As a kid growing up in Sweden, getting stuff fixed around the house seemed as easy as throwing a load of laundry in the machine. When my mom Solgerd pulled on her paint-splattered corduroys, something cool was usually about to happen. I still vividly remember the green pedal car she built for me when I was seven years old, complete with a vintage Volvo steering wheel. Or the wave-shaped headboard I got as a surprise when I turned 12. So when my mom and my stepdad Lars Hoglund told me they were buying a 19th-century tear down in the south of Sweden, I didn’t even flinch. I knew they’d turn dust into magic.
But as the photographs of their renovation project began to appear, I felt a whiff of fear. My mom, in head-to-toe snow gear, would be peeking through a boulder-sized hole in the centuries-old foundation. Lars would be holding a piece of 1920s wallpaper and pointing to rotten wall boards. My grandmother would visit the site and stand next to the gaping hole that used to be the staircase. And in one photograph, snow was falling in through the roof. Worst of all was the lawn which, like a cemetery for machinery, was scattered with 7000 pounds of rusty tractor pieces, a sunken bulldozer and a few retired hay balers. In all of these photos, my mom and Lars were smiling as if unaware of the obstacles surrounding them.
I guess I should have known better. Five years after they pulled down the first wall, Solgerd and Lars had turned the impossible into a paradise. Not only did they restore the property, built in 1887, but they preserved as much of the original material as possible. From the previous owner’s favorite kitchen chair (now a coat rack) to the original doors (meticulously stripped and re-painted), they turned the house into a 21st century home while at the same time honoring its past.
Clockwise from top: 1) The foundation for one of the barns was turned into a lily pond. 2) A small tool shed that the previous owner and his predecessors used as a pistol-making factory is now a second-hand store with proceeds going to Save The Children. 3) An original stone wall.
Clockwise from top left: 1) A bedroom on the first floor is decorated with antiques and vintage finds from local stores and flea markets. 2) The road leading up to the property. 3) A second view of the bedroom on the first floor where a vintage chair has been reupholstered in red velvet. 4) The traditional fence surrounding the property.
Above: A horizontal view of the bedroom on the first floor. The original walls were preserved and restored. The bed cover is a hand-made and bought at a local antique store.
Above: 1) The original doors were stripped and repainted in period-style colors and the 19th-century hardware was restored. 2) My great grandmother Ingrid’s sewing machine graces the front entrance hallway.
Left to right: 1) The dining room on the first floor. 2) A detail photograph of the dining room chandelier.
Above: One of three bedrooms on the second floor of the main house. The original wall panels were carefully preserved and their raw beauty eliminate the need for headboards. The bedskirts and the bedding were sewn by Solgerd. The sheets are pressed and the pillow cases are ironed by hand, which makes for luxurious comfort.
Above: The main barn on the property used to house cows and sheep. Today, the bottom floor has been transformed into a three-bedroom suite and the second floor is a music and art studio with hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings.
Clockwise from top left to bottom: 1) One of the bedrooms inside the barn. 2) A detail photograph of the outside terrace. 3) A painting from a local artist. 4) Scottish Highland Cattle graze the property’s pastures in the summer. This beauty’s name is Bella.
Above: 1) The original hen house was restored and turned into a one-bedroom suite frequently reserved by newlyweds on their wedding night. 2) Two tractor seats found on the property were saved and mounted on rocks outside the hen house, serving as a piece of art as well as impromptu seating.
Clockwise from top: 1) A shaded area by the lily pond makes for a perfect reading nook or hosting a summer barbecue. 2) Many of the wooden storage containers found on the property now serve as flower pots. 3) Sherry served on a vintage silver tray.
Above: Lars, a former test driver for VOLVO, can occasionally be seen chauffeuring brides to church in his 1931 Dodge or his 1951 Chevrolet Bel Air (above).
Above: A small road leading into the lush forest surrounding the property.
I’ve been lucky to spend many summers at my parents’ home, browsing through the woods, playing bocce ball on the lawn, reading books in the shade of a tree, shuffling cattle from one meadow to the next and enjoying a slice of my mom’s bread straight from the oven. Returning home to Villa Solgardet, which the property is so aptly named (“sol” is the Swedish word for sun), is like balm for the modern soul. As my mom says, this is a place where you can hear the silence.
Photographs by Ulrica Wihlborg © 2013.