Lars was born in Kalmar, and raised in nearby Nybro, in Southeastern Sweden. He studied at the Stockholm School of Art and trained with well-known Swedish designer Carl Malmsten,—the forefather of Scandinavian design—and with British designer Gaby Schreiber. He spent years designing properties for industrialist/photgrapher Gunter Sachs (who was married to Brigitte Bardot) before opening his antique shop in East Hampton, NY. He also operates a design shop in antique row in Palm Beach. Lars is impulsive and daring, known to have bought a Swedish farmhouse on the Internet and a French chateau on a whim to decorate and later sell. Always busy with new projects, his life evolves in a continuous state of exquisite adventure.
His magnificent blend of styles has been influenced by his travels around the world. Bolander professes a love of simplicity and a flair for the theatrical that has earned him the attention of the specialized media and a discerning clientele. Rooted in his Anglo-Scandinavian background, this spirit has imbued the homes he has designed for himself or for clients with the kind of Nordic sophistication that speaks strongly but in a soft voice: quiet and subdued. Adored by his clients who have become his friends, Lars has designed all types of interiors, from a hilltop Swedish Cottage, a full village in the Mediterranean, island houses in the Caribbean, yachts, and mansion flats in the US and Europe.
Lars and his wife and business partner, Nadine Kalachnikoff are globetrotters. Nadine is also a respected visual artist who creates beautiful pieces using butterflies. The couple has lived in London and Paris, New York and Washington, East Hampton, and Palm Beach. They also have a house in Öland, an island off the Swedish mainland that is home to the Summer Palace of the Royal Family.
Several years ago, while driving through a dirt road in West Palm Beach, Lars and Nadine found the last remaining tract of underdeveloped land on the Intercostal. Half-acre lots were being sold with three options to choose from. They immediately recognized the value of the place and negotiated for 2 lots and that Lars would design his own house. In a departure from the Addison Mizner-inspired Mediterranean style associated with Palm Beach, Bolander decided to build a plantation-style dream home that would be called Bamboo Hill. He drew inspiration from the pale-colored, calm interiors of Gustavian country houses and the large open rooms he found in plantation homes during a visit to South Africa.
The Swedish designer has the capacity to create spaces that seem appropriate both in the tropical waterfront of Palm Beach, as well as in the stark winter landscapes of Scandinavia, with perfectly scaled interiors that are dramatic and subdued at the same time. Bamboo Hill exudes a soft luminosity throughout the sophisticated interiors that is mirrored in the tranquil gardens and outdoor spaces.
The entrance, flanked by stone dog sculptures from Spain, is in the Dutch South African style. The heavy wooden doors from Brazil lead into the entrance hall, glazed in blue and grey hues. At the end of the hall, an 18th century painted horse from Tibet greets visitors, while carved wood stag heads above an Italian bench line the room.
The great room is dramatically scaled with soaring high-pitched ceilings to accommodate large pieces of artwork and sculptures. The broad mezzanines at either side house, on one wing, the main bedroom suite with French doors that open to a covered balcony overlooking the pool, two dressing rooms, and Nadine’s office. On the opposite end, the library/office and another bedroom that also overlooks the pool area. The great room is painted in pale grey-white to showcase an eclectic mixture of 19th-century antiques, painted furniture, contemporary art and sculpture, decorative pieces from their travels to the Far East and Africa, comfortable upholstery, lots of books and photographs of family and friends, including Salvador Dali, Don Juan Carlos de Borbón, Andy Warhol, and Queen Elizabeth, among others. The large artworks on the walls guide the eyes upward for an even greater sense of space. There are majestic Indian columns, musically themed painted panels from Belgium, and built-in bookcases that graciously ground the living area with the kind of restraint that brings to mind Jean Cocteau’s phrase, “elegance ceases to exist when it is noticed.”
The depth of style that arises from the fearless combination of classical themes and ethnic accents against the Scandinavian palette extends to the master suite, where we find cane shades in the windows, a Gustavian-style sofa at the foot of the bed and silk curtains against French doors. Absolute genius! The kitchen is perhaps the most important room in this house where everybody loves to cook. One of the couple’s sons is a chef in NYC and Nadine used to run a catering business. For Lars, formal dining rooms serve no purpose in contemporary life, so he designed a spacious sunbathed kitchen. White cabinetry and director’s chairs blend against the dark European wooden plank floors and dining table. The windows allow the best use of the abundant natural light, a dream come true for a Nordic soul.
Florida’s weather is ideal for outdoor living year round. At dusk, the long and narrow pool, separated from the house by a cascading row of terraces, reflects the likeness of the architecture, the ideal setting for plantation chic entertaining. The terrace is painted apple green with a Balinese sofa that embraces the tropical feel and balances the Scandinavian palette of the interior. In the jungle garden, the couple built two casitas for their sons and their families. Now that the kids are married, Nadine has now taken one as a studio for her artwork, which is doing fantastically. There is also a pool house with an Indian inspired theme. In the gardens, Lars prefers something that grows wild, in harmony with the environment. He chose tropical plants that dot the Mario Nievera designed landscape, created to match the sophisticated interiors. ■