• Object: Villa, Björkö, Sverige
  • Build: 2010
  • Architect: Unknown
  • Kitchen: Kvänum Kruse Soft White

On the other side of the sails trough, Kalvsund climbs the rocks, a characteristic fishing village in Bohuslän. Out on the rocky islets seals are soaking up the early morning sun. A footbridge leads the way to the Florentiner islets, on the south point of Björkö.

Perhaps the name is connected to the deep red colour that was first manufactured in Florence, and then shipped all over the world, via the coast of Tuscany. The crimson red colour was prepared from shield bugs. But, needless to say, it is not Florence, River Arno or Ponte Vecchio that spring to mind here in the southern part of Bohuslän’s archipelago, on the Swedish west coast. It is more reminiscent of an archipelago across the Atlantic, in New England.

 

It is actually several houses, a little conglomerate situated out on the islets. In addition to the new dwelling house, there are also boathouses, guest cottages and the old ice-house which holds a wine cellar, bar, lounge, jukebox, guest room and a small Kvänum kitchen that has aged with grace.

In the olden days ice, which was hard currency, used to be stored in the ice-house. Björkö’s main source of income was fishing and the ice was needed in order to keep the fish fresh. The catch was put on ice and sold in an auction. The ice was collected in Norway, sawed into cubes and exported south. It was stacked in ice-houses, surrounded by thick walls and insulation from hay and saw dust.

White horizontal panels, inside and out; mullioned windows; porches; a centred entrance complete with portico and double doors; a saddle roof and a female figurehead on the north side – the curtain flutters in the breeze, and the sun moves through the house on the islet. Here New England rules.

The style dates far back; a simplicity and purity that possibly stems from the first Puritans who crossed the Atlantic with the Mayflower and colonised the north-eastern corner of what would later become The United States of America.

The simplicity is present in all the architecture; it is there in the countryside farms in inner Vermont, in the beach houses on coast of Main, in the little colonial mansions in Connecticut and in the boathouses of Rhode Island.

The Nautical Theme that today is synonymous with New England dates back to the turn of the last century, created among lyme grass and sand dunes – houses and interiors in all white, with elements of blue and English red, dark wooden flooring and furniture, leather, rattan, and marine motifs, artefacts, and remainders.

New England is lighthouses, sails, compass roses, nautical charts, ship bells, driftwood and sea shells, it is signal flags and three-legged binoculars, marks and buoys, ropes and hawsers, sun bleached parasols and ragged pennants, it is stars and stripes, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Since the days of old Thoreau and his friend Emerson, Cape Cod has been a haven, a summer exile for the artists and intellectuals of Boston and New York. Cape Cod is a narrow isthmus that bends in a straight angle pointing towards the north, a hieroglyph, a secret sign in the sea.

On Cape Cod the Boston socialites had their own summer paradise. Later, the Kennedy clan’s Hyannis Port would become synonymous with New England – khaki, button down, tennis on brick red en-tous-cas, V-necks with the Fred Perry oak-wood wreath, Mahogony yachts with scored decks, jackets from Murphy & Nye. Nye, the sailmaker, also came from one of the oldest New England families. His ancestor arrived on the Mayflower.

A century ago wealthy families began to migrate to the sea; they would summer on the American east coast as well as the Swedish west coast. The movement’s great front man in Sweden was Carl Curman. Fresh air and salt water, it was just what the doctor ordered. The cold bath houses were experiencing their heyday. The relatively poor locals moved down in the basement and rented out their houses to the gentry.

Today fewer people are able to make a living from fishing. The grandchildren and great grandchildren of fishermen work in the cities. Björkö outside of Gothenburg is a suburb at sea. The house at the islet is a fulltime home, but it is especially great in summer. Swedish archipelago marries well with New England.

Kruse Soft White has been chosen for the house, a kitchen with a Shaker feel, yet another echo from the past – the Shakers were one of the religious movements that found refuge in New England. They lived a life of asceticism and were renowned as skilful carpenters, with their own simplistic and plain style.

New England inspires beyond interior design. The food, which is being prepared and enjoyed in the house on Björkö, is strongly influenced by the classic maritime kitchen. And it makes perfect sense. There is fish, prawns, crayfish, crab, lobster, oysters and clams in plenty, simple and lush, by the sea, in the sun.

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