There is no shortage of historical interest in this pretty Swedish cottage. Built in the 1860s on a private estate 40 minutes’ drive from Stockholm, it was once home to servants working at a nearby manor house.
Now its current owners, Sofia Ekeroth de Almeida and her husband Bruno, have created a new chapter in the property’s story, transforming it into a luxurious space full of period details and interesting antiques.
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The cottage was initially divided into five apartments, but when Sofia and Bruno moved in 10 years ago, it had been split in two with offices on one side and living space on the other. ‘Over the years, the offices have moved out and we have gradually taken over the whole house,’ says Sofia. ‘The layout is very much the same, it’s just that we’ve opened up the space by removing doors.’
Fortunately for Sofia and Bruno, most of the hard graft had been done before their time. ‘In the mid 1990s, the home’s previous owners – who are friends of ours – were faced with the decision either to tear down the cottage or restore it,’ Sofia explains.
Thankfully they chose the latter, working with an architect on the project. This meant that when Sofia and Bruno moved in a few years later, the cottage was structurally sound, although a little worn around the edges. It was nothing a lick of paint couldn’t fix.
The couple’s day jobs play their part in almost every aspect of the cottage. Sofia is a director at Sotheby’s Stockholm, so there are antiques to admire at every turn. Bruno is a painter and several of his pieces are displayed on the walls. Some were produced while Bruno was honing his craft at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence and others pay tribute to family ancestors.
A favorite is an oil painting of a young boy that hangs in the study. ‘The original painting came up for sale around four years ago, and we wanted to buy it but it turned out to be very expensive, so Bruno made a copy based on the catalogue,’ explains Sofia.
Family, past and present, is the lifeblood of the Ekeroth de Almeida home. Its influence can be seen everywhere you look. The mahogany desk in the study was once owned by Bruno’s great-grandfather, while the well-travelled trunk in the hall was Bruno's grandfather's.
The early-19th-century dining table was an engagement present from Sofia’s parents. Above the cherished table hangs a chandelier made by Bruno's godmother from some 18th century crystal droplets, leftovers from her restoration business.
‘The 18th-century armchairs in the dining room are especially lovely because the seat covers were embroidered by Bruno’s godmother and his great-grandmother during World War II,’ says Sofia.
‘The story goes that they had a little help from Queen Louise of Sweden because she was a friend of Bruno’s great-grandmother. We don’t know if this is true, but it makes a nice story.’ The matching sofa from the set is in the guest room.
The bones of the house have certainly given Sofia and Bruno a steer on its style and there’s an abundance of 18th-century furniture, but the couple aren’t purists. Take the self-portrait of George Romney that hangs in their bedroom: it’s actually a poster of the original, which was sold at Sotheby’s some years ago.
‘Posters like these hang in the auction house’s windows to show what we’ll be selling in the next couple of weeks; they’re very realistic,’ says Sofia. ‘I saw this one at our offices in Bond Street in London and fell in love with it.’
That’s not to say authenticity is irrelevant to Sofia and Bruno – they just don’t let it dictate every purchasing decision. As a result, their home is smart but not ostentatious.
The pair appreciate the beauty in imperfections and in worn, well-loved objects. A battered wooden ladder they found in the attic now holds extra blankets in the living room. No attempt has been made to disguise the signs of age. Instead, any flaws add character and vitality to the space.
Hints of humour also help to keep the glamour in check. One example is a portrait of another of Bruno’s ancestors that has been customised with a cut-out cardboard mask. ‘The painter was perhaps not particularly talented,’ laughs Sofia. ‘There were originally several of these portraits, but this is the only surviving one as the rest were burnt by previous generations. We thought it would be quite funny to put it up, and then Bruno cut this mask out of cardboard. I think it looks fantastic!’
It’s not just canvases that get the Bruno treatment. Clever furniture hacks can be found throughout the house, from a souped-up Ikea Billy bookcase (now featuring doors made from chicken wire and fabric), to a fabulous trompe l’œil effect that Bruno painted on the walls of the dining room. ‘It’s so handy having an artist around,’ says Sofia. ‘Touches like these make our home unique.’
Words / Sophie Baylis
Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.
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