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HOMES

In pictures: Step inside this historic Stockholm apartment

Houzz.se's Martina Strand looks inside the renovation of a Stockholm penthouse with a weighty history.

In pictures: Step inside this historic Stockholm apartment
This recently renovated apartment once belonged to an important Swedish writer. Photo: Nooks

When Christian Albinsson from Halmstad decided to re-do this apartment in Norrmalm, Stockholm, it was the third time for the renovation expert, who has made money from Stockholm's tough housing market by completely renovating two other apartments.

This delight turned out to be a home to keep however. “It is a record now, I have lived here for two years,” Albinsson says.

“I basically started from scratch and tore off everything, until the concrete ground was the only thing left. That does take time and energy, and there's always something unexpected happening that you have to deal with. And on top of that you have to live in a suitcase in the meantime.”

“I didn’t know anything when I started, but have learned over time. The first couple of times you make many mistakes. The most common might be to not plan your orders to suit the construction process – that decelerates the project which leads to unnecessary compromises. This didn’t have to happen this time around, since I’ve learned from my mistakes…”

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Who lives here: Christian Albinsson, founder, sales and project manager at the communications agency Oh My!

Location: Central Stockholm

Size: 79 square meters

“This is my third project in Stockholm and my best advice is to hire a knowledgeable person to draw, and a really good building firm. I have worked with interior designers from Covet and Brame Bygg to make the renovations more manageable. I have had the same team for all the renovations and with the results of the third one you can tell that we’ve gotten to know each very well by now, they know what I want,” Christian explains.

This time, Christian wanted to have a hotel theme with a minimalist, uncluttered, and timeless spirit:

“Slightly 'luxurious' without misusing the word. It is a cliché. Just like a 35-year-old single guy from the countryside working in the media industry. All of me is a cliché!”

Kammakargatan 6

The ceiling beams in the flat have been sanded, polished and stained in a dark brown colour, which makes them stand out in contrast to the white walls. The roof is raised and has new windows.

Albinsson did the same with the first apartment he renovated. “That was what made it possible for me to create this real estate career – I found an apartment on Sveavägen with two metre high ceilings that we rose. That is the little experience that I got, that they had other ideas in the 90s – the attic apartments that were built often have a roof that can be raised. Since the broker had not taken that into account, I made a profit after the renovation.”

Kammakargatan 6
Photo: Nooks

Albinsson chose to keep the walls as they were and just re-paint them. He finds the apartment slightly impersonal, which is a side effect of the hotel style. He has solved that by decorating with colourful armchairs and consistently using art by his friend Jesper Molin.

“The picture is painted by my friend that I grew up with and started my first company with. I thought it could be fun to stick to only his stuff in the home. There are photos taken by him here too, he is also a photo artist.”

Kammakargatan 6

The apartment has several round windows with expansive views.

“From what I have heard, this penthouse was built as a writing place for Pär Wästberg, who is a part of the Svenska Akademien (the Swedish Academy). So he sat here and wrote books a long time ago.”

Kammakargatan 6

The kitchen is from Ikea, but built with new doors. Albinsson does not think there is any reason to buy any of the super expensive kitchens available, and adds that it is enough to focus on the surface. Ikea is very good when it comes to function.

Kammakargatan 6
Kammakargatan 6

The terrace has lovely views of Norrmalm's rooftops. But not all the details of the project have worked out perfectly, Albinsson admits, asking for advice:

“Sometimes you make mistakes. I wanted a big and high table, a place to gather around and be social. But the one I chose was not strong enough for us, apparently. It broke. I do not know what to choose now, but I’m looking to put up a big hammock as there is sun on the terrace during the day. What do you think? People are welcome to come with tips!”

Kammakargatan 6

The fireplace was in the apartment when he moved in, and has simply been refreshed with new paint.

Kammakargatan 6
Photo: Nooks

The bedroom in the apartment is divided by a trendy glass wall. It was custom made by the construction company and fits like a glove in the a little crooked space.

“We built the glass wall instead of a normal wall to bring in more light. It was site built and turned out very good. That is an example of why it is best to use professionals, you get it back in the end result.”

Kammakargatan 6

The kitchen and small toilet had to make way for a larger bathroom with bubble pool.

“The kitchen did not feel good, the ceiling was so low that I could not even walk straight in there. The toilet was very small and dark, so I knocked out a wall and built a new, bigger one. The first thing that came to mind on the viewing was that you could build a bubble bath by the round window! I do not bathe every week, but when I used to play handball and came home from training on a winter day, it was quite nice to listen to sports radio on speakers in here and open the window slightly. It got a bit like a steam room.”

Kammakargatan 6

“We were unsure if the bubble bath would even fit in the space. It was tough to get it up here, and getting it into the small area. We just about got it in.”

Kammakargatan 6

The brass bowls are a different storage solution and an exciting contrast to the tiles.

Kammakargatan 6

Sleek furniture makes the bathroom feel larger. Gold coloured details match the brass bowls by the bubble bath.

“I got inspiration for the hexagon patterned tiles from a hotel bathroom that I was photographing. Overall, I had a hotel room feeling in mind when I renovated the apartment. It might not be the best option for families, but for me it's perfect.”

Kammakargatan 6

The historic house is from the early 20th century. In addition to Pär Wästberg, the place has also hosted ambassadors over the years, including some from Russia. Albinsson is fascinated by Stockholm's achievement of preserving the city's older buildings, instead of, as in many other cities, mowing down and build new ones.

“The downside is that things break very often in the house, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, especially with a sustainably renovated apartment. It is interesting that everyone in Halmstad wants to live in the newly built house, while many in Stockholm want to live in old apartments. I wonder why that is?”

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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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