Ett Hem, Stockholm’s most sought-after hotel, just got even better
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
When Swedish hotelier Jeanette Mix first encountered the work of British interior designer and Studioilse founder Ilse Crawford, in 2007 at the restaurant of Stockholm’s Grand Hôtel, she knew she’d found “the one”. “I’d always dreamed of opening a little hotel and I’d been looking for the right person to work with for a really long time,” says Mix, who’d recently acquired a handsome five-storey arts and crafts townhouse close to her home in the leafy and secluded residential district of Östermalm. By the time they had their first meeting in the summer of 2008, it was clear that their visions were aligned.
“Back then, everything was a concept hotel. It was all scenery; nothing felt real,” says Mix, who had in mind an intimate 12-room space that was the antithesis of trendy. “We spoke a lot about the Swedish artist Carl Larsson and his wife Karin, who was a friend of the house’s original owner.” Mix, who trained as a hotelier in Switzerland before studying at the Cordon Bleu in London, had long been inspired by the way the Larsson family lived in Dalarna (north-west of Stockholm) – a sort of Scandinavian precursor to the Bloomsbury Group’s Charleston. (The hotel takes its name from Larsson’s 1899 book Ett Hem, meaning “a home”.)
That question – what makes us feel at home? – became the founding principle for the hotel, which blurs public and private by dispensing with the formality of a front and back of house. Since opening in 2012, Ett Hem has inspired an enduring reverence among design-literate travellers and locals. The staff, who wear the Stockholm label Toteme, are instructed to treat guests like friends; so much so that visitors might feel sufficiently at ease to kick off their shoes and even, as has been witnessed, to take a nap in one of the several communal spaces (often after helping themselves to freshly baked afternoon cake and biscuits in the guest lounge). More than a decade on, Mix remains Studioilse’s most longstanding collaborator, more a trusted friend than a client. “The whole idea for Ett Hem is that it’s an ongoing story of an amazing house built in 1910 as a family home for a government official and his wife,” says Crawford.
That story began a new chapter when Mix bought the two neighbouring townhouses in 2018 and she and Crawford began plotting Ett Hem’s evolution. First came No 4, dubbed “the house next door”, which opened last year, with its dynamic social spaces and 10 uniquely designed rooms, including an attic suite adorned with handpainted murals by Filip Månsson.
This July saw the final phase come to fruition: a trio of residential apartments in No 6 accessed by their own beautifully carved front door. Conceived as compact apartments rather than oversized suites (the largest of which is just over 74sq m), the pristinely formed pieds-à-terre are layered with Crawford’s sharp edit of old and new Scandinavian and international design. In the smallest, on the first floor, you’re met with a vast Akari H paper lantern by Isamu Noguchi, setting the confident tone that runs throughout. The muted palette of the largely open-plan interiors is punctuated only by the brilliant shine of Crawford’s signature brass cabinets and the occasional modernist pop of primary colour.
“We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” says Mix, who first tasked Crawford with sketching out her initial thoughts for residential spaces a few years after the original opening of the hotel. It proved prescient: Mix began to notice guests – from recent divorcees to tech CEOs – staying for longer. The duo were driven by a desire to fully answer visitors’ needs and guided more by questions around how the rooms would be used than a particular aesthetic. “The design is just something that happens along the way,” says Mix.
Each apartment includes a proper place to work (the mahogany Josef Frank desk from Svenskt Tenn in one apartment is particularly beguiling), custom-designed open-shelved kitchen spaces brought to life by Solidor, palatial wardrobes and, in the largest of the residences, a second bedroom for when friends and family come to stay.
“The real beauty of it is that they can have both worlds,” says Mix of the flats’ residents, who can access the adjacent houses internally through the newly installed oak parquet-floored gym. This being Ett Hem, a sense of craftsmanship permeates every aspect of the design, from the 1960s Hugo Frandsen dining chairs to earthenware plates by the English ceramicist Dylan Bowen – all of it instilling what Crawford terms “texture”. “It’s the small details that make the everyday special,” she says. “Ultimately it comes down to care. That’s seen as a soft word, but it’s really important. We need to care about the spaces around us – it’s something you can really feel.”
Apartments, from SKr18,000 (about £1,340) a night, with breakfast included