Thursday, August 13, 2009

King of Flowers

He still inspires... this man caught between the Baroque and the Enlightenment. I love the fact that Carl Linnaeus set out to define and solve the mysteries of botany and taxonomy while wielding only a swan's feather pen and reading by a seal fat lantern. Totally un-intimidated by the task he set before himself, he never seemed to let geographic isolation in Sweden or his humble beginnings deter him from his vision.

He was very much a man ahead of his time, reporting on the similarities of man to apes (pre-Darwin) and advising the government of Sweden on how to train rice and tea to grow on the tundra - today's version of genetic crop enhancement. The charm of Linneaus definitely lies though in those other ideas and pursuits of his that just did not quite take off or seem very of the period - flower clocks, swallows hibernating under the sea, pearl culture on the Baltic and seeing in the the New World what he believed to be the actual remains of the original Paradise. And who's to say? Nature and God ruled supreme in Linnaeus' world. In "Essay on Man" his contemporary, Alexander Pope, writes:

Slave to no sect, who takes no private road,
But looks, through nature, up to nature's God!

A Swede today who is working very much in tune with nature is landscape
architect Ulf Nordfjell. He has more in common with Linnaeus then you may think, having studied both botany and zoology before becoming one of Sweden's leading landscape architects.

Nordfjell won the coveted Chelsea Flower Show 2009 Gold Medal this year
for a garden (above) that combined Swedish modernism with elements of the classic English cottage garden. Stephen Lacey, noted British Garden journalist describes Nordfjell's style as thus:
- A powerful sense of landscape and ecology
- Plants treated as sculptural objects
- Natural materials
- Modern furniture and design details
- Lean lines and absence of clutter
- Bold contrasts of natural and man made elements
- A garden that changes with the seasons
- Meticulous attention to every aspect of the composition
....well, it doesn't get much more Swedish then that!

In 2007, to celebrate Linnaeus's Tercentenary, Nordfjell designed another Gold Medal winning garden for the Chelsea Flower Show in London called "Tribute to Linaneus". In it he used plants that Linnaeus cultivated himself at Uppsala University and at his private residence in Hammarby as well as native Swedish woodland plants. The overall color theme was white, silver and green with lots of white martagon lilies, vibernum roseum, pine, iris and, of course, Linnaeus' name sake wildflower linnea borealis.

The most subtle combinations become magic in Nordfjell's hands. Here a detail showing a combination of wild ginger ground cover with ferns, white violets and snowdrops.

Here, another example from the "Tribute to Linnaeus" garden. Note how Nordfjell incorporates materials such as steel, art work panels and hard edges into the more traditional planting scheme.

"I think Swedish nature is always present in my garden design." says Nordfjell
in his company profile. " I grew up in the north of Sweden and spent my childhood surrounded by huge woods and streaming rivers. From our house we could savor the scent of Linnaeus' favorite - the twin flower linnea borealis. When they were in bloom the pine trees in the wood there were carpets of them, which is rare even for Sweden."

A few things I'd like more of inspired by Linneaus and Ulf Nordfjell.... since the delicate wild flower linnea borealis most likely won't grow for us in Connecticut, I am going to plant more of the delicate aquilegias - something I know will grow in our woods and gardens. Linneaus studied them extensively ( look at those stamen and pistels!) and the original pressed collection can be found at the Linnean Society of London.

...and I am a bit obsessed with the flower clock idea. Does anyone know any living gardens that have incorporated this into their design?

Linnaeus House, originally uploaded by seadipper.

...and then there is Hammarby that has inspired documentary fabrics and the decoration of countless botanical engraving wallpapered rooms around the world. Wait for another post from Rhonda and I on this and visit the Linnaeus house at

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Its been a tough re-entry for me this week back at Eleish van Breems after a trip out to bucolic Scandia, Minnesota. Its Wednesday and I've only just noticed that all of my Rogers & Goffigon samples are missing ....

My jazz loving, glider pilot boyfriend runs with a group called the Red Wing Soaring Association. I was enticed out on an early morning trip to their Osceola, WI glider port by promises of a hearty breakfast at my favorite stop - the Scandia Cafe. When you arrive at the cafe you are greeted by a giant Dala Horse...

...venture further throughout this charming town and you begin to see the painted Dala Horses everywhere. I love the sense of humor and the total send up of the CowParade that claims to be the world's largest public art event. ( You must have seen this...since its inception in Chicago in 1999 the CowParade has been held in 66 cities on six continents with artists and architects participating to paint their own cow.) The whimsical Dala Horses of Scandia were conceived by the Gammelgarden Museum for a celebration marking Scandia as the first Swedish settlement in Minnesota.

If you are ever in Minnesota the open air Gammelgarden Museum is worth a visit to see how the early settlers lived. Their midsummer celebration with traditional costumes and dances is a much look forwarded to summer activity and destination.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

For Love of Linen

Hi out there to everyone in blog land. Edie has been asking me to make an appearance, and I apologize for not writing sooner. Right now, I am working on a fantastic project in Washington, CT that is in the Gustavian style. Every once in a while, a project comes along that not only is a creative challenge, but also is just a joy to work on.

So, what inspires us when we work on interiors? Fabrics, color, mood, and location set the stage. Sometimes, it is as simple as finding the perfect swatch of fabric, and bingo, the space is defined. Linen is a fabric that I find I come back to again and again when doing design. Sweden, historically is known for its amazing linens ( the image above comes from the Skansen website . Skansen musuem in Stockholm actually give demonstrations on the art of linen weaving ) and I love finding antique linen from there to bring back for projects.

For natural, hand woven fabric being made today, I especially love the fabrics of Rogers & Goffigon Ltd.. I love their color palette as well as their wide variety of linens and cottons. They are a perfect fit for Swedish inspired interiors.

Here, a rare photo of the visionary founders of Rogers & Goffigon Ltd., Jamie Gould and Jack Flynn. The partners attention to detail, commitment to fine weaving and eye for quality has made their fabric house a favorite with designers around the world.

Their latest venture is called DeLaney & Long Ltd, , a fabric collection of outdoor quality fabrics. Look at the weave on this - something you don't see often in an outdoor fabric. I can't wait to use it!
Well, its back to the job sight for me. Hopefully I will have a chance to post again soon.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Swedish Country Interiors" shoots to #1 Design Book on Amazon after Cote de Texas Post

The surge was swift and strong and Joni Webb has proven again to be not only one of the most generous voices in the blogosphere but also one of the most influential. We are huge fans and have been following her, slipper man and that great zebra rug around breathlessly for awhile now. Thank you Joni! You are the greatest and our other most beautiful blog mentor ! And yes, we know that book ranking fluctuates daily but it was such a thrill to see the pre-sale response to the book after all of our hard work! And the post on Cote de Texas was beyond beautiful. We are totally bowled over.

If you have been lost for some reason in the D & D building for the last few years, have been living under a rock or just simply not a blog reader (its ok...) you can jump into Joni's smart inquiring mind on all things interior design at: .

We love you Joni! A million thank yous...

xo E & R

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Seaside: The Swedish Dream

I long to spend a last summer day on the balcony of this home we feature in our soon to be released book "Swedish Country Interiors"! The photos shown here are by Peter Aaron of Esto for Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMA). When scouting for houses Rhonda and I were lucky enough to have heard of this jewel set on the beach in Seaside, Florida and we immediately contacted Gary Brewer, a partner at RAMA and Partner-in- Charge of the project. Although the firm does not usually take on smaller residences, in this case the clients' vision and an opportunity to design a home located in this New Urbanism landmark community (most famously shown in the Film "The Truman Show") was too much to resist.

Gary, whose wife is Swedish, was very influenced he tells us by the neoclassical inspired buildings in Sweden from the 1890's as well as by the work of the great German neoclassical architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. But this late 19th century interest in neoclassicism was an echo of even earlier crazes for all things Greek, Roman, Etruscan, that happened throughout the 18th century during the period of Baroque classicism, and later, during the neoclassical movement of the Enlightenment. Sweden's great architects participated actively in all of these movements.

I can't help but notice the similarities between the Seaside house and this most Swedish of Baroque palaces Steninge, designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and completed by him in 1705. We will return to Steninge (and hopefully larger images!) in other postings because it has the most exciting and dynamic history; partly commisioned by Gustav III's mother Queeen Hedvig Eleanora with her good friend Carl Gyllenstierna, owned by Marie Antoinette's lover Axel von Fersen, designed by one of the Tessin get the idea. Tessin was partly educated in Rome and was influenced by the great Italian architects Bernini and Carlo Fontana, as can be seen in the facade of the palace. Le Notre was studying the Italians at the same time and there are great similarites here to Vaux-le-Vicomte in France.

Can you see in this the Seaside house? Columns on the facade of the second story are used in both instances and the roof top balustrade with urns of the castle is repeated in a more modern way on the third story balcony of the Seaside house with a pair of stunning large urns.

Here is a view of the house and its balconies from the sand dunes. Rhonda and I agree - we love that Gary did not paint the roof of the projecting "temple" but left the wood natural - this is so Nordic in feeling.

I wanted to show you another neocloassical Swedish facade that takes it cue from Italianate forms. This is the main building of an iron works in Finland designed by Swedish 18th c. architect Eric Plamsted. Unlike the Steninge palace, which has plastered stone walls, this stucture is made entirely of wood. I love the horizontal clapboarding on the third story and how the white faux columns stand out so crisply against the yellow background. Yellow was favored as a house color by nobility of this time as it mimiced sandstone of the Continent and amazing examples of 18th c. yellow two story buildings can be seen throughout the Swedish and Finnish countryside, exclamation points to the ubiquitous Falun red dwellings. (Photo: Ingalil Snitt from "The Swedish House" by Lars Sjoberg, Monticello, 2007)

The classical look was supremely popular indoors as well. Here is a close up of some paneling from the dining room at Medivi Brunn, Sweden's oldest spa. The wall panels were painted to imitate Italian marble and here again the white columns stand out against the soft yellow ochre background.

Is this not a temple to the sun? The single column was used on the third floor balcony not only as an ode to neoclassicism and Schinkel's work but for a more practical purpose as well. By having a single support column the diagonal views up and down the beach are totally unobstructed and one feels totally at one with the landscape.

An outbuilding at Steninge. I am looking for a book with more pictures of the palace grounds to show you...perhaps in another post.

There is such strength in the wooden temples. Here, is a great example from America's own Greek Revival Movement that is located right down the road from our old location in Woodbury, CT. This is the King Solomon's Temple built in the 1830's and what you can't see in the photo is that it is set on top of a mammoth piece of rock. Very dramatic! Throughout all of these classical revivals, from Northern Sweden to Federal America, men were trying to evoke and align themselves with the nobler qualites associated with antiquity....

such as equality, natural order, short, THE IDEAL. How do you feel when you see neoclassical influenced design?