I’ve been living with the assumption that Swedish homes are born crisp and gorgeous, but the effortlessly stylish Johanna might disagree just a little. She and her husband are midway through a home renovation with two busy daughters, yet she somehow makes it seem far less stressful and much more of a joyful, organic process not to be rushed. So many of us have probably found ourselves in the middle of something messy and wishing for a fast-forward option, haven’t we? But as Johanna sweetly reminds us, some of the happiest moments exist in the right now. Regardless of the mess or little girls standing on desks! Please enjoy the tour.
Q: Who are the lucky ones who live in this bright home?
A: I’d love to introduce my family! I’m Johanna, and I’m a designer at Tretorn. My husband, Andreas, is a 3-D artist. Our daughters are Lillo, age five, and Elsa, who is one-and-a-half years old. We love hanging around in this house and our garden, spending time with friends and family.
Q: Tell us a little about where you live.
A: We live in Helsingborg, situated in the south of Sweden. We found our house two years ago after many years of searching. It wasn’t nicely renovated, so it wasn’t love at first sight. But we saw the potential. Step by step, we have tried to release the inner beauty of this home. It was there all along, just very well hidden under soulless details, plastic floors, and ugly wallpaper.
Q: How would you describe your style? Who inspires you?
A: We like retro. We gravitate toward things with history and personality, like furniture from the fifties and sixties. Our home is in constant change. Alive, I guess! I collect inspiration from everywhere: blogs, magazines, friends’ homes, and flea markets.
Q: You’ve experienced a lot of major events lately! There’s been a family wedding (loved the photobooth!) and a kitchen renovation, right? How did you keep calm through it all?
A: There are long periods where we don’t do anything at all in the house. Everyday life is enough. To avoid stress, we’ve decided to only renovate when we feel like it. But then we have to be fine with unfinished details everywhere.
We want to live in our house for a long time, so why hurry and be depressed and stressed when you can drop all the musts and lists and feel good? Then the energy to renovate appears by itself, and you have fun doing it. But I’m not gonna lie; of course we have had times when we both felt that we just want to be finished!
Q: What are the lessons you learned when redoing your kitchen? What would you have done differently?
A: We made a budget renovation of our kitchen. We kept what was original from the sixties, like the cabinets, and repainted them. Then we removed the black plastic floor and found the wooden original floor underneath. The black tiles on the wall were replaced with standard white tiles.
The kitchen is not ready yet. It’s still missing the final touches, but I’m so glad we decided to keep most of the original kitchen. We originally had thoughts of removing one of the walls to integrate the kitchen with the living room.
If we were able to go back and do anything differently, it would be the floor. At first we decided not to sand the old wooden floor. To save time and money, we just painted it white. The result was, of course, not that good. So we had to go back and do it the expensive and time-consuming way. But now the floor is perfect!
Q: I see a few Matryoshka dolls; do you collect them? What are your favorite, instant happy-making accessories in your home?
A: I guess I do have a few sets! I like that they are both decorative and the kids love to play with them.
I like the decoration we have on our walls: a mix of old and new photos of family, illustrations, and art. Above the stairs on the wall, I hung lots of photos and they make me smile whenever going up or downstairs.
Q: What’s your philosophy on decorating? Where do you buy most of your treasures and furniture?
A: We buy almost all toys at flea markets. It’s often better quality, and you can just give it back when the kids are tired of it. I love recycling! Almost all the furniture in our house is also second-hand.
We have a white base in the whole house, and then add lots of color in accessories. I think our home would be seen as a bit messy if we had colorful wallpapers together with the colorful accessories. So when I find beautiful wallpaper that tempts me, I just frame a piece and hang it up on the wall!
Q: What’s your favorite spot in your home?
A: Our grey wool couch in our living room. I love to sit there with my husband at night when the kids are asleep and the house is cleaned. We drink some tea, watch a good movie, and just relax.
Q: When does your home work best?
A: During the summer, when the days are long and bright. Our door to the garden is always open. It makes the house feel bigger and everything is easier. The kids have another “room” to play in!
Q: Finish this sentence, please: If I had only known…
A: I started to realize recently that you just have to love the mess: the dishes, the cleaning, and the picking up of toys and the pile of dirty laundry that never ends. This is the life I chose to live, and I wouldn’t want to change it for the world. So I have to remind myself sometimes when I sigh over the mess everywhere.
Grab your partner, wash the dishes together, and talk about the day. We did that yesterday, and it was actually one of the nicest moments that day! And the kitchen was cleaned in no time!
So…If I had only known that the key to happiness is making everyday life work!
I can’t possibly add anything to that beautiful advice. Thank you so much, Johanna, for sharing your home with us. It took my breath away…as did Lillo’s daredevil furniture jumping!
Friends, the case for all-white walls is growing stronger, isn’t it?
P.S. — If you’d like to share your home with us in my Living With Kids series, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!