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Pause for Reflection

Halland, Sweden

Norm Architects’ lakeside holiday villas for Ästad Vingård, an organic Swedish vineyard and resort, calmly and seamlessly integrate with their waterside location

Luxury resorts built around viticulture are not new – but you can trust the Swedes to take this hospitality niche and make sure that it takes a particularly deep dive into nature. Surprisingly, Sweden has a small but growing wine industry, and Ästad Vingård in Halland, about an hour from Gothenburg, has just opened a series of tranquil lakeside villas to stay in, designed by Copenhagen’s Norm Architects.

Called Sjöparken, the villas create a tranquil scene: set within beech forests, the seven oak-clad buildings perch right on the lakeside (complete with bathing decks, and a ladder for lowering yourself in for a dip). The villas are linked by oak-columned glass walkways, so visitors never need to stray from views of nature.

Norm Architects’ Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen says that the place “is all about balance. We wanted to create something that could stand out and be spectacular in the most understated and natural way possible. A project that seems like the most natural thing for this place and at the same time as something otherworldly and unique.”

The architecture acts as a bridge between the man-made and the organic, with natural materials used throughout and Norm Architects’ trademark warm minimalism ensuring that every space feels cosy yet never competes with what’s going on outside. Oak dominates, but there are also rustic stone basins in the bathrooms, soft, matt textiles and sculptural ceramic accessories. The rooms are compact but feel more spacious than they are thanks to the emphasis on outward views. Unnecessary clutter is concealed: door handles to the wardrobe, sauna and bathroom are discreetly integrated into the design, for example.

We wanted to create something that could stand out and be spectacular in the most understated and natural way possible

“The material palette is crafted to interact harmoniously with the ever-changing Swedish nature just beyond the windows,” says Norm Architects’ Hedda Klar, who oversaw the interiors. “Rather than competing with the external landscape, it serves as a balanced foundation, offering warmth and coolness, softness and hardness, tactility and smoothness. Adapting to the changing weather and seasons, it serves to enhance the overall sensory experience.” Furniture and lighting come courtesy of Audo and Wästberg, while the wider lighting scheme was designed in collaboration with Copenhagen’s Anker & Co, which has laid a light, unobtrusive touch.

The villas’ timber cladding and green roofs take their cues from vernacular building styles, but the architects say they were inspired by Japanese as well as Nordic design. Japan’s influence is shown in details such as the rocks that rise artfully through the lake’s surface; the column-lined walkways; and the way that each villa sits so close to the water as to almost be a part of it.

As well as a bathing deck with outdoor shower, the rooms also have a private sauna that faces the lake. The heat source is laid at a low-level against the window, minimising its visual appearance. By contrast, the bathrooms are clad in grey stone, with a skylight above the shower to create a dramatic shaft of light.

The dappled water of the lake reflects onto the interior surfaces, while slatted oak louvres that divide the living and bedroom areas create elongated striped patterns of light and shadow (an effect that is repeated at greater scale in the oak-frame glass linking corridors). Here, natural light is an important, deliberate and ever-changing design component, combining with water – and wine– to create the ultimate tranquil luxury retreat.