow and Ball

Although Gustavian is characterized by a scaled-down Neoclassical look, we still need some detailing otherwise we risk having a kitchen that nods toward Modern.  The Ramsjö profile from Ikea is simple yet has the detailing that mirrors the columnal look of the Neoclassical period.

Ramsjö Profile via Ikea

I'd love to really highlight the island by painting it a darker gray like Pavilion Gray.

Pavilion Gray - Farrow and Ball

A nice light marble countertop on both kitchen and the island will compliment the grays and give that element of luxury.  When shopping for marble, shop around and buy the best you can afford.  This is a major purchase so have fun with it and don't rush.  Make sure your grays jive with each other.  Bring a sample of your paints and fabrics.

Marble Countertop
And here's an idea of what the furnishings will look like.  We'll put these around the island to give the kitchen that ever important feeling of community.  You will need reproduction chairs for this purpose as they did not make stools to the heights we need these days, like this reproduction from Restoration Hardware.

French Round Chair via Restoration Hardware

And for the upholstery.  I love this heavy linen in "Spruce".  This will also carry us to the living room ... which we'll cover next time.

Spruce Swatch via Restoration Hardware


Thursday, 5 December 2013


Advent is a countdown to Christmas Eve or Julafton as they call it here.  On the four Sundays preceding Christmas Eve the Swedes light a candle and apparently eat rice pudding (risgrynsgröt).  The Swedes are famously non-religious so the fact that they celebrate Advent is a little perplexing to me.  My Bible toting, Jesus lovin', year-long hymn singin' Grandmother doesn't even celebrate Advent.  Swedes do love their candles though, and their gröt*, so I guess that's it then.  There are a couple ways you can do this.  You can use an advent candle holder or simply use four candles upon which you stick the numbers, 1, 2, 3 and 4.  I think the latter is super ugly, I don't care how glittery or fancy those numbers are.

Speaking of the Ekdahls, this advent candle holder reminds me of the opening scene of Fanny and Alexander.  The angels spin making a slight "ting" sound.
Advent Candles at P.U.B.

 For the lover of clean, Scandinavian and Modern.
Allas by Andeas Engesvik for Iittala at P.U.B.

If you absolutely must go the number route, then here's an option from Indiska.
Advent Candle Numbers at Indiska

 I like these the best.  Simple yet versatile. They come in different colours too.  These candle holders work together as a unit without actually being the exact same.  This creates visual interest and asymmetrical symmetry (you'll earn points with the design snobs for that one!)
Candleholders from MIO

We'll continue to look at the ways that the Swedes worship their sources of light at Jul as we approach December 13th which is the celebration of St. Lucia, the patron saint of light. 

*Gröt:  Basically this is porridge.  It comes in oat, rice and some other grain "manna" that I have yet to identify.

New Feature Introduction - Apartment Hunting

Our new feature here at Design Stockholm will be called Apartment Hunting.  A little background - something I love to do is go through the real estate websites and check out what's for sale.  I can't speak for all designers but finding a really neglected space with loads of potential is super exciting.  The more work needed, the better.  Apartment hunting is a bit of a cultural phenomenon here in Stockholm.  Whether you're buying or renting, finding the right place has quite a significance here.  Property values are high and the queues to rent are years long.  It affects most of Stockholm's population in some way.  But we'll take a look at the lighter side.
We will feature a property which is located in the local real estate listings and play around with it a bit.  We'll have a "client" in mind so as to better decide how to space plan and decorate the space.  Property value will be assessed.  Or maybe sometimes we'll be wreckless and spend, spend, spend!  I think we'll start off with the latter.
So as promised, I've brought you back to Södermalm.  This property is a classic Stockholm floor plan with the original plan in place from when the building was built.  Times have changed and so have ideas on what a great home should look and feel like.  Take a look - tomorrow we change the space to reflect contemporary ideas on the ideal home. Hejdå!



