Homes & Interiors

Take a look at this historic Swedish island home – its decor is just as it was 100 years ago

The Swedish island of Sandhamn is all about blue skies and endless seascapes, and this pretty summer home makes the most of the striking scenery

Swedish traditional summer home on an island
(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Tranquil, unspoilt, and as close to the natural coastal world as you can get, Sandhamn is one of the furthest islands in the Stockholm archipelago and is a famous Swedish sailing port. Continue across the sea from Sandhamn and you leave the archipelago, with Finland the next main port of call. 

View of sunset over sea from a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Ebba’s home was built by her parents in 1897, on Sandhamn island in the Stockholm archipelago. This romantic, Jugend-style home is typical of its time – the turn of the last century – and is the only remaining house on the island with its original paintwork in traditional colors, which is why Ebba is determined that the outside should never be changed. ‘The veranda, which faces north towards the sea, is the only part of the house that has ever needed any repairs,’ says Ebba. ‘My father tackled it in 1945, replacing some of the timbers. He didn’t really do a professional job, it’s a bit rustic, but it has lasted well.’ 

exterior of a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

The clue is in the name: ‘sandhamn’ means harbour of sand. The small village on this understated, picturesque island has a grocery store, restaurant and a popular hotel, and there are just 150 residents. Many of them choose to enjoy the island’s tranquillity all year round. They are hardy, seafaring people who fend for themselves on this island that has practically no facilities in winter.

Exterior of traditional Swedish summer home with blue skies

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Until recently, Ebba von Rosen spent the whole year here. She was born here and is now in her seventies, and loves these stunning surroundings. She is a natural sailor, coming and going by boat like all the island’s inhabitants. These days, however, when winter approaches, she returns to the mainland. Life is becoming too difficult for her during the colder, darker months, with no cars allowed here to help her get around.

views out to sea from a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Come summer, Ebba is back on the island to enjoy a ringside seat for the Gotland Yacht Race in July. Setting off from Stockholm, the yachts race through the archipelago’s narrow straits and countless skerries, before reaching the Baltic Sea, and a spectacular finish in Sandhamn. The island’s population swells to around two thousand, all eagerly watching the yachts cross the finish line. Ebba's home was designed to make the most of the unique setting and the views from her home are second to none, with comfortable seating arranged to face the magnificent seascape.

Dining space with view of the sea from a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

It’s no wonder Ebba’s connection with the island is so strong. ‘It’s in my blood. My parents built this house in 1897,’ she says. ‘And it’s looked this way all my life.’ Indeed, looking around the house is a real history lesson; it’s as though time has stood still. There's an air of classic Gustavian elegance in the dining room, with a comfortable antique sofa made in around 1800 and antique dining chairs bought in Gothenburg. The mirror, sconces and chandelier all date from around 1900. 

Original features

Just as the outside of the house and the paint colors are the same as they were when it was built, the furnishings and décor inside date back to a bygone era, with many pieces older than the house itself. ‘The furniture, accessories and textiles are all original,’ says Ebba. ‘Most belonged to my parents, and some things even belonged to my grandparents and great-grandparents.’  

salon with antique furniture in a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

There’s a real sense of the home’s history in the main salon, above, where all the furniture was inherited from Ebba’s parents. Ebba thinks the antique desk in the corner of the room is a 1900 reproduction of an 18th-century Rococo-style writing bureau. She treasures it regardless of its age, as it once belonged to her mother. Pretty hand-embroidered curtains are backed with blinds to shade the sun and preserve the antique furniture. The artwork below dates from when Ebba’s parents lived in the house. 

artwork In a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Relaxed cottage feel

The stripped, painted wooden floors create a more relaxed style in contrast with the elegant paintings and antiques. And there are areas where a more country style is in evidence, such as in the hallway below. The limewashed light wood, and stained and rustic painted furniture in pale grey, are complemented with handmade cushions collected over the years.

doorway bench In a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Gustavian style cabinet in a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Living and dining spaces

On the ground floor the ceilings are decorated panels of carved wood and walls are adorned with a hand-painted frieze. Dark colors complement the antique furniture and dainty hand-embroidered lace curtains. Cool yellow and blue stripes create a bright, elegant dining room, the blues echoed in the Chinese rug, beneath an antique Gustavian chandelier. The smart white cabinet dates from around 1800. 

This house is taken from H&G's sister brand, Period Living magazine 

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Upstairs

A curved staircase sweeps up to a landing large enough for a space to read or write, with breathtaking views from the windows. In fact, all around this house there’s the temptation to stop at every twist and turn to admire the view from yet another angle. 

stairs In a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

There are three bedrooms and a generous-sized landing on the first floor;
two of the bedrooms are attics with sloping ceilings, prettily decorated still with their original wallpapers. Matching textiles are used in the cushions piped with a highlight color, blending walls and bedding to create a harmonious look.  

upstairs landing in a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

bedroom In a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Accent colors of yellow and pink highlight the wallpaper in this pretty guest room. The bright bedside lamps are one of very few modern twists in this period home. 

bedroom In a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

bedroom with open door in a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Taking the delicate bird and flower themed wallpapers up and over the sloping ceilings creates a cozy look in this pretty attic bedroom, accessorized with piped and hand-embroidered cushions, and inherited textiles. A doorway opens onto a balcony, and yet more sea views. 

Chinoiserie bedroom

Collecting Chinese memorabilia is very popular in Sweden. ‘My parents were no exception,’ says Ebba. ‘They were ardent travellers; the third bedroom houses their Chinese collection of furniture and objets d’art, with specially selected wallpaper in an inky shade to enhance the Chinese theme,’ she says. Handtryckta Tapeter produces similar traditional wallpaper designs. 

chinoiserie bedroom In a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

chinoiserie dressing table In a Swedish traditional summer home on an island

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

‘My favourite memories here are of my childhood,’ adds Ebba. ‘The times we enjoyed together when the whole family was here. I have spent time here since I was two years old, and my memories of this home are very special – memories that will never fade.’ That’s understandable with a home as special as this one. 

Ebba fears that in the not too distant future she may be unable to get to the island, and that thought breaks her heart. However, though she may have to give up visiting the house in person, the memories and joy it has brought will live with her forever.