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}