A traditional Swedish farmhouse
Monica Liljedal’s inherited family farmhouse is a harmonious combination of original pieces and timeless Swedish style. Styling Gill Renlund/living inside. Photographs Johan Sellen/living inside
When Monica Liljedal inherited the farm that has been in her family for many generations, it came with a sense of joy and also responsibility. The farm, which was built in 1690, stopped being a working farm in the 1960s, but the family has since used it as a treasured retreat.
Located in the Hälsingland province of central Sweden, and set in an idyllic location on the edge of a forest, with its own swimming spot on the river, Monica spent many happy holidays here as a child. It was a privilege she was able to pass on to her own children, who also spent the long summers of childhood roaming the fields and exploring the many barns and outbuildings that surround the main timber house.
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The old farmhouses of Hälsingland are today recognised as part of Sweden’s cultural heritage, and some even have UNESCO World Heritage status, so as soon as Monica became the custodian of her family’s farm, there were two things she knew she needed to do. One was to preserve everything that makes up the farm’s unique history. The other was to repair and update the farm so that she and her grown-up children (who are likely to bring their friends), as well as future generations, can continue to enjoy it for the years to come. In the process she would put just a little stamp of her own personality on it.
‘The farm has never been divided by sales, only ever passed down through the family, and so much of it is original and intact,’ says Monica. ‘Some rooms haven’t changed in generations and in those rooms it feels like time has stopped. There is also lots of fun stuff that the family has left behind, like the crayfish services used for the crayfish parties at the end of summer, Christmas services, glassware and all kinds of other curiosities.’
These traditional Hälsingland farmsteads were built by the farmers themselves entirely from timber, and demonstrate great skill in joinery and carpentry. When it came to repairing or replacing the windows and doors of the main house, Monica found spares that had been kept precisely for this purpose in a number of the barns. ‘Everything was saved, nothing was thrown away,’ she explains.
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Much of the furniture, too, was made on site, and about two thirds of Monica’s furniture is original to the farm. At one point, there was even a smithy to make the door handles and other items of ironmongery, which Monica has taken great pains to keep and restore.
While stripping away old wallpaper in the house, Monica made an exciting discovery when she uncovered original stencils and traditional spray painting beneath. Keen to reinstate these finishes, she took courses in stencilling and in making egg tempera – an old-fashioned paint – where the pigments are bound together with egg yolk.
Traditionally, spray painting was done using a bunch of birch twigs to splatter different coloured paints onto the wall. Monica followed this technique, while wearing a swimming cap to protect her hair, although she still ended up covered head to toe in paint! In rooms where she couldn’t find original stencils, she recreated them in a style typical of the area.
Throughout the house, Monica has breathed new life into the rooms, while remaining faithful to the original feel. In the kitchen, newly built panelled cabinets complement an original panelled cupboard under the window, while all of the woodwork has been painted in a pale grey linseed oil mix, chosen by Monica to create uniformity. It ties in with her revamped stencilled walls and the original rustic farmhouse furniture, to which Monica has added soft furnishings and two tonally sympathetic rag rugs that were made by her grandmother.
‘As most of the furniture and things have been saved in the barns over the years and originate from the farm, I have tried to approach the interior decoration in a new way, with a little of my own style,’ she says. The result is a welcoming home exuding character.
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