Summers may be short in Scandinavia, but the days are long, and architect wanted to enjoy every hour of the season. The diminutive country cottage she designed for her family — husband Iohn, an entrepreneur and their five-year-old twins, Julie and Fred — celebrates tradition.
The house, on an island about 30 miles southwest of Stockholm, is stylistically rooted in Sweden's rustic vernacular. The property was once owned by the beloved Swedish folk singer Evert Taube and his wife, artist Astri Bergman Taube, who built a Bauhaus-style retreat here in 1937.
The house is painted in a traditional Swedish red called Falu Rödfärg and overlooks a garden planted with lavender and shrubby cinquefoil.
That house was tragically burned to the ground in 1969 by a mad fan of the singer. When Iohn's parents, Ulla and Stefan, bought the land in the 1990s, there was nothing left but the foundation and Astri's tiny art studio. The senior Ryotts built a new home for themselves, and their daughter Sofie constructed a small cabin next door.
In 2013 Ninni and Iohn built their own getaway, creating a symmetrical cluster of houses around a central garden planted with cowslip, almond blossoms, clematis and honeysuckle.
The great room of a cottage on the Swedish island of Hölö, designed by Stockholm-based architect Ninni Ryott for her family; the custom sectional also serves as guest beds, and one of the storage units underneath is used as a cocktail table; the hemp rug is from , the fabric in the doorway is from and the sculpture fragments on the wall were discovered in the studio of the property's previous owner.
The couple's archetypal mini house — a contemporary interpretation of a classic Swedish stuga — couldn't be simpler in plan. The footprint is less than 500 square feet and consists of a single rectangular space for living and dining. There's a kitchen on one wall and a bathroom opposite. A sleeping loft with four beds adds another 150 square feet of space above.
The small boathouse, which sits on a dock, contains a sauna and was painted in a classic Swedish linseed-oil paint.
Ryott chose traditional natural materials, setting the house on a cast-concrete slab that she had polished to a satin finish. Both the interior and exterior are clad in vertical pine boards. The interior is painted white with a Swedish paint called linoljefärg that dries glossy but acquires a matte finish as it slowly begins to chalk.
"It's very eco-friendly," she explains, "since it contains only pigment and linseed oil." The exterior color is Falu Rödfärg, or Falun red, which dates to the 16th century and contains a mineral by-product of copper mining. So she wouldn't have to wait for the roof tiles to weather, Ryott chose salvaged terra-cotta tiles instead of the more modern cast-concrete variety.
The interior of the boathouse sauna is fitted with a wood-fired stove by , walls paneled in aspen wood, and pine-plank floors.
The home's furnishings are minimal. The 19th-century table in the center of the main room is typically Swedish.
"It can be taken apart easily because the construction has no screws," she notes.
The blue café chairs were given to her husband's grandfather in the 1940s. Remnants of Bergman Taube's sculptures left on the property hang from the walls as decoration.
In the upstairs sleeping loft, the built-in beds are dressed with spreads from True Blue and pillows from and ; a sheepskin purchased on the Swedish island of Gotland serves as a rug and the floor is white-stained pine.
The small space was designed for maximum flexibility. The loft staircase, for example, can be removed to open up the space for a party or a dinner for as many as 18 people. The beds, built by Stefan, have multiple purposes: The daybeds downstairs can be assembled into a double bed, while one of the storage bins that slides underneath has a top and can serve as a cocktail table.
The garden's table and chairs are a midcentury design by .
The Ikea kitchen, with its composite countertop, has two under-counter refrigerators, one with a small freezer.
"If we're very lucky with our perch fishing, we borrow some freezer space in the main house," Ryott says. There is, however, no dishwasher. "Hand-wash therapy is part of our summertime life," she jokes.
The sleeping loft's bedside stool is from , and the white linseed-oil paint on the walls is by Kulturhantverkarna Färg.
As an added bonus for their friends and family, she built a small boathouse on the dock that is also used for gatherings and celebrations, including an annual August crayfish party. But the family uses the property year-round, which makes the boathouse sauna a particular treat.
"I like it best on a rainy and windy day," she says, "when you can sit there with nothing between you and the open sea but a sheet of glass."
This story was originally published in Elle Decoration Sweden, and appears in the January/February 2017 issue of ELLE DECOR.