A 1930s railway cottage in Sweden
Cheery colours, bold patterns and quirky collections ensure that Carolina Hodanek’s 1930s railway cottage is big on character. Photographs Camilla Isaksson
Carolina Hodanek has been interested in interiors since she was a young girl. As a child, she would spend her weekends visiting museums and galleries with her father, who introduced her to art, and her pocket money was saved for ‘beautiful things’.
Her first job couldn’t have been more fitting – ‘I was the one who held up the items at the local auction house,’ she says. Today, she runs a home and garden shop, Apotekarns in southern Sweden, and it would be fair to say that she lives and breathes interiors. ‘If I’m watching a thriller, I’m looking at the set design – what furniture do they have? What wallpaper?’ she laughs.
However, the moody backdrops of Scandi noir are far removed from Carolina’s own decorating aesthetic, which is all reds and greens with touches of blue and yellow. But, despite the strong, primary colours, there’s plenty of atmosphere, too, thanks to her collections of vintage glassware, painted furniture and bold artworks.
‘I’m drawn to brave prints and strong colour – I like to use all of the colours in the rainbow and I’m very eclectic in my tastes, mixing soulful handcrafted pieces with vintage,’ she says. ‘I love the character of old things – how they tell a story. And reusing things is better for the environment, too.’ Pieces gleaned from Morocco, Hungary and India add richness and visual interest. These are places that she usually visits regularly on buying trips to seek out the beautiful and unusual for her shop as well as her home.
Carolina moved here with her two children, Vincent (11) and Simone (six), four years ago. It was an easy sell. A 1930s railway cottage in the pretty coastal town of Simrishamn, with a stream running through the garden. Inside was a blank canvas, ideal for Carolina, who has clear ideas about interiors.
‘It’s such a beautiful house,’ she says. ‘It’s old and a little bit quirky and it has an incredible garden. I just fell in love with it.’ On moving in, she painted walls and hung a striking vintage wallpaper. The plaster effect in the living room was achieved with a Little Greene shade of pink. When asked if she collects anything, Carolina laughs. ‘It’s too easy for me to find beautiful things. If I buy one thing, then I’ve invariably started a new collection. Luckily, I have the shop so I don’t have to keep everything in my home when I run out of space.’
Favourites include coloured Art Deco and 1950s glass and, at this time of year, vintage German ceramic Santa Claus figures. ‘They’re hard to come across now – I mostly find them at auction, but I’m only interested in the bigger ones,’ she says. Her favourite possession though, is the 1920s portrait of her great-great-grandmother that hangs in the dining room.
‘I don’t know much about her except that she was strong-willed. She was an artist and she travelled to America on her own as a young woman – at a time when it was highly unusual to do so. The painting doesn’t go so well with the rainbow colours in my home but she’s a non-negotiable when we move.’ The warm colours of Carolina’s home lend themselves well to the season, with Carolina amping things up with decorations, candles and foliage. ‘Christmas means that I have an excuse to add a little bit more,’ she says. ‘I think I’m a maximalist.’
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As is traditional in Sweden, Santa Claus comes on the 24th and, afterwards, as night falls, the grown-ups look forward to the present exchange game. ‘Everyone buys one present for the same amount of money. We put it on the table and play for it with a dice – one person could get one gift and one could get six – then you unwrap,’ she explains. ‘After that you play for the gifts again, but this time against the clock. It can get quite loud and comical.’ Which, really, sounds just perfect to us.
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