Oct 29, 2013
09:16 AM
Style & Shopping

Swedish Style in New Book By Connecticut Experts, and at Lillian August

Swedish Style in New Book By Connecticut Experts, and at Lillian August

A vignette from the website of Eleish van Breems Ltd.

“People think of Scandinavian rooms as all cold and white and stark,” said Edie van Breems, who with her partner, Rhonda Eleish, has established herself as an expert on Swedish style. The partners in Eleish van Breems Ltd., based in Washington Depot, have just brought out Reflections on Swedish Interiors, their third book on Swedish décor.

“That’s where people go wrong,” Ms. Van Breems continued. “Actually there is a lot going on in Swedish décor—but it is very subtle.”

In their handsomely illustrated new book, with its sumptuous photographs by Neil Landino. the Scandinavian design mavens look at rooms created by 11 homeowners using Swedish style and influences as their compass. These influences define life in a culture that fully appreciates beauty and durability.

Their previous interior design books, Swedish Interiors (2006) and Swedish Country Interiors (2009) “grew from a need to share the knowledge we have gathered from our Swedish heritage, teachers, mentors and travels, as well as a need to define a standard for great Scandinavian interiors and design in the United States,” Eleish said in a statement. “Our mission is to, wherever possible, introduce a clean, elegant, and fresh approach to interiors, all with a Scandinavian essence.”

At the end of Reflections on Swedish Interiors is a final chapter that encapsulates The Elements of Swedish Style—offering such tips as swing a chandelier, find a balance, use rich leather, mix old and new, and embrace floral motifs.

“I know it may sound trite to say that Swedish design follows Virtuvius’ three conditions of firmness, commodity and delight,” wrote Keith Granet, a licensing agent and management consultant for the design industry,

 in his introduction to the book, “but when you look at a Swedish home or furnishing or a or a simple dish towel, it all carries the same level of care and comfort that makes you yearn for a home filled with these beautiful objects.”

In the book, the authors discuss the fundamentals of Swedish design, touching upon functionality, light, preservation, art, eclecticism, color, sense of place and a deep reverence for nature. They also explore how Swedish interior design expresses a community of ideas that is no longer bound by simple nationalistic borders and is being embraced in today's homes.

Van Breems says there is “definitely a movement” toward Scandinavian design in America. “I feel there is a huge change from when we started 15 years ago,” she said. “Some very cutting-edge American designers are gravitating toward Scandinavian design. They are using the good touch points—for one it is paint and paint colors, for someone else it is eco-consciousness—the Swedes are light years ahead of us in sustainability.

“The young Swedish designers are so jazzed and excited about finding solutions to problems with environment and energy,” she said. “They say, ‘Here’s a problem, and we’re going to solve it.’ In America, we have a much larger problem because we’re so big, but they have a can-do attitude. Here, we tend to think of ourselves first, but there, there is a sense of one for all—the Swedes think of themselves as part of a people, with no one better than anyone else. If you stand out, that is kind of frowned upon. The whole concept is one of trying to make things better for everyone.”

She noted that when she and Eleish started their Swedish antiques business in Woodbury in 1998 there was very little awareness of Swedish culture. She laughed when she recounted how they were painting their shop with hand-mixed Swedish paints to get just the right look when a woman dropped in. “She came in and said she couldn’t wait to see what Slavic design looked like,” she recounted. “Now, it is so well embraced; the look is global. The Swedish esthetic has bred like wildfire.” (Edie van Breems, left, and Rhonda Eleish.)

So, what is the Swedish esthetic? “I think it is ease of living, a life style that is family oriented—being able to live with beautiful items where nothing is too precious,” she said.


Van Breems noted that Swedish homes tend to make exquisite use of light. “The light in Scandinavia is so beautiful, but there is not a lot of it during much of the year,” she observed. “There is the old joke about the summer Swede and the winter Swede—they get blue, sad and melancholic in the winter and in the summer, it’s like woo-hoo! The summer days are very long. but in the winter, historically, people have always tried to reflect to the light, to make it bounce off things. They love glass and reflective surfaces. The window treatments are very minimal—there is a sense of bringing the outdoors inside by embracing the windows and light.”

Even inside, she explained, furnishings are “all about balance and negative space.” “Each piece stands on its own. Their homes are not cluttered—things are shown off. It’s kind of serene when you go into a Swedish home. Things are treasured as part of people’s individual lives. Everything is cherished and quite beautiful. You also find that things are mixed—nothing is designed in the sense of following trends. It’s very much about lifestyle, personalization of the home.”

She said that even though IKIA comes from Sweden, the idea of disposable design is not embraced there. “They want quality of design and construction,” she said. “More thought is put into the manufacture of furniture and textiles because they are meant to last for generations.”

Swedish design is far from being stuck in the past, but Van Breems said the country “is isolated enough so some forms continued. You see Baroque style pieces being made much longer. The Gustavian style is being made to this day. If it is good design, they keep on making it.”

It is a good thing that they keep on making modern versions of classic designs for Swedish antiques can be difficult to obtain. Thus, Eleish van Breems offers a reproduction line based on antique furniture.

“We still deal in Swedish antiques—that is our first love. But not everyone can afford a set of 12 18th-century chairs,” Van Breems explained, “so we offer a reproduction line. It is a nice solution and also a wonderful way to support small manufactories in Sweden that have been around for generations but that have been losing out to Asian and Chinese manufacturing.”

Eleish van Breems, Ltd started as a fine antiques gallery in Woodbury in a historic 1760 house and garden, the store was an example of a Scandinavian lifestyle on display. Their fresh take on Gustavian formal and country Swedish folk antiques mixed with the latest accessories from Scandinavia quickly became a go-to resource for Litchfield county luminaries such as Ann Bass, Bill Blass and Graydon Carter, as well as international jetsetters such as Uma Thurman, Cate Blanchett and Helena Christiansen. Design work soon followed.

The work of Eleish van Breems, Ltd has been featured in fine national and international publications such as House and Garden, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Veranda, Glamour, Country Living, Gods and Goddars, Departures, Travel & Leisure, the New York Times as well as appearing on Martha Stewart Living,This Old House and HGTV Canada.

Today Eleish van Breems has moved its storefront online by appointment (www.evbantiques.com) and its design work and books have moved to center stage. To achieve each client’s vision the partners work with the finest artisans, builders and workrooms on both sides of the Atlantic and are known for their expertise in the layering of textures and use of colors.

“We are totally focused on creating for our clients spaces to live in that are highly personal and that, above all, inspire them,” said Ms. van Breems.

They launched a branded store in Lillian August in October.

Van Breems said the partners look forward to again having a bricks-and-mortar storefront in the future. “Right now, we are waiting for the economy to change before we have a physical store,” she said. “Having a virtual store and being part of Dering Hall (deringhall.com), which is a website that gathers top architects, designers and artisans, has been working well, but we miss having a shop.”

Swedish Style in New Book By Connecticut Experts, and at Lillian August

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