Monday, 2 December 2013

Nu Är Det Jul Igen - It's Christmas in Sweden

We start off the Jul season with an old Jul song appropriately called "Nu Är Det Jul Igen" or Now it's Christmas Again.  So how do I know this old song?  Bergman.  Until just a few years ago, there was only one Bergman movie I knew anything about, Fanny and Alexander.  I grew up watching Fanny and Alexander every Christmas.  It is easily Bergman's most upbeat movie...with all the strange and creepy stuff you expect from Bergman.  And to be part of the Ekdahl life was the greatest way to spend four hours (or six, if you had the made for television version).  So if you haven't already, dust off your copy of Fanny and Alexander, or go buy it if you don't have a copy and start the Jul season with the Ekdahls, dancing around their massive apartment singing Nu Är Det Jul Igen.

Nu är det Jul igen och nu är det Jul igen
Och Julen varar väl till Påska.
 Nu ar det Jul igen och nu ar det Jul igen
Och Julen varar väl till Påska.

Det var inte sant och det var inte sant,
För där emellan kommar fasta.
Det var inte sant och det var inte sant,
För där emellan kommar fasta. 

(Now it's Christmas again and now it's Christmas again
And it's Christmas all the way to Easter
Now it's Christmas again and now it's Christmas again
And it's Christmas all the way to Easter

That isn't true and that isn't true,
For in the middle it is Lent
That isn't true and that isn't true,
For in the middle it is Lent) 

To sing this song successfully you must squish the words together in such a way that it sounds more like...

Nuyjuliyen, o Nuyjuliyen

Click here for a small taste of Fanny and Alexander and Jul with the Ekdahl family.

{via Criterion}

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Apartment Hunting - Södermalm Classic - Space Planning

For our inaugural Apartment Hunting space I decided to go with a classic Swedish floor plan.  This plan is found in the older buildings and comes in all sizes.  This particular plan in Södermalm is a cool 181m2 and 12 000 000 SEK.  Pretty unattainable for most of us.

But as I mentioned in the last post, we are going to spend, spend, spend.  So in the spirit of money's no object, let's have a bit of fun with this one shall we.  Our client will be a professional couple with two kids.  They want a space that will reflect contemporary values on living/kitchen areas while maintaining the traditional Swedish vibe by going with a Gustavian inspired colour scheme and decor.
Södermalm Apartment - Before

1.  The Kitchen

Back when these apartments were built the kitchen was not a priority.  It was kept out of sight and out of mind, and allotted as little space as was possible.  Times have changed and the kitchen is THE place to be.  Having the available time to spend hours in the kitchen is something of a posh thing now. The kitchen for our little castle in the sky will be moved to the main area, just on the other end of the washroom (keeping in mind the location of the existing plumbing)  The area is bigger there, allowing for a nice spacious kitchen with an island, but most importantly it will be directly beside the living room. 

2. The Partition Wall

The wall dividing the new kitchen and the living room is indicated as being a partition wall and not having any structural value.  With that in mind, I would like to open up the space by moving the doorway to the centre of the wall and widening it.  I am not a big fan of complete open concept but rather the freedom to have either.  I think open concept makes sightlines overwhelming and if you have kids, all that junk they haven't picked up stares back at you from every angle!   If we make a large doorway with pocket doors the kitchen can be open or closed off from the living room whenever one chooses.

Södermalm Apartment - After
3.  The Dining Room

The room to the right of the living room will be a formal dining room.  It can double as an office or homework room when the family are not entertaining.  This keeps all the "living" areas together and the bedrooms will be in the back, which are usually the rooms overlooking the courtyard.  I also want to close the doorway into the dining room from the front entry.  This allows for a nice space for a vignette or an impressive piece of art, which would be immediately visible upon entering the front door.

4. The Front Entry

To me, there is something funky about having a pathway that leads from the living room into a bedroom and out to the other bedrooms.  Perhaps at one point it was a library.  We are going to change that and by doing so there will be a passage from the front to the bedrooms and one to the living areas.  I love the French balcony which lights up the entry and gives a view.  Quite a luxury for Stockholm.

5.  Old Kitchen

Becomes the master bedroom as it has a walkout to the balcony.  Again, it makes better sense to have all the bedrooms together on the quieter side of the apartment.  The other two bedrooms will be for the kids.

6.  Bathroom and Powder Room

Stay where they are.  In buildings you don't usually have much freedom here.

