This Swedish Island Cottage Grows Out of the Woodland

This is a Stockholm story about the island of Torö, to be precise, although it begins on the mainland where one family—a couple and their kids, aged five and one, and one partner’s mother—is based. Tired of the city and desperate for a mid-pandemic respite, they set their sights on creating a year-round vacation home someplace slower, but in a sustainable, ecological, and cost-effective way. They found their answer in a 1970s two-bedroom cottage situated at the highest point in Torö, an isle on the southern edge of the Stockholm Archipelago.

The original windows in the living room were replaced with new ones, and another was added to afford unfettered views of the forest. The architects also altered the ceiling structure to open the room up to the roof. The trifecta of plinth tables are works of Matsson Marnell.
The original windows in the living room were replaced with new ones, and another was added to afford unfettered views of the forest. The architects also altered the ceiling structure to open the room up to the roof. The trifecta of plinth tables are works of Matsson Marnell.
A Puffy chair by Faye Toogood for Hem can be seen by a window, atop a Fuzzy Shepherd rug by Artilleriet, affording arm’s length access to the Knöl coffee table from Matsson Marnell’s Skog series. The lamp and candlestick are from Collection Apart, as are the 1960s sculptural lamp and ammonite fossil.

The house was part of a huddle of old weekend homes (locally known as sommarstuga), some tumbledown, some not. The home fell withing the former category—not that the owners minded. In their eyes, more problems meant more room for updates, which they were keen on, given that they wanted a home with scope for renovation rather than one built from scratch (it was better for them and the environment). All they needed was a like-minded architect or two. And two is what they got, thanks to a mutual friend who introduced them to architects James Hamilton and Malin Heyman of Stockholm-based Atelier Heyman Hamilton.

A black lounge chair by Bruno Mathsson offers another perch for coffee and conversation. By the fireplace, a Gül Rose Durgan work from Collection Apart is foregrounded by a 1980s color field painting of unknown origin.

The inspiration for the new design came from the existing one, as well as from the nearby landscape. “It all seemed wonderfully ancient,” James recalls. And it was. The house was perched on a slab of prehistoric granite on the brow of a large hill, surrounded by glorious pine, birch, and larch trees. It sat atop a glacial moraine from the end of the ice age, now sheathed in moss and covered in boulders. Suffice it to say, nothing here was new—nor did anything need to be. So charmed were James and Malin by the landscape that they muted the exterior with tar paper to give the landscape pride of place. They also raised the roofline to give the home a light and airy expression and pull it out of its previously dark and dreary state.

The kitchen was reoriented to summon more light through the entrance hall to the east (mornings) and the dining room to the west (afternoons). Pine plywood defines the cabinetry, and glazed Svenska Kakel tiles, the backsplash. The countertop wears a laminate by Formica.
With little in the way of decor, the dining room cuts an unfussy figure. A Stam dining table from Matsson Marnell’s Skog series takes center stage, complemented by Malmstenbutiken’s Pinnstol Lilla Åland dining chairs. A PH5 pendant haloes the space. The jug is a Gustaf Nordenskiöld design.

The result is reflected indoors, where there’s a view at every angle. There’s a forest to the north, a garden to the east, and sweeping windows to the south and west. The rooms aren’t so much spaces as they are light boxes, which the architects made possible with luminous reorientations, plus an extension with a third bedroom and a reading nook. What they also did was keep (and repolish) the original pine finishes—on the ceilings, doors, floors, walls, and trim—to conjure an earthy cocoon that would keep the breeze and sunshine front and center.

Before the bedroom in the extension is a reading room that keeps the sunshine close. The sofa is a 1970s novelty, as is the French olive wood table lamp from Collection Apart.

What wasn’t restored seems like it was. Exhibit A: the open fireplace, which James and Malin refinished with cement plaster and painted with a lime-based paint. Interior designers Katarina Matsson and Magda Marnell of Stockholm design studio Matsson Marnell took a similar approach with the furniture, with vintage pieces straight out of the ’70s as well as monolithic wooden designs that hold a mirror to the surrounding forest. Function wasn’t forgotten, least of all in the case of the windows, which the architects, in a bid to make the house warmer for people and kinder to the environment, overhauled with powder-coated, aluminum frames with triple glass panes. While they were at it, they also insulated the walls and added a new window, a large forest-facing opening along the southern façade that transformed the formerly dull living room into a haven of unending light.

With pine on the floor, on the ceiling, and everywhere in between, the bedroom is a woodland-inspired hideaway that echoes the outdoors. The artwork is a 2003 abstraction by Gül Rose Durgan from Collection Apart.

For the family, whose motivation to move was underpinned by a commitment to be environmentally sensitive, the renovation checks all the boxes. It’s warm enough for winter, breezy enough for summer and just right in the months in between. “Our goal was to highlight the value of the existing structure and demonstrate how a house approaching the end of its lifespan can be adapted to new needs through careful design interventions,” Malin shares. Evidently, it’s a promise honored in full.

A circa-1942 charcoal sketch by Eddie Figge, sourced from Collection Apart, rests on the floor of the living room.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

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