A seductively stylish red brick townhouse in Stockholm’s upmarket Lärkstaden neighbourhood, hotel Ett Hem couldn’t have chosen a more fitting moniker: it simply means ‘a home’ in Swedish. Owner Jeanette Mix has scoured Europe for the design staples and vintage finds that have transformed this luxurious Arts and Crafts residence, opening it up to be used as guests see fit. Help yourself to wine from the fridge, pinch a book from the library and settle in for a cosy afternoon in the glasshouse: this is the new benchmark for laid-back Swedish hospitality.
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A food gift from Ett Hem's kitchen and a bottle of wine
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm; both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £314.28 (SEK3,550), including tax at 12 per cent.
Rates include a buffet breakfast of fresh orange juice, yoghurt, fruits and berries, cheese and cold cuts, pastries and cooked dishes such as eggs and bacon. Guests can also help themselves to home-baked cake and soft drinks throughout the day.
Owner Jeanette worked hand in hand with Ilse Crawford to create the magazine-worthy interiors. Among the treasure trove of coloured-glass ornaments, chic Michael Anastassiades lights and gleaming brass cabinets, the dining chairs caught our eye: having bought a few of the studded coffee-hued beauties in local markets, Jeanette scoured the globe to complete the set of 12 – a true labour of love.
At the hotel
Patio garden, sauna, treatment room, gym, lounge, book and DVD library, glasshouse, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPad, iPod dock, minibar, Kiehl’s toiletries. A DVD player, kettle and microwave are available on request.
Our favourite rooms
Double Room 4 may be snug, but it makes up in peaceful park views what it lacks in size. We challenge you not to fall for the Suite, a dove-grey nest with parquet floors and cheerful yellow curtains boasting a crystal chandelier, a spectacular marble bath tub and an imposing ceramic-tiled stove from the Fifties. All 12 of the individually decorated rooms are delightful, in fact, with tactile sheepskins, carefully picked artworks and hard-to-leave marble-and-brass bathrooms.
If you don’t fancy a run along the local forest tracks, the basement gym is fully equipped with Technogym machines, a Pilates reformer and yoga mats; the hotel can also set you up with a personal trainer. Nothing soothes post-workout muscles like a traditional Swedish sauna: Ett Hem’s basement version sports a slab of hot stone to relax on and a vivifying pull-down bucket of ice-cold water. For head-to-toe indulgence, book a massage or beauty treatment using indulgent products from those clever apothecarists at Kiehl's.
The weather can be temperamental; always carry a light waterpoof jacket. In the summer, don’t forget your swimsuit: the Stockholm Archipelago can make for blissful rural daytrips.
An elevator leads to the upper-floor rooms and two of the Double Deluxe rooms are accessible to disabled guests.
The hotel has more of a grown-up feel, but children are welcome. Free cots or extra beds (SEK750 a night) can be added to Deluxe Double Rooms, Junior Suites or the Suite. Babysitting can be arranged with five days’ notice (SEK600 an hour).
We love the conservatory’s pocket-Petersham-nurseries feel; commandeer its plump linen sofa for a leisurely brunch with the papers.
Summer calls for pretty vintage frocks and winter for oversized cream jumpers; take year-round inspiration from the house’s muted tones for a touch of Nordic cool.
Hungry? ‘Whatever, wherever, whenever’ is the credo of the house, so you’re always guaranteed to find sustenance from the kitchen’s generous stock of locally sourced, organic and fair-trade produce. The chef rustles up a simple menu every day enlivened by classic Swedish flavours, such as truffled foie gras on gingerbread and blackened salmon with pickled onion and a smoked mayonnaise. Have your meal right there on the kitchen table, pull up a seat at the large communal dining table or snuggle up in the peaceful conservatory with a coffee and a slice of cake.
The brass honesty bar twinkles seductively in a corner of the living room, its two pull-out shelves laden with every imaginable flute, coupe and highball. A DIY cocktail is a good lubricant for impromptu recitals at the piano; more introspective types may prefer to sip quietly on their chosen spirit by the roaring fire.
Meal times are fluid here, but breakfast is generally served 7am–11am, lunch from noon, and dinner whenever guests get hungry. The honesty bar in the sitting room is open until 2am.
