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In Pictures: Look inside this perfect Swedish island home

Designing and building a home on Swedish holiday island Gotland is a dream for many, but Anna-Lena Palmgren and Johan Rosengren did exactly that. Houzz.se’s Meta Regebro takes a look inside their amazing creation.

In Pictures: Look inside this perfect Swedish island home
This modern Gotland home was designed and built by two Swedes. Photo: United Frog Studios/AB

Sometimes you come across a home that is perfectly created for the people who live in it. In this house in Ljugarn on the east coast of Gotland perfection meant large open areas with exciting windows that let in both sun and moonlight, and a white facade that reflects the bright limestone on the island. Not to mention a private kitchen for the owners’ 10 greyhounds, of course…

Who lives here: Anna-Lena Palmgren and Johan Rosengren with their 10 greyhounds. Anna-Lena has designed the house and Johan has built it.

Occupation: The pair run a tourist business, which includes a B&B and a café, as well as rental cottages. Anna-Lena has earlier worked professionally with interior design. In their spare time, the couple breed and show greyhounds.

Location: Ljugarn, eastern Gotland.

Size: 235 square meters.

Year built: 2007

Plot: Forest plot of about 10,000 square meters with plenty of space for the many dogs.

Johan grew up in Ljugarn and has extensive experience of renovating his own houses as well as from the construction of holiday cottages. This is his first house that he has built for himself however.
 
The house is built of lightweight concrete that has been plastered in white. The windows have aluminium frames, mainly to make them as maintenance-free as possible. The material also reduces operating costs in the long run. The floor plan is open with plenty of space and high ceilings.
 
“We used to live in an old school with four-meter high ceilings, large rooms, and lots of windows. You become slightly spoiled,” Johan says.
 
“It would not feel right to reduce our space.”
 

The tall windows, which stretch from floor to ceiling, are designed to capture light and invite the landscape from the outside in.

When designing the house, Anna-Lena thought it was important to take advantage of the light, but without the need to install large glass walls. This solution reduces the heating costs, amongst other things.

“A nice surprise that we didn’t think of when the house was being drawn was the effect during the evenings and nights from moonlight,” Johan says.

“It's an amazing experience to see the moonlight fall as long white pillars into the room. Very beautiful.”

The open floor plan is ideal for two people with many large dogs. The kitchen, dining room and living room intermingle in one long hall. A bit like a Viking longhouse, but in a modern way.

“You get to experience the whole house as soon as you come in through the door,” Johan says. “It's a special feeling.”

So what is Johan’s advice to anyone who wants to build their house by themselves?

“Expect it to take one year longer than you think and get 30-40% more expensive than expected. But I still do not think you should limit the surfaces, if you have the space and budget. In hindsight, I think I was a little too stingy with the space for useful surfaces.”

The interior is a wonderfully eclectic mix of everything from countryside to Rococo and Art Nouveau.

“A mix of old and new gives a certain homely feeling. We do not want to have a lot of stuff but still a welcoming and warm living environment,” Anna-Lena says.

The few selected items in the home are carefully placed and arranged as beautiful still lifes.

“The décor consists mostly of things we bought ourselves at garage sales, auctions, and travels around the world,” Johan reveals.

The stone tables come from Gamla Fysikum in Uppsala. They are ancient granite tables with an iron frame construction, originally made for optical experiments.

The dogs are a central theme in the house, both in real life form and in the interior details.

“It has just kind of happened that we have gotten more and more things with greyhound motifs. It's something that has come naturally when living with our dogs,” Johan says.

The house's storage areas are smartly positioned under the stairs to the upper floor. “We didn’t want a lot space for storage, simply to avoid collecting so much stuff. The more storage space, the more junk. Now we are forced to choose more carefully what we bring into the house,” Anna-Lena says.

There are plenty of green plants in the home, which is nicely in tune with the nature outside. Another example of the creative and eclectic interior is the plant cage placed on the concrete tubes in the seating area. The installation presents a strong contrast to the old home made and unpainted stool next to it, maybe once made to be used when hand milking in the barn.

The house's only source of heat is a stove with a back boiler. The heat is accumulated in a water tank and goes down into the floor heating. The stove also generates the house's hot water. This has made it possible to bring down electricity consumption and lower the continuous operational costs significantly.

With ten dogs in the house, it is good to be able to divide certain parts of the home. As a result they have put in gates in a few places in the house. Here, we see a view of the entrance to the home office.

The beautiful porcelain dogs are a birthday present for Anna-Lena from Finnish friends.

The family's dogs have about 40 of their own combined square metres in the house. They also have a special dog kitchen, and an additional room which is used when there are puppies in the house for example.

The walls are a strong red colour in the upstairs bedroom. “I wanted to use warm colours and make it really cozy,” Anna-Lena says.

Anna-Lena found an amazing display cabinet in Mexico. This too is filled with small dog sculptures and other dear, small finds.

The bathroom has no ordinary shower walls. Instead, they let the imagination run wild and created green walls made of gutters where they grow various plants.

Eklektisk mix på gotländska östkusten

Photo: Meta Regebro

Get more inspiration in The Local's Homes section

Come see more Nordic lifestyle, design and architecture over at houzz.dk and houzz.se.

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PROPERTY

How do I prep my apartment for sale in Sweden?

Here's the first part of The Local's new property series from reporter Becky Waterton, who is currently going through the process of selling her apartment: how do I prep my property for sale?

How do I prep my apartment for sale in Sweden?

Choosing to sell your house or apartment is a big step – when is the best time to sell? What should the asking price be? How do I choose an estate agent?

