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 (opens in new tab) 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.
‘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.’
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.’
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.'
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).
Pelle is an art dealer so it’s not surprising that there are so many eye-catching pieces dotted around the house.
‘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.
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.’
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.
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.
‘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.’
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.