If you’re feeling peckish, just call down and speak to the chef, who will fix you a quick snack from what’s in the pantry.
Ett Helm is on a quiet residential street in Östermalm, a north-eastern district in central Stockholm, a 20-minute stroll from Biblioteksgatan’s upscale boutiques and Strandvägen’s waterfront promenade.
The closest airport is Bromma, a 20-minute drive away, which serves flights from domestic destinations and a handful of European capitals such as Brussels and Helsinki. Flights from the UK and other international destinations touch down at Arlanda, a 40-minute drive away.
Stockholm Central Station, a 10-minute drive from the hotel, has trains bound for destinations throughout the country. Subway lines 13 and 14 stop at Tekniska Högskolan station, a five-minute walk away.
Walking and public transport is by far the best way to take in Stockholm’s sights, but if you plan on exploring further afield, there’s on-street parking on Baldershage and along Sköldungagatan.
Worth getting out of bed for
On the corner of a quiet residential street and a pleasant neighbourhood park, Ett Helm is the ultimate Östermalm des res. Set out on foot for a spot of shopping on Bibliotekstan, lined with tempting boutiques stocked with cutting-edge Scandinavian labels. Make a pit stop at Östermalm Saluhall, an impeccably preserved 1880s food hall stacked with Swedish delicacies destined for the smörgåsbord. Look out for Bünsow House by the waterfront on Strandvägen, an elegant feast of turrets, dormers and exposed brick that set the tone for much of Sweden’s turn-of-the-century architecture.
To the north, Hagaparken is a leafy picnicking spot when the sun shines, with a palace and pavilions and some whimsical follies, including the Haga Echo Temple where King Gustav III used to dine alfresco. To the south, Djurgården island is packed with museums focusing on subjects as diverse as Swedish folklore, maritime history and beloved musicians Abba.
Step away from the meatballs – there’s far more to the local dining scene than this (arguably delicious) Swedish staple. With its crisp linens, cut-glass spirits display and herring, shellfish and oyster menu, Sturehof is the local take on the elegant classic brasserie. It’s worth making a detour by Oaxen Slip, a modern, glass-walled waterfront brasserie dishing up sparkling Nordic bistro fare such as grilled celeriac, ginger-baked pork belly and deep-fried herring with a tangy herb vinegar. For a special occasion, its next-door fine-dining sibling Oaxen Krog is reputedly one of the best 50 restaurants in the world. Babette is a low-key pizza joint with a tempting edit of inventive toppings. Adam/Albin delivers on its laidback fine-dining concept; the menu changes daily to ensure the produce is bang up to date, but the beef tartare is a tasty staple, given a new accompaniment each season.
If meatballs you must have, head for köttbullar temple Meatballs for the people, a deli serving moreish morsels handmade from game, meat and fish alongside the requisite lingonberry jams and pickles. Make a fika break part of your daily routine: this very civilised tradition of coffee, cinnamon buns and idle chit-chat is as much a part of the social fabric as the humble, ubiquitous potatis. We love Gildas Rumon the southern island of Södermalm, a whimsical emporium of comfy armchairs and colourful Kusmi teas with a groaning display of cakes and pastries.
Few things reinforce a sense of tranquillity quite like the nearby activity of others: far enough away so as not to be a disturbance, but just close enough to provide a gentle reminder of the pure luxury of idleness. It’s just before 11am and we’re lazily scoffing the most scrumptious muesli that we’ve ever known. This is multi-faceted breakfast deliciousness overload. Orange juice is here; coffee there. A basket of breads and pastries just within reach. Cold meat, cheese, slices of radish and cucumber. Buttered-to-death scrambled eggs on their way. Mrs Smith and I will be here for some time yet. No sudden movements.
Just on the fringes of earshot, a meeting is in full swing between two ladies in leather skirts; they have well-judged tans somewhere between teak and maple. An eager young stylist pipes up from time to time with a new idea. Slowly and in unison, the ladies turn their heads towards him. Slowly they turn them back again, to the real subjects of this meeting: a suited man with the greying waves of the one-time lothario, and there, discreetly chic in emerald cashmere, superstar designer Ilse Crawford herself.
