Those who think that Scandinavian design is limited to pale blue walls and bleached wood furnishings, minimalist, functional or modern Danish furniture, don’t know interior designer Lars Bolander. Bolander studied at the Stockholm School of Art and has worked for some very influential clients, but art and design are his birthright. Lars’ great great grandfather was the renowned tapestry painter who did the fabrics that cover the walls of the dining hall at Strömsholm Palace, a baroque Royal palace on the Kolbäcksån river.
Lars expands traditional Swedish design by seamlessly incorporating geographical accents from different cultures that make his houses strikingly beautiful and livable: simplicity that does not sacrifice beauty. He currently lives between East Hampton and Palm Beach with wife and business partner Nadine Kalachnikoff. The couple has traveled extensively around the world and their globe trotting adventures have enriched Lars’ design vocabulary beyond his native Sweden. They also have a home on the island of Öland in the southeastern coast of Sweden. Here, the stark Scandinavian winter gives way in spring to a great variety of blooms, including rare orchids that make the island a popular tourist destination. In its vicinity sits Solliden Palace, which has been the summer home of the Swedish Royal Family since the 18th century. The narrow island is dotted with Viking graveyards, ancient ruins and 17th century windmills.
Lars’ family has always had a house in Öland. His parents had one, both his sisters have one and his nephew has one, all in the same very small village called Vickleby. When a small 18th century farmhouse came up for sale nearby, Lars remembered the property, which was next to his old art school, and bought it over the Internet, only to discover upon arrival that the house needed some serious renovations. The site must have looked like Max Von Sydow’s workshop in the opening scene of Bergman’s The Passion of Anna.
Lars totally gutted the house and connected the neighboring barn to the main building. No easy task considering that the house is very narrow (about 7m wide) and the barn was a bare bones structure that needed extensive renovations. It took him a year to finish the cherished project. He removed the lower half of the front wall of the house and supported the ceiling with carved wood columns that date from the 1780s leading to the atrium that connects both buildings and doubles as a sun filled entrance hall. Scandinavians have a weakness for natural light. Upstairs the space is divided into two large bedrooms, a bathroom and an office, while downstairs he kept the sitting room and a very large kitchen and dining room, his favorite place in the house. The barn now houses the couple’s bedroom suite upstairs and Nadine’s exquisite bathroom underneath. The workshop was extended and made into a wonderful private guesthouse. He also added a carved porch to the front in the vein of 19th century rural Sweden, when elaborate baroque doorways adorned the facades of farmhouses in the countryside. The exterior is painted in Falun red consistent with traditional Swedish country homes.
The furniture is mix of Swedish and English pieces. The subdued color palette draws from Gustavian aesthetics: pale colors against white washed walls that generate as much light as possible inside the house. The only exceptions are the bedrooms, which have discretely patterned wall coverings from England and Scandinavia.
Lars and Nadine named the house “Might as Well” because every detail in the renovation from the floors to the kitchen to the decoration had to be either the less expensive or the most, and 99 percent of the time “it might as well be the most expensive which was always the best” says Nadine with a hint of humor. Their home in Öland is their private refuge. ■