Next time we will look at Gustavian colours and perhaps some quintessential Gustavian inspired furnishings.


Friday, 22 November 2013

Programming Note for the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

You must be wondering why I haven't mentioned the "most wonderful time of the year" yet.  Look I love Christmas just as much as the next gal, in fact it's my favorite holiday but I feel Christmas is one of those things that can build up in the system, like Mercury for example, and ruin the whole thing forever. So with that in mind - we don't want Christmas to become toxic for you - Design Stockholm will be Jul and Christmas heavy with shopping tips, cultural info, pics, recipes and perhaps even some Swedish Jul carols (I know, I know) but not until December!

So take a deep breath.  Enjoy the dark, rainy weather knowing that here at Design Stockholm Jul is just around the corner, but it's not here yet.

During the last week of November we'll go back to where it all began at Design Stockholm, Södermalm (click here for a refresher) where we'll launch a new feature which will take a look at space planning, colour schemes and style specific decorating ideas.

Until then, enjoy the view from Åhlens City. 



Thursday, 21 November 2013

Stockholm Directory - Två Sekler Present and Inredning

Along Odengatan between Torsgatan and Norrtullsgatan, there is a collection of  antique and curiosity shops. I always find these shops a little more intimidating to browse as they are often very small, cramped and the proprietor is usually a bit of a wild card, so to speak.  I felt  particularly sociable the other day and decided to check out a few of them.  Design Stockholm's latest addition is one of these shops.  Två Sekler Present and Inredning is an eclectic mix of antiques, new and reproduction furniture, lighting and decorative objects.  The proprietor is lovely.  The basement, which houses some of the antique stock, is a small and appropriately charming space dug directly into the stone.  Två Sekler doesn't have a website so this is a place you'll have to check out in person.  You'll likely find a few things you love.



Två Sekler Present and Inredning
Odengatan 94
113 22 Stockholm
tel. 08 31 51 51
mobile. 0709 90 13 12

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Trends - Dark Paint for Walls

I was saying to a friend the other day that trends will naturally start to move to darker colours after so many years of everything being clean and white. People need to see something different.  I have always loved dark rich red - as I've mentioned several times (here and here), red is one of my go-to colours.  Apparently everyone is talking about the trends toward darker colours for walls, even here in Scandinavia.  What's my take on this Scandinavian move to such unfamiliar territory?  I don't see it lasting very long.  The winters are simply too long and too dark for Scandinavians to be able to live surrounded by dark walls without going crazy.  No one, however, can argue with the dynamic look that can be achieved with a deep rich colour in the walls.  So let's take a look at some great dark coloured spaces.

This kitchen has dark floors, cabinets and ceiling yet because of the heavy lacquer, it reflects light beautifully.

The white furniture and accents in this space help offset the darker colours on the wall.

The Asian influences here are many and I absolutely love this space.  Everything works seamlessly together, from the grid accents of the wall panel to the curved legs of the table
 and the playful plants.


The blue walls here work very nicely with the natural wood elements and the brown chair. 


Now let's look at dark bathrooms.  Even in the smallest bathroom, with or without windows, dark walls seem to work.  Here are a few of my favorites.

If you are going to go with purple, go all the way!

Simple.  Although I think I would have gone with a white toilet seat.  I generally don't like decorating with words or sayings but the quality and size of these letters save it from looking cheesy.

The best for last!  The walls are rich, with art from floor to ceiling.  A nice quality rug over deep wood floors (not enough people realize that wood floors in a bathroom is often better than tile, especially if you live in a cold climate - like Sweden.  But that's a blog for another day.)  This look is super easy, relatively inexpensive and anyone can do it.



Thursday, 14 November 2013

Stockholm Directory - Tabbouli House

Tabbouli House is a wonderful surprise tucked away on Scheelegatan in Kungsholmen.  With deep red walls, one of my go-to colours,  and a contrasting teal ceiling, it's a far cry from the typical Swedish aesthetic.  The product line is curated with an elegant selection ranging from Moroccan tiles to lighting to cushions and textiles and seasonal decorative finds.  Tabbouli House is the type of place you can go back to again and again.

Tabbouli House

Scheelegatan 4
112 23 Stockholm