Interior design: Bring Swedish elements into your home a little at a time

WASHINGTON

Two years ago, when Linda Bond had the chance to buy a house she had admired for a long time, she jumped at it.

But the house had one flaw: a dark, outdated interior. The look she imagined for the five-bedroom French manor home was light, airy and elegant.

Bond, who works as a consultant for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and is the wife of Christopher "Kit" Bond, a former Missouri governor and U.S. senator who retired in January after serving four terms in Congress, had recently renovated her previous home, so she had a plan.

She picked out light paint colors, laid down area rugs, weeded out and replaced some furniture pieces and reupholstered others, and shuffled the floor plan around until she got it just right. The transformation took less than a month.

"It's just so pretty and inviting," she says of the Swedish style that inspired her design. "And the furniture doesn't feel precious. You put a glass of water down and you don't worry about it."

She says she fell in love with her home before she ever stepped inside. She spotted the 1920s house on a drive through her Chevy Chase, Md., neighborhood and was taken by its taupey-gray facade, the leaded diamond windows, the unusual peaks in the roofline and the gently curved walkway bordered by rows of boxwoods.

Eighteen months later, when the house was put up for sale, Bond was able to see inside. "It was charming and unusual," she says. "There was no big addition, no kitchen-family room combination," Bond says. "It retained a lot of its original character."

Immediately after moving in, Bond began transforming it.

First, she called on friend and antiques dealer Loi Thai, who owns Tone on Tone, a shop specializing in 18th and 19th century Swedish antiques.

Then she had the dark woodwork and trim painted a creamy white. Most of the rooms were painted the same pale gray, which instantly brightened the house and made them feel cohesive.

With Thai's help, Bond chose an off-white, indoor-outdoor fabric and neutral cottons and linens to cover most of the upholstery and cushions throughout the house. They recovered some existing furniture and had slipcovers made for others. Using similarly toned fabrics throughout lightened and unified spaces and makes it easy to change things around.

"What is great about this look is that it all goes with everything," Bond says. "You're not buying pieces that are only meant for one area of the house." Thai helped Bond pick Swedish pieces that would work with what she already had: a clock and chest of drawers with blue and gray undertones to complement Bond's blue-and-white antique porcelain.

Swedish antiques are expensive, but Bond says the investment is worth it.

"New pieces won't have the uniqueness or character that Swedish antiques have," she says. "If you're going to pay for something, why not have it be something you won't tire of?"

Cool ideas for decorating the Swedish way

If you're interested in Swedish style, here's how to get started, with tips from Loi Thai, the owner of Tone on Tone in Bethesda, Md.

Start small. If you're apprehensive about a big change or commitment, start with a small space in your home, such as a foyer, hallway or guest room.

Repaint the walls in a lighter color. Thai suggests a neutral color, which is more versatile. His favorite neutral paint colors include Classic Gray and White Dove, both from Benjamin Moore, and Clunch by Farrow & Ball.

Introduce painted Swedish pieces slowly. Start in smaller rooms and replace the furniture you like the least, says Thai. One or two new pieces may refresh your space enough.

Don't get carried away. "When people use too much Swedish furniture, it starts looking like a theme park and will eventually look dated," said Thai, who prefers rooms that are more collected, with a touch of Swedish style.

Update upholstered furniture. If you have a dark couch, replace the matching accent pillows with pillows that are lighter in color and drape a neutral throw over the back.

If you have a suite of dark furniture, break it up: Move the pair of chairs to another room, keep the sofa dark and add light pillows.

Interior design: Bring Swedish elements into your home a little at a time 11/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2011 6:21pm]

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