Design Interview

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with the Connecticut based Antique & Design store Eleish & Van Breems on a Swedish design project. I can say first hand that the two owners Rhonda Eleish and Edie Van Breems are very professional and most knowledgeable not only about Swedish interiors but interior design in general. It is a great pleasure for me to introduce you to them and I’m delighted they’ve given us all a chance to get to know them a little bit better!

But first a thank you is in order to the highly talented Joni Webb and her blog, Cote De Texas, where I recently learned about EVB’s new book, hitting the stands this week. Joni is one of the 3 design musketeers behind The Skirted Roundtable together with fellow bloggers Linda from Surroundings and Megan with BeachBungalow8. These ladies do so much for the design blog world. Follow them!

Now, here is my chat with Edie and Rhonda.

1. Define your design style?

E: Light filled rooms, art and sculpture, indoor-outdoor living, refined rusticity, reclaimed elements and mixing periods are what I personally gravitate towards. A home should always be a reflection of the owners own interests and passions and so ultimately our design style is defined by each individual project. And of course, Rhonda and I are very influenced by hallmarks of Swedish design which really encompasses a holistic approach to man and the environment.

R: Design to me is three-dimensional. It is taking the complete environment on a macro level first and as the project develops becoming more micro. Factors in design always include environment, lifestyle and the client’s personal space, as well as my design experience and guiding eye. I am influenced also by having lived in many different places around the world and have a deep appreciation for many periods and styles of interior design, history and art.

2. Tell us a bit about your upcoming book.

E & R: This book turned out to be just as big an adventure for us as our first book Swedish Interiors was. Both of us, being Swedish American and having relatives in Sweden, are always very excited to meet others living in the States who are passionate about Swedish lifestyle design. We had the great luck to find exceptional homes all across the country that have been, each in their own way, influenced by Swedish country style. Plus, we got to hit the road again with our favorite photographers Jon and Buffer who always encourage us to view things through a different creative lens. This book is really theirs as well and we couldn’t have done it with out them!

Swedes, Swedish American and Americans who love Swedish design are all represented in the new book – Swedish Country Interiors – and their takes on Swedish style we found to be all unique and varied. