Through the marvellous labyrinth of islands and waters, writes Swedish Nobel Prize Laureate Tomas Tranströmer in his book Baltics. The poet tells the story of his maternal grandfather who worked as a pilot in the Stockholm archipelago.
With its 30 000 islands, islets and skerries, the Stockholm archipelago is a national treasure, the epitome of Swedish summer. Playwright August Strindberg wrote about it, troubadour Evert Taube sang about it.
In Strindberg’s foaming outer archipelago, people perish in the raving waves; in Taube’s sheltered creek, the sound of lapping ripples sends them off to sleep in the deckhouse – the archipelago as a place of drama and idyll.
This day is more like a Taube song – the gentle breeze, mild air, and lilies in full blossom. A trail leads away from the beach, beneath the oak trees, up to a house. Its flat roof is covered in moss and sedum. Sedum is Latin for a family of flowering plants commonly known as stonecrops. They bloom timidly on flat rocks, cliffs, and in clefts.
The tongue and groove of the house is coated with copperas. Gradually, the façade will become greyer due to sun, wind and rain, and will eventually take on the colour of the rocks. This is architecture with a seismic sense of place, of its spirit.
For many years, there was a cottage on this land. A young family moved in. They had travelled from Germany to Värmdö in order to work at Gustavsberg, one of the oldest porcelain factories in Sweden. The factory had poster names such as Signe Persson Melin and Ingegerd Råman, designers renowned worldwide.
For a couple of decades, Stig Lindberg was artistic director at Gustavsberg. In the 1950s and 60s he supplied Swedish kitchens with dinnerware such as Birka, Arbour and Rib. Lindberg, the multi-tasker and welfare state-surrealist, designed television sets, illustrated children’s books, and created his playful fabric patterns. His final ornament is from 1981, two ceramic walls for Hotel Al Rashid – in Baghdad of all places.
The Gustavsberg classic is Blue Flower, a set in bone china with cobalt blue décor on white. The Blue Flower series was manufactured for over a century, and was for a long time Sweden’s oldest industrial product. They stopped making it in 2006, but in the archipelago, families will set their summery tables with the Blue Flower for many years to come.
Inside, the walls’ planed tongue and groove creates an extension of the façade. Next to the chimney there is a charming little trompe l’œil. The insulation made interstices impossible – they had to be painted on.
The house has a finely checked stump flooring in oak that, just like mosaic, comes in sheets. The bathroom and other wet areas all have Stiltje’s cement tiles with blue lines, which appear to be painted by hand. All the floors are heated by geothermal water.
When the old owners left, another young family moved in. They lived in the leaky house for eight years. The bedrooms smelled of summer when they woke to the sound of waves lapping. The wallpaper was flowery and the moisture damage in the ceiling looked like maps of secret islands. The family had more children and outgrew the cottage.
The new house has been around for a couple of years. In the rooms, the flowers are still there, in the shape of Mimou’s wallpaper with stylised cross-stitch motifs. In a corner is a sturdy cabinet belonging to the old house, still with a yellowed waybill from Dresden on the back.
In the staircase there are mini-light strands, leading the way to kitchen and lounge. Here, open plan is key – the boundary between inside and out has been erased. The light washes over you through the large windows. The family and their guests gather around a big, Belgian table. A stream of friends and relatives come to visit during summer. They eat, drink, and chat while the pale night slips past.
The kitchen cupboard doors are a plain version of Kvänum Innovation, Brahe misty grey, painted on ash.
The worktops are stainless steel with handles in brown leather, and the white goods are Gaggenau.
The guests can hang by the bar with a glass of sparkling cava and tasty tapas, while the host couple prepares the meal on the other side of the sink. It’s a Spanish corner with Patricia Urquiola’s folklore-inspired plastic chairs. In the ceiling hangs the Kvist lamp, a sprawling and rough copper armature by Jonas Bohlin.