We’re in the daintily delightful Ett Hem, Crawford’s latest contribution to Stockholm’s hotel scene. It’s the middle of Design Week and the city is awash with armies of black-clad aesthetes. They gather daily at the furniture and lighting fair in a conference centre on the edge of town. They walk and peer and judge. They stop mid-stride to appraise the line of a chair leg – a silent nod indicates approval. They fondle textiles, exchange business cards, do deals. In the evenings they return to the city to drink free wine in furniture shops.
It’s easy to see why Crawford would hold her meetings here. For nine years, she ran design magazine Elle Decoration before launching her own studio, StudioIlse. Her most prominent projects include Shoreditch House in London and Grand Hotel in Stockholm. Opened in 2013, Ett Hem is the perfect immersion into her personal vision of what the beautifully designed interior ought to be like: subtle, elegant, comfortable – discreetly expensive. Ah, just so. Owner Jeanette Mix and designer Ilse Crawford have given in to their love of beautiful objects and striking design, but this is no private museum: so deft and intuitive is their handling of mismatched Modernist chairs, rich muted tones, gleaming cabinets and vintage stoves that you’ll find yourself instantly at home
At the furniture fair, a large stand is dedicated to exploring Crawford’s design ideas: ‘Design is a verb, not a noun,’ reads one soundbite. Staying here at Ett Hem reveals the truth of the declaration. The phrase ‘Ett Hem’ itself is Swedish for ‘at home’. Guests are encouraged to mingle in several communal areas: a conservatory, kitchen, dining area and lounge. These are not rooms of snotty grandeur but of calm and gentle loveliness. There really is a genuine sense of homeliness here – albeit of the eye-flirtingly tasteful kind.
This is not something that can be achieved through design alone. The service is as warm and thoughtful as the soft furnishings. Each member of staff introduces themselves by name; they remember what tea you drink. One gives me a late-night cigarette when we return home drunk from yet another design party. Every afternoon, the kitchen is filled with the smells of baking and the resulting sponge cake on the sideboard has a dangerous help-yourself policy. No amount of saunas in the hotel’s private spa rooms can conceal the quantity I get through.
It’s almost – almost – too much. There’s one bizarre moment of dizzying self-reflexivity as, back in our suite, we’re surrounded by a symphony of greyscale textures and warm, copper accent notes. Our marble bathtub is just visible through the door. We idly leaf through one of Ilse Crawford’s own design books deftly left among the art books and design magazines. Looking up and around us, I realise we’ve entered the image; or the image has enveloped us. Design is indeed a verb: we are living the life. In heraldry, this is known as mis-en-abyme; it’s something of a holy grail for certain schools of postmodern culture and literary criticism. I decide to get some air.
Outside is cold and bright. Snow drapes the streets in this little enclave of the city. Nearby, nestled among the wealthy and the ambassadorial, looms Lars Israel Wahliman’s national romantic Engelbrekt Church, a splendid pile of faux-mediaeval Art Nouveau brick silliness. Ett Hem itself dates from 1910 and is tinged with similar archaisms – like the turret occupied by part of our suite. In the courtyard, somebody has lit the braziers and covered the chairs with reindeer hides. What could be more Swedishly mediaeval?
I visit the nearby Lars Bohman Gallery and my favourite tailor in Stockholm – an Anglophile Swede named Peter who runs Sundown Covey. I stay for an hour or so discussing tweed and immigration. Peter offers me a whisky. I decline: there’s dinner to be eaten.
Ah, middag! The food combines Scandinavian innovation and daring flavour combinations with an emphasis on seasonality and robust, sharing-sized portions. After a zippy little Manzanilla, we share three of the finest starters you could possibly imagine: soft, sweet veal tartare with the salty kick of white sturgeon caviar; rich, roasted Jerusalem artichoke with Swedish bleak roe; and – the pick of the bunch – exquisite young cabbage topped with crispy onions and mayonnaise (sounds weird; tastes divine). The main course of venison is as soft as butter and has Mrs Smith and I gurgling with delight. Our eyes meet, we clink glasses. It’s hard not to feel smug as hell. Home – our real home – will never be the same again.