Sunday, November 29, 2009

Country Living Christmas

Here is my dining room hallway in the mood for Christmas and ready for it's Country Living magazine close-up! That's right...Country Living was here last winter and decked the halls with me. You can see the results in this months December issue. Amid a flurry of wheat sheaves and pine boughs stylist Karen Lidbeck-Brent and her sister arrived one cold winter morning. Lots of baking, trimming and sharing of our favorite Swedish Christmas traditions took place in preparation for the arrival the next day of the magazine's Style & Market Director Natalie Warady, photographer Lisa Hubbard and their crew.

As soon as the photographer looks through the lens - everything changes.
To give you an idea, this shot was done three or four times using different
height tables, chairs and ornaments of mine before this arrangement was
selected by Lisa, Karen and Natalie.

To give the room a more cozy country feel, out went my French settee and Gustavian chairs and in came Lars' armchair from his bedroom! The kids and I loved the armchair downstairs so much so that after the photo shoot I incorporated it into the room.

The straw goat next to the Christmas tree is called a Julbuck and is one of the ancient pagan symbols of the winter solstice that has made it's way into the traditional Swedish Christmas. In Norse mythology, a pair of goats pulled Thor's chariot and the sun across the Northern sky and so the goat made of straw came to symbolize hope for the life giving return of the sun and a fruitful harvest. Little straw goat ornaments also hang from the tree along with bundles of wheat sheaves.

There is nothing more evocative of winter to me then fir garland hung against antique wood panelling (as in this photo of the front hall stairwell). The giant star in the picture is made from wheat stalks and ribbon. This is easy for kids to make and the stars look great hung outside on trees or in windows. Karen rested the star on an open 19th c. Lappland Dowery trunk that I use to keep my most precious holiday ornaments and mementos.

The straw theme continues in the bedroom where small straw star ornaments are hung in the
window. I usually love patterned sheets, preferably a bold toile by Pierre Frey, but for a soothing winter sleep, organic linens and flannels of pale blue can't be beat. A faux fur throw, borrowed at the last minute from our old school chum Alex Smith at Dovecote, Westport, adds a glam touch. Thanks Alex!

Here is the breakfast room of the kitchen laid out for Christmas Eve breakfast. The wheat stalks in hurricanes would look equally dramatic on a very modern dining table, don't you think? I wish I had a close up of the center of the table to show you the giant candle surrounded by crab apples on a massive Swedish wooden berry sorter.

Rhonda and I thought of bringing in this authentic 19th c. Swedish chandelier for the photo shoot
from our Eleish van Breems showroom. Alas, Rhonda knows me too well... Once in my home, she was afraid there would be a good chance of the chandelier never making it back to our sales floor so it stayed in Washington Depot! Isn't it fantastic?

The chairs around my kitchen table are called Draken chairs from our Eleish van Breems reproduction line of furniture. All made in Sweden, the furniture we carry arrives raw and is painted in our workshop to clients specifications. We offer a huge range of colors and finishes and most of our work is custom - meaning we will match colors exactly to upholstery, paint chips etc. and do custom finishes. For my own kitchen I chose to have these Draken chairs done in a deep blue green with Elmo leather upholstered seats.

My only regret about the photo shoot is that we did not bring in a real Swedish trestle table.We carry many wonderful antique Swedish trestle tables such as the one pictured above. They make super kitchen tables as well as worktables for offices.

Wooden farm containers and bowls filled with greens, ornaments and pine cones are displayed on a Finnish kettle cabinet in this holiday card vignette. The empty frame idea is something children love and you can set up these "holiday frames" to have in their own rooms to decorate
and collect their cards from friends and relatives.

Banded wooden drinking flasks, such as this one from Sweden, are wonderful to bring out anput sprays of greenery in .

We have always used copper vessels of all shapes and sizes at Eleish van Breems for seasonal arrangements and in fact, they've become something of our signature. These wonderful Swedish copper pieces will always be my favorite forms of planter as they add a warm glow to a room, offsetting the flowers they hold so complementarily.

The antique Swedish copper foot bath pictured above needs only to be lined with a plastic sheeting and filled with pots of amaryllis or narcissus bulbs to make a full holiday centerpiece. Rhonda and I like to "finish " off the copper containers with either stones or moss nestled into the base of the plants.

Here, a feather tree covered in candy canes and marzipan fruits is put into copper pot.
The Dala horse cookies on the sideboard are actually nestled into a 19th c. Swedish
butter mold from a farm in Dalarna. Dalarna is a province north of Stockholm and one of Rhonda's and my favorite places to find our antiques.

Two more examples of the 19th c. Swedish copper molds...

This one is a steamed pudding mold. Many of our culinary clientele have these antique
pieces professionally re-lined by metal smiths in order to use them. NEVER cook with an antique copper mold that has not been professionally re-lined. Never. Never. They all went a bit kookey
in the olden days from trace elements of lead, mercury etc. in the tin so please everyone - professional relining or just enjoy antique molds decoratively.