You’ve done all that, so what’s next? It’s time to prepare yourself – and your apartment – for the upcoming move. But how do you make sure your apartment stands out?

Your estate agent will want to take photos of your apartment as soon as possible for property sites Hemnet and Booli, as well as their own website. However, this isn’t just a case of a photographer coming round to your apartment the next day – you will need to carefully style your apartment beyond recognition first.

Some estate agents offer a styling service as part of their fee (arvode). Some include it as an add-on, which can cost anywhere from 1,500 kronor to 5,000 depending on the estate agent. If you don’t fancy paying that amount, you may be able to get your estate agent to give you some tips on what to do, or you can do it yourself. Here’s a rough guide if you choose the latter route.

Light and airy

Swedes love light. Therefore, you want your apartment to look as light and airy as possible. Nothing on your kitchen or bathroom countertops is allowed to stay – apart from a small (expensive) bottle of hand soap.

The one exception to this rule appears to be if you have a colourful mixer – like a KitchenAid, or a bowl filled with a random selection of fruits and vegetables.

You should also, if possible, make sure photos of your property are taken in summertime (even if you’re not planning on selling for months). This is so your apartment is bright and sunny in photos, rather than dark and grey like the Swedish weather for most of the year.

If in doubt, get a plant. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

If you get kvällssol (evening sun), try to time the photos so they’re taken at the same time. If possible, time your flat viewings for a sunny evening, too, to show off the opportunities your apartment offers.

Avoid anything which could give away the date at which pictures were taken, though. If a keen-eyed potential buyer looking at your flat in October spots that your calendar is from July in your photos, it will just make them suspicious as to why your flat has been on the market for so long.

If possible, you want to get rid of as much furniture as possible without the room feeling empty. If that means getting rid of your work-from-home setup to dedicate half of your living room to a large monstera plant until the flat is sold, so be it. (I may be speaking from personal experience here.)

Spots of colour

Swedes love neutral colours. Most apartments have white walls, wooden floors, and furniture in varying shades of grey, white, brown or black. However, too many neutral colours together looks boring, so you need to break up the neutral palette with pictures, blankets, pillows and plants in varying colours.

For some reason, no one is allowed to see your bedding. I presume this is seen as incredibly private to Swedes, who will do everything they can not to intrude on your personal space (which admittedly, is quite difficult when they are touring your house full of all your personal belongings and deciding whether it’s nice enough for them to buy).

Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

This means that you need to put a throw on your bed, which goes all the way down to the floor. While you’re at it, scatter some colourful cushions on your bed, too, as the throw is probably white, like your walls, and you don’t want it to look boring.

If you have plants, use them. Put them on your bedside table, your windowsills, even in your bathroom (yes, this also applies if your bathroom has no windows, meaning the plants would die if left there for too long – it’s just for photos and flat viewings). 

Assume people have no imagination

It may seem obvious to you that people will be able to imagine themselves living in your apartment, but this doesn’t mean it is. You need to make your flat feel luxurious, even if it seems borderline ridiculous that you would ever have nothing but a bowl of lemons and a perfectly-dishevelled dishtowel on your kitchen countertops.

Similarly, if you live in one of Sweden’s big cities and are lucky enough to have a balcony, you must decorate it with some sort of attractive blanket (in, you guessed it, a neutral colour), a bowl of berries, a bottle of champagne and two glasses. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never used your balcony for anything other than storing drinks in winter, people must be shown the opportunities your balcony can bring. Swedes love to spend time in the open air, so show them that this is possible.

In a similar vein, if you have a garden, it must contain a barbecue. Barbecuing is a favourite Swedish pastime in summer, so show prospective buyers that yes, they can also have the pleasure of barbecuing in the garden, if they buy your property.

Get rid of everything which suggests someone lives there

Okay, almost everything. Leave nothing but a pair of shoes and two jackets on your clothes rack in the hallway. People need to be shown that someone lives there, in a way which is generic enough that they can imagine living there themselves.

Remove everything from your bathroom which isn’t attached to the wall. Don’t even show prospective buyers that you use soap.

Take down any family photos or photos of people. Privacy-focussed Swedes don’t want to be rudely reminded of the fact that someone actually lives in this apartment they are considering purchasing.

Oil, vinegar, salt and pepper are only allowed in your kitchen if they are expensive brands which you have never opened and bought specifically for photos. Your desk must have nothing but a computer on it.

Books are no longer for reading, they’re for putting plants on top of. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Your books are no longer for reading, they are decorative items. This means removing the vast majority and instead displaying them in a few carefully-composed piles on your bookshelves, preferably colour-coordinated.

Your coffee table is nothing but a surface on which to display a lit candle and a bunch of flowers. 

The one exception to this rule is your kitchen table. Cover it with a tablecloth, set out a couple of attractive mugs or champagne glasses, a candle and a bunch of flowers to make it look like you regularly have romantic candlelit dates in your kitchen. Like I said, it needs to feel luxurious.

By the end of this process, the goal is to make you feel like you live in an IKEA catalogue.

There’s a bonus, too. By the time you’re finished, so many of your personal belongings will be hidden away in boxes that it will take you half the time to pack when it’s finally time for you to move house.

One final tip…

If you’re not sure how to style your apartment, have a look at what others have done. Look at estate agents’ websites, as well as Hemnet and Booli for inspiration.

And if you want some ideas on what not to do, have a look at Instagram account @hemnetknarkarna for a collection of some of Sweden’s weirdest property ads.

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