In central Stockholm, the contemporary home of Hem founder, Petrus Palmér, sits within a former blacksmith workshop
In the central Stockholm neighbourhood of Östermalm, nestled in a cobbled courtyard, surrounded by turn-of-the-century apartments, is the home of Petrus Palmér, co-founder of the six-year-old design brand Hem and formerly of Form Us With Love.
In what had begun life as a blacksmith’s workshop was later an artist’s studio through the 1940s and 50s, Palmér’s 970-square foot house, which he shares with his wife and two young sons, was converted five years ago by the Swedish architectural practice Förstberg Ling into a light-filled family home. Where once there was nothing but a rough brick shell and a dirt floor there is now expansive white walls, poured concrete floors and Douglas fir throughout, which creates an efficient, functioning space.
This particular building was where farriers would fix horseshoes
“This particular building was where farriers would fix horseshoes,” describes Palmér. “The entrance from the street through an archway – that’s where the horses would be led into. There was a restaurant down the street where most of the merchants would stop, have their dinner, leave the horses here to have new shoes fitted and then the next morning they would collect them and be on their way.” While nothing of its history remains explicit in the property, there is still very definitely a sense what was has gone before.
Despite its basic state – it had become a warehouse and was latterly unoccupied – it was the existing large gallery window to the front of the house installed by the artist in around the 1950s, that appealed to Palmér and his wife, who first discovered the property and noted its potential.
“There are certain types of classification for preservation,” explains Palmér, “so we knew we couldn’t change the exterior, but we were extremely lucky that the artist had installed the window before the city started imposing very strict regulations. There were windows where a large door to the courtyard is now. However within the interior we could do anything we wanted to make it liveable.”
And that it is. Downstairs is mostly open plan. A large living area that takes in a Barber Osgerby-designed Vitra sofa and play area with storage boxes on casters full of toys designed by Palmér creates one zone, while a sizeable dining table and chairs – both Hem of course – and a Guatemalan marble topped kitchen that runs the length of the back wall creates another. Kitchen storage, the oven, fridge and a compact laundry, has been neatly tucked away in an annex, clad from floor to ceiling in Douglas fir.
“What you see is what you get here,” says Palmér matter-of-factly. “We wanted to ensure that the gallery window was not interrupted. Our conversation with the architect, who is a friend, was about maximising the space.” It certainly feels spacious.
Upstairs posed the greatest challenge because of an existing sloping roof that could not be raised nor extended – the two bedrooms and an en suite master bathroom, therefore, have tiered ceiling heights. “That meant we had to build a mezzanine at different levels. Our idea was to have a good socialising space downstairs and keep the bedrooms small. It’s a decent sized space, but with two kids it starts to get a little tight.”
There are clever concessions to make it all work, though. The downstairs family bathroom and the entrance to the house have lower ceilings to enable just enough ceiling upstairs for another bathroom and a reading nook upstairs. A gallery mezzanine library that reveals the entrance to the bedrooms is a nice touch too. A sliding door – a space-saving device used all over the house – into the master bathroom has been cut specifically to slide over the top of a marble counter. It’s so simple and so effective.
For such an unadorned, white space, this place is oddly warm. That comes from strategically placed lighting, such as the Luca Nichetto-designed Hem pendants over the dining table, or the fabric-covered lights in each of the bedrooms. The exposed fin-like beams in the kitchen and bathroom and the wooden flooring that starts on the stairs and takes you into the private spaces upstairs, also offer a softness that clearly make it a family-friendly home.
“There will come a point when we outgrow this house, but I’d love to keep it. Hopefully we can use it as a HEM entertainment space. This year is a big year for us. We’re opening a permanent space in New York in March, showing new works in Milan in June and relaunching our branding and website, so we will definitely need somewhere for celebrations.”