Taking out the giant cookie cutters, variously shaped as reindeer, stars, snowflakes and
angels and spending the afternoon baking pepparkakor is one of our family rituals captured
here by Lisa. For those unfamiliar, pepparkakor are the fragrant ginger, cardamon and
cinnamon infused cookies served throughout the holiday season in Sweden. We also have a lot of fun making marzipan and shaping it into animals. The pig is the most traditionally Swedish of these.

Ultimately, it fell to writer Paige Orloff to bring our Christmas rituals to life in words for the magazine. I knew I was in good hands when I realized that Paige is among the founders of The Sister Project blog!

Many thanks to everyone at Country Living for such a fun article on our Swedish
Christmas. I hope this inspires you, adventuresome reader, to bring the outdoors
in and gather your loved ones close for some holiday fun!

Happy December!


All photos of Edie's house in this post are by: Lisa Hubbard
To read the Country Living article Home Swede Home in the December, 2009 issue go to

To shop Eleish van Breems

For Swedish decorations

To say Hello to Alex and grab a throw

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Dreamed of a Faro Retreat

In my dreams last night I have been accepted to be a visiting artist at Ingmar Bergman's estate on the Baltic island of Faro. I get off of the ferry and Stockholm based super stylist Eva Lindh appears from a mist on the beach, ready to outfit me in cozy woolens ... (photo: Lena Koller Image from

or more practically, for walks around the island, in coat and hat - faux chinchilla for me please.

(Photo: Lana Koller Image from

When I get to the house, I find I need to cheer the place up a bit and reupholster the chairs in Ingmar's screening room with Svenskt Tenn fabric.

I am ready to record all I see in my social diarist Archie Grand notebooks.

Being the end of November, it is cold on Faro so I gather pillows and blankets together...
(Photo: Anna Kern Image from

among them is my favorite throw by Pia Wallen.

I make cocoa for all of the other visiting artists, writers and filmmakers.

We gather around a small table. As I blushingly begin to admit to the group my schoolgirl fixation on Max von Sydow I lower the tray of drinks. (Photo: Charlie Drevstam image from There is no room on this little table for the tray let alone a chess board. Is that Max I see sitting on the couch? I feel my wrist go limp. The tray crashes. Candles are knocked over. My dream is swiftly turning into a nightmare and all I see are flames. Anguish and dark thoughts fill my heart...

I awake in a panic to hear myself crying out into the darkness. "....why, oh WHY, did I not enter Ingmar's living room into the Brickmaker's Coffee Table give away contest at Brooke Giannetti's Velvet & Linen?!?! "

It is too late for me and that heavy tray but not for the lucky contestants. Help Brooke out by going to her site and voting on your favorite room. The contest ends this Sunday, November 29th.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Island Muse Faro

I was at Christies Auction house in New York on Thursday helping to set up for a fundraiser I am involved in each year, the Tibet House Benefit Auction event. I had to pass many times that day through the front entrance of Christies, where there are large screens displaying various upcoming auction events and Christies Luxury Properties for sale. I was stopped dead in my tracks more then once by luminous images of landscapes featuring rustic boulders, pebbled shores and windmills. It all looked vaguely familiar.

Where was this? The island of Faro and the property listed was Ingmar Bergman's estate that had sold just two weeks previously. The Christies catalog describes the property as such:

The estate’s four dwellings are set amid a rustic backdrop of dunes, boulders, and tumbling waters....

...Hammars is the main house, secluded along a road that winds through pine forests and quiet meadows. Completed in 1967, it remains an integral part of the island, along with the pebbled shores and luminous sky. Framing gorgeous sea vistas, the residence was designed by architect Kjell Abramson in close collaboration with Bergman himself. The writing lodge is an idyllic two-room timber structure with a magnificent ocean view; it can be seen in the final sequence of the iconic television drama “Scenes from a Marriage.” The serene terrain here is defined by fossils, pine trees, and an undisturbed horizon with ever-changing light.

Situated on an open meadow, Ängen is a comfortable winter retreat house, built in a classic Gotland style by expert craftsmen and offering three bedrooms, a living room with an impressive fireplace, and an inner courtyard that glows with lilacs in summer. Finally, just a short walk from the water is Dämba, a beautifully restored 1854 farmhouse. In an old whitewashed barn situated nearby is Bergman’s private cinema, where he watched films every day." (photos of estate from Christies Properties)

Sven Nykvist (left) and Ingmar Bergman on Faro. Photo: Associated Press

Bergman was arguably one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century producing films such as The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Cries and Whispers and Fanny & Alexander. Bergman fell in love with Faro when he came to the island with legendary cinematographer Sven Nykvist in 1960 to scout for the film Through a Glass Darkly. He says in the film documentary Bergman Island that he felt instantly at at peace on the island as if he had come home. Although Bergman had many marriages (six wives, nine children) the island of Faro seems to me to have been his biggest muse. It is here that he wrote and filmed most of his work and chose to live full time, very much in tune with the island's unique light and rugged beauty. I tried to find pictures of the houses but was unable to come up with much. The rooms are very sparse and to get a good look one should go to the W Magazine video of Bergman's home at: .

From left, Ingmar Bergman, Sven Nykvist, Erland Josephson and Liv Ullman filming Scenes from a Marriage. Photo from The Everett Collection.

