In the past decade, Swedish style has exploded on the interior design scene. It seems people in American can’t get enough of the gray and creamy toned antique furniture, often mixed with cheery blue and white gingham fabrics and surrounded by exquisite gilt mirrors and crystal chandeliers. The look is so soothing and calm – perhaps its popularity is sought as an antidote to the frenetic lives we lead today surrounded by technology 24/7. There is something so relaxing about a Swedish interior – the cool colors, the quiet atmosphere, the subtle sparkle reflected from mirror to light fixture and back. Riding the wave of this much in-demand look is the team of Rhonda Eleish and Edie van Breems, two childhood friends, both of Swedish descent, who back in 1998 opened Eleish van Breems Antiques. Their shop, unlike any other, was first set in a charming 18th century house that the two had turned into a living Swedish home where everything just happened to be for sale. Located in Woodbury, Connecticut, their first location served them well for over eleven years, until success forced a move to a larger showroom, located in Washington Depot, Connecticut.
Rhonda Eleish and Edie van Breems – childhood friends, now shop owners, authors, and interior designers.
The two friends, whose Swedish antiques business was one of the first of this current trend, adored their 18th century house, but a need for more office space, showroom space, a reference library, and room for photo shoots forced their hand to sell. No matter - they are now happily ensconced in their new shop and things couldn’t be better for Eleish van Breems. Besides their extensive collection of antiques, the pair sell a reproduction line of Swedish furniture made to their specifications back in the mother land. In addition, they can now show more modern Swedish furniture in their showroom. They also carry other furniture lines such as Chelsea Textiles. According to Edie, today over 50% of their business is conducted virtually, through their website and 1st Dibs, so a pure store front was no longer needed. The best part of their location is the view – overlooking pine trees and a rushing stream, the scene is reminiscent of the Swedish countryside. Moving to their new location last year has been liberating since they no longer have to run a storefront seven days a week, and this has produced a creative renaissance for the women who are energized by the new directions Eleish van Breems is taking. And then, there are, of course, the books. Just two years ago, the pair wrote a beautiful book on Swedish design, called, appropriately, Swedish Interiors. A smash hit, a second book was in the planning stages before the first one was barely distributed. The newest book, Swedish Country Interiors, is now available to preorder at Amazon and will be on sale in the next month. I can barely wait – a little birdie told me that one of the featured houses will be Wisteria’s owners, The Newsoms, whose beautiful house was also featured in Veranda. Not surprisingly, a third Eleish van Breems book is now in the planning stages!
The cover of the new book due out next month, Swedish Country Interiors, available now for pre-ordering here.
This picture, on the new book’s preview page at Amazon, is driving me crazy! How gorgeous is this? I can’t wait to read the book!
Another picture on Amazon’s preview is this beautiful shot of two Swedish chairs and a server. I love the traditional Swedish paintings on the walls.
This Amazon preview picture shows a wonderful Swedish antique corner cabinet – a traditional piece - along with a chair dressed in the blue and white gingham that is so closely associated with Swedish design.
The original Eleish van Breems shop in Waterford, Connecticut. At one time, owner Rhonda Eleish lived on the second floor. The duo has recently relocated to a larger, more efficient space in Washington Depot, Connecticut.
And now for something completely different! No longer tied down to their store in the 18th century house, the partners have moved to a showroom where they have more office space, room for a library and room to showcase all the other furniture lines they carry besides their Swedish antiques. One such line is Swedish modern from Fritz Hansen.
For a time, Edie van Breems lived in a wonderful old house that she had totally renovated and which was much photographed. Here is her former living room with traditional Swedish antiques clad in blue and white cotton. Notice the mirror with the attached candle sconces. Because Sweden is so dark much of the year, every bit of light is sought out – the candles’ reflection in the mirror doubles the amount of light given off!
Edie van Breems dining room with its antique Swedish crystal chandelier and assorted chair styles. Notice that gorgeous sofa - divine!
The breakfast room in Edie van Breems’ former house. Here is the popular Swedish Mora clock, one of the most recognized Swedish antiques there is.
Eleish and van Breems first book, Swedish Interiors, was filled with pictures from a wonderful mix of houses. Some were furnished strictly with antiques, while others were furnished with modern Swedish furniture. Next - I’ll show you a few of my favorite chapters from the first book.
One of my favorite chapters in the first book was the story about this house located in Louisiana. The interior designer is one of the best there is, Gerrie Bremermann from New Orleans. The owner collects Swedish antiques and the entire house is filled with his bounty. Here is a small sitting room located off the larger living room. I just love the coolness and calmness of this space – so typical of a house with Swedish interiors.
This is the New York space of Lena Kaplan who owned White on White, a shop specializing in Swedish design. The shop is now closed and she operates Studio White on White in a more personalized environment. I love how the painted floors match the table and chairs!
Another wonderful chapter shows the former Palm Beach house of Lars Bolander, a Swedish interior designer and shop owner. Cote de Texas featured Bolander here. His sense of style is wonderful and totally uniquely his own.
Another pioneer of the Swedish antique importing business in the states is Linda Kennedy and her husband Lindsay. Together they formed Chloe Decor which became one of the more well known Swedish antique dealers. Today, Linda sells the antiques on a wholesale basis but she concentrates mainly on her new floral design business. At the time when they lived in this house, it was a stage for all their antiques, which were actually for sale!
In Linda’s house: I love these desks with the diminutive Mora clock affixed to the top of them. I would love to own one of these for my office!
The 1760 Rhode Island house of Libby Holsten. Once a lover of both Italian and French antiques, upon reading a book about Swedish design, she threw herself into collecting as many pieces of the furniture as she could.
Holsten’s beautiful Mora clock sits aside a French grisaille.
Holsten’s music salon in her Rhode Island house filled with antiques. Here she mixes French antiques with Swedish which is perfectly natural to do. After all, Gustavian furniture was based on French designs at the time.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about Eleish van Breems. To preorder their new book, Swedish Country Interiors, go here. To order their first book, Swedish Interiors, which I previewed today, go here. And to reread a story I wrote about Gustav and Sweden, please go here.