When a ‘renovated dormitory apartment’ overlooking Humlegården, Stockholm’s poshest park, came up for sale, well-heeled locals twittered with curiosity. Few changes had been permitted in the area for years, so such a space was rare, and when Stockholm-based architects Tham & Videgård Hansson rocked up with their team of builders and started bashing it about, curiosity turned to amazement.
Previously owned by a medical society, the dilapidated 375-square metre space had been redesigned to create a warren of tiny bedrooms where visiting doctors could stay. The new owner realised that it needed much more than a face-lift and gave the architects permission to radically resuscitate it.
Expecting to uncover vestiges of Jugendstil décor, the architects began the renovation with the steely nerves and steady hand of a surgeon. Worn floorboards, dilapidated panelling and saggy ceilings were peeled away, yet few traces of the original interior were found underneath. ‘The apartment didn’t have many period features left,’ explains Bolle Tham, who co-owns the practice with Martin Videgård Hansson. ‘The only reason we could redo the interior was because it had been altered years earlier. Otherwise, it could not have been changed at all.’
As they cut away cramped corridors and sliced open partition walls, sunshine flooded in from the front of the apartment to the back. Panoramas over Humlegården became visible from the entrance hall near the back and rooms situated in the apartment’s core. As the park became more present in the interior, the changing seasons became a part of every room. The seasonal colours outside became permanent fixtures inside, captured in an interior landscape of parquet woodwork covering the floors and lining the lower half of the walls. The parquet pieces were crafted from ash and painted by hand, then slotted jigsaw-like into a traditional herringbone pattern.
The overall design evokes clusters of fallen leaves carried through the apartment on an autumn breeze, but the pieces were carefully laid out. ‘Each piece of wood was made to fit a specific position, so the design is not as random as it seems,’ Tham explains. ‘Every room has a distinct colour palate, yet the colours spill subtly into each other.’ Unpainted parquet was used in the heart of the apartment to create a neutral feel, easing the transition from the red-tinted living areas in the front to the green hues of the bedrooms at the rear.
Each piece of furniture was bought new or made especially for the apartment. Finding furniture that could hold its own against such a dramatic backdrop is easily done in Stockholm, where local designers are known for combining strong silhouettes with subdued colours. ‘With so many talented designers in Stockholm, there was no need to look anywhere else,’ Tham says. ‘The owner also appreciates old-school designers like Josef Frank, whose work has resonance with Humlegården’s Jugendstil architecture.’ Furniture was sourced from established designers such as Matti Klenell, Thomas Sandell and Claesson Koivisto Rune, together with new designs from young visionaries such as Front, Monica Förster and Form Us With Love.
The architects designed a bespoke dining table crafted in the shape of Sweden itself and crowned it with a custom-made chandelier from Lagombra. Rather than upholster the Josef Frank sofa and armchairs in one of his signature fabrics, they broke with tradition by covering them in white linen to give Frank’s classic designs a contemporary edge.
With a stellar portfolio of residential houses and a string of awards for the Kalmar Museum of Art that opened in southern Sweden last year, Tham & Videgård Hansson’s architectural projects are just as visionary as their interiors. As they breathe fresh life into yesterday’s designs and build cutting-edge spaces today, Tham & Videgård Hansson are signposting exciting new directions for Swedish architecture.
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