To live on an island, simply. To live surrounded by books, film projects and with a barn devoted to screening films twice a day. To be so at one with your home that you think nothing of writing notes on the surfaces of your walls and bedside tables. To live with your home as a personal diary and laboratory. This is how Ingmar Bergamn lived - what freedom!

The property is being prepared at the moment for a further creative future! It was bought by the Norwegian inventor, Hans Gude Gudeson and will be turned into an artists' retreat. Linn Ullman, Bergman's daugher with Liv Ullman says of this development, " Faro was a working place and will continue to be. There will be new books written, new films will be develpoed and new projects will be made."

I am so inspired that I may just apply for a grant! Where do you like to live and create?
Do remote islands hold any appeal to you? We'd love to know!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tara Shaw MAISON Collection now at Eleish van Breems

"If you want a golden rule to live by, this is it; Have nothing in your house
that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

It's hard to talk about beautiful, useful furniture and not mention Tara Shaw!
Rhonda and I have just returned from book signing events this past weekend at Tara Shaw's New Orleans and Houston stores. I couldn't wait for the professional photos so I am posting a few we snapped on our cell phones. (above: Rhonda, little Kari, Tara, and Edie at Tara's New Orleans store) What a wonderful time we had getting to know Tara and her crew as well as meeting so many of the guests who were aficianados of Swedish design.

The ever stylish Valorie Hart of the visual * vamp blog stopped in at the New Orleans event with Caroline Robert of Perch. ( just look at me there with Valorie...I was blog-star struck!!!) Among the attendees in Houston was Houston designer Jane Moore, whose work is featured in Swedish Country Interiors in the chapter titled White Wisteria. It was so fun to meet and catch up with both of these creative ladies.

Buffer Ergmann, (above) who is Rhonda's talented husband and one half of our book's photography team, mingled with Tara and guests. Seated on gigantic Italian armchairs, Rhonda and I felt like queens as we signed our books, a world away from the usual metal folding chairs we are used to sitting on at most bookstore signings! Tara and guests kept us busy for a while but by the end of the evening we were like kids in a candy store and had broken away to wander amongst all of the antiques.

A l'antiquaire extrordianiare, Tara (pictured here with her handsome whippet, Jack) is also a talented designer and contributing editor for Veranda magazine.We have long admired her bold pieces and serene cream palette. When we heard that she had a decided to take the plunge into manufacturing a reproduction line based on some of her best antiques we were on the phone to New Orleans immediately. Here was a concept for a line that we knew, given Tara's background, was going to be well executed and historically accurate. Actually seeing these pieces in person for the first time was such a treat. We were so impressed with the hand carvings and attention to detail and scale. Tara has done a remarkable job and we are proud to announce that Eleish van Breems is now representing the line!

Many people have covered the MAISON line on thier blogs before us but I just have to point out some of our favorite Swedish inspired pieces! This dropleaf table with demi-lune ends is dynamite. Based on an original Swedish antique slagboard and demi-lunes this is the height of good looks and practicality. The table can fold up entirely or you can keep one leaf up and use as a smaller work desk. The demi lunes look great in any room. When the time comes for an extra table for entertaing all the pieces come together to make for a long dining table. A versatile piece that is the essence of great Swedish traditional furniture design.

When I saw this large rococo mirror I could not tell it was a reproduction until I actualy looked behind it! The hand finishes are what make the difference here.

How easily this chair can mix with authentic antiques.

This is my personal favorite of the antique forms Tara has had manufactured.
The hand carvings on this Swedish Rococo style bench are really exceptional.

There is nothing quite as stunning as a Gustavian barrel back chair. Tara has chosen to have her reproduction barrel back simply uphostered in white canvas with large brass upholstery tacks. Note the delicate front legs and carvings.

For years Rhonda and I have searched for a reproduction Swedish tallcase

clock to carry for our clients but none that we found ever looked right. They were always too clunky, poorly made or the faces were just all wrong. At last perfection! It was worth the wait. Tara based this piece on an antique Swedish clock she had in her store. In real life this clock is breathtaking, perfectly proportioned and the clock face is well done. I particularly love the fact that Tara decided to leave the crack on the door of the original and had it incorporated into the new piece.

So what is next for Tara Shaw MAISON? We hear from Tara that there are always going to be new pieces in the works for the collection. Rhonda and I left New Orleans secretly hoping that this clock secretary from Tara's store there would be used as a model next. How fabulous would this be? What other pieces from her antiques collection would we like to see reproduced?

What about this bookshelf?

And here is a challenge. This staircase would be incredible..... and if Tara is

involved we know nothing is impossible!

For more information on how to buy Tara Shaw MAISON at Eleish van Breems, Ltd. just contact us at or look at our website We are sooo excited to offer this amazing furniture to both retail and to the trade.

Congratulations to you, Tara, on a gorgeous collection and many, many thanks

for all of your hospitality!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What ho! Swedish Exercises!

Happy Birthday to PG Wodehouse! Swedish exercises, Plum's own version of yoga, feature in almost every delightful book the man ever wrote.

Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster singing about the King of Sweden: