Love festive Swedish homes? Take inspiration from Harrie and Leny's stunning Dutch farmhouse which is decorated for Christmas in traditional Scandinavian style. Passionate about vintage Swedish decorating, Leny goes above and beyond at this special time of year, filling the house with scented foraged foliage, antique decorations, and of course plenty of candles for the cosy hygge feel.
See more Christmas houses on our dedicated page, too.
Owners Leny and Harrie Eltink live here. The couple have two grown-up children and four grandchildren
Property A small farmhouse built in 1680, in the southern province of Brabant, in The Netherlands
What they did It took the couple 30 years to slowly restore the farmhouse, installing a bathroom, updating the bedroom, and adding a large kitchen-diner converted from the old stables, with the hayloft turned into a mezzanine. They added a Scandinavian flavour, with the help of Leny’s friend Myriam Gräeve-Rutte from Gustav Interiors (opens in new tab)
Preparing meals and baking cakes, Leny is in her element in the run-up to Christmas. Her eyes sparkle when she tells us: ‘I’d rather cook for 30 people than for just the two of us!’ She is a great cook and in the old farmhouse in the Dutch countryside, which has been home to Leny and her husband Harrie for 44 years, there’s always a lovingly prepared treat on offer: a fresh fruitcake, a hearty soup with meatballs, or a delicious casserole.
‘No thrills, no haute cuisine, just good and tasty,’ she adds. Her meals are always served beautifully, too, as decorating is Leny’s second passion - one of the reasons why she prefers to have every chair occupied. ‘The more people we have, the more there is to cook and decorate,’ she says, ‘and the highlight of my year is the Christmas table.’
She has boxes and boxes of decorations, and a whole drawer full of candle holders. Even so, at Christmas the interiors of her renovated farm reflect her favourite style: the calm, quiet Swedish look. ‘No bling for me!’ Leny smiles, ‘I love a more pared-back yet cosy style.’
It wasn’t always such a welcoming, comfortable home. When Leny and Harrie bought it back in 1974, there was nothing to it; just a tiny kitchen, one small bedroom with built-in bunks, and a toilet in the stable. The ‘bathroom’ was a miniscule space with a bucket strategically positioned under a tap. ‘Everybody thought we were nuts!’ says Leny.
‘For the same kind of money we could have bought a newly built family home. But for three years we’d been searching for our dream house – a small farm – and we fell in love with this place, surrounded by meadows. We knew it was the one for us.’
The stable became a large living room, with a mezzanine that was once the hayloft, and a new cosy bedroom and comfortable bathroom were created. However, best of all was the kitchen-diner extension, built in 2003, with French doors onto
an outdoor dining space with views of the garden.
The additional space gave Leny plenty of scope to indulge her interest in interior design and decorating. ‘For many years I opted for an English country house look, with rustic, dark colours, and perhaps a few too many floral designs.’ That all disappeared in 2011, when a new home shop, Gustav Interiors, opened up nearby. Inspired by the fabrics and Swedish antiques on sale there, Leny radically changed her home. ‘I have always liked Scandi style. I love its brightness and purity,’ she says. ‘I knew it would be a great look for our home.’
Back at the old farmhouse, the natural colours of wood and nuances of white and grey create a cool backdrop for the accents of blue textiles and Leny’s extensive crockery collection. Other colours pop up, depending on the season. At this time of year there’s a bit of green and glints of red. There is plenty of sparkle, especially in the huge tree that almost touches the ceiling. ‘Our Christmas decorations are quite modest on the whole, but the tree and table are definitely dressed to impress!’
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Candles burn throughout the house, and the fire in the kitchen crackles and spreads the smell of cosiness. The kitchen-diner is the heart of the home. ‘I love it when friends and family just turn up at the back door,’ Leny says, cutting a large slice of cake. No wonder that a big open-plan kitchen was the top priority on her wishlist – even though it took almost 30 years to realise.
‘I inherited my love of cooking from my mother,’ says Leny. ‘She was a woman of traditions who lived her life and ran her home according to the seasons. Daffodils would be seen on the table at Easter, roses in summer. And she never served strawberries at Christmas!’
And nor does Leny - like her mother before her, she sticks to the seasons. So at this time of year, there are bowls of red apples and cranberries on the garden table, and candle lanterns on the terrace to welcome guests to share Christmas feasts in this cosy home.