Real Homes: artist's Swedish home is a living work of art

Ceramicist and textile designer Charlotta Unger has transformed her home into the perfect canvas to showcase her work

living room detail with red sofas and armchairs
(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Fans of the TV crime drama Wallander will be familiar with the cobbled streets and pastel-hued houses of Ystad, the picturesque town on Sweden’s southern coast where the programme is set. In reality, the town offers the kind of peace and space that city dwellers long for. The Unger family decamped here from Stockholm 18 years ago in search of a country lifestyle with space for horses. Charlotta recalls how they looked at many properties before stumbling across the one that became their home. ‘It was in very bad shape, but we fell in love with it instantly,’ she says. 

Find out how the couple transformed the property into their dream home, before browsing the rest of our real home transformations. Read our guide on renovating a house, too, for more guidance, and don't miss these cosy Scandi style design ideas, too.


Owners: Artist Charlotta Unger lives here with husband Pelle, an art dealer, and their Labrador Calle. The couple have two grown-up children, Oscar and Kira, who both live in Stockholm and visit often

Property: The five-bedroom house in Ystad, southern Sweden, dates back to the 18th century and sits on three acres of land

What they did: Charlotta and Pelle rewired and insulated the house, repaired cracked exterior walls and removed interior walls to open up the space. They also replaced some of the floors, all of the doors, and repaired the existing windows

The house is now comfortable and stylish, and includes a studio where Charlotta created many of the decorative pieces that fill the house. There’s even room for horses in the adjoining stables. Initially, however, it needed a lot of work.

All the doors were replaced, some of the exterior walls were cracked and needed to be repaired, and a handful of interior walls were ripped out to create a more open space. Added to this, the house had to be rewired and insulated throughout.

Charlotta and Pelle also decided to open up the roof above the living area to create an upstairs TV room and home office. The double-height space is unified by clean white walls that blend with the ceiling and by adding rooflights, Pelle and Charlotta were able to bring in plenty of light.

exterior of swedish house

Pelle and Charlotta relocated from Stockholm to pursue their dream of living in the country. ‘We looked at many places before we found this,’ says Charlotta, who fell in love with the house instantly, despite all the work it needed.

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

‘We kept the wooden beams and the original windows, although we had to take them out and repair them,’ says Charlotta. ‘A few of the floors had to be taken up and replaced with tiles, although some of the wooden floors were salvageable.’

kitchen in a scandi home

There’s a cosy country-cottage vibe in the couple’s kitchen with wooden worktops (try Worktop Express) and whitewashed ceiling and original beams. Cue & Co makes similar cabinets to order. 

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

The Ungers lived in the house while it was being renovated, doing most of the work themselves. ‘I’m glad we didn’t know what we were getting into, because if we had, I don’t think we would have started,’ Charlotta laughs. ‘The more things we opened up, the more things needed doing.’

tiled splashback by cooker in Scandi home

The tiles – found in a small shop in France – are the finishing touch. ‘I fell in love with them instantly,’ recalls Charlotta. For similar try Lapicida.

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

With two young children at the time, the family didn’t always find the project easy. Charlotta recalls how they had to pin up plastic sheets over the children’s beds because when the roof was being worked on, dust and debris kept falling down onto their duvets. ‘It made such a mess at the time,’ she says, ‘but I’m very happy with the result.'

antique stove in living room of scandi house

‘I don’t know which century it’s from but it’s very old,’ says Charlotta of the stove on the wall that divides the kitchen from the living-dining area. A range of copper buckets can be found on Etsy

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

The house is a study in Charlotta and Pelle’s bold and varied decorative tastes: mid century modern pieces – such as Arne Jacobsen’s Series 7 dining chairs and Le Corbusier’s LC2 three-seater sofa – and fine antiques, including the grand mirror in the living room (inherited from Charlotta’s grandmother). 

wood and metal dining room in Swedish home

In the kitchen-dining space, Charlotta painted the floor with a chequerboard design. Arne Jacobsen’s Series 7 chairs, from Fritz Hansen, are paired with his mid-century modern dining table; try 1stdibs for similar. The chandelier adds a glamorous touch

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Pelle is an art dealer so it’s not surprising that there are so many eye-catching pieces dotted around the house. 

artists display of her work in her studio

The creative hub of Charlotta’s home is her studio, where open shelves are laden with her handmade wares including tableware, sheepskin hats and Indian masks.

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

‘I like to mix and match styles,’ says Charlotta. ‘I’ve inherited family treasures from my parents and grandparents, which work well alongside things we’ve bought at auction. We also have a few modern pieces.’ Charlotta likes to get involved in the design process, too. ‘I love to reupholster old chairs in colourful velvet,’ she adds.

living room detail with red sofas and armchairs

A mix of furniture styles makes a bold statement in the living room, with velvet chairs from Charlotta’s grandmother alongside the classic Le Corbusier LC2 three-seater sofa (try Utility Design) and an elaborate howdah (far left), brought back from India by Charlotta’s mother. 

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

There’s evidence of Charlotta’s creativity in every room. In the living room, Indian masks line the windowsill and in the kitchen pieces from her tableware collection take pride of place on the open shelves. ‘I love spending time here,’ Charlotta says. ‘It’s my favourite place in the house. It’s very warm and comfortable, and we love to cook.’

scandinavian bedroom with blue bedlinen

Cool blues set against the white walls and warm wooden tones of the furniture create a peaceful space in this bedroom

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

Despite the white walls, floors and ceilings, Charlotta and Pelle aren’t averse to colour. It’s used sparingly in the kitchen (see the vintage French tiles behind the hob) but more liberally in the living room, where clashing pinks and reds are thrown together with rich purple. Here, elaborate Tibetan rugs, particular favourites of Pelle’s, are used to warm up the wooden floor.

dining area with table, chairs nd

Charlotta has successfully erased the boundary between her work and her home life. This beautiful blue and gold teacup is available for purchase through her website,

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

There’s something interesting to catch the eye wherever you look in this home. Under the table in the kitchen-diner, for example, Charlotta has painted a chequerboard effect. 

alfresco dining area with table, chairs and crockery

Alfresco dining here is as much a visual feast as a culinary one

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

‘Rugs get dirty when you have children, dogs and cats running in and out,’ she says. ‘This is a fun alternative and it’s much easier to clean. It also helps to anchor the dining space in the sea of white.’

alfresco dining area with table, chairs and crockery

The outdoor dining table could easily double as Charlotta’s resume, as it’s lovingly laid with pieces she’s designed and handmade in the cosy workshop attached to the house. 

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)

In the kitchen, a door with a glass window looking straight into the stables is another quirky touch. The stables aren’t occupied just now while Charlotta is focusing on her work, but she plans to keep horses there in the future.

Garden with table and chairs for alfresco dining in scandi home

Charlotta enjoys spending time in the three acres of land attached to the house.

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/A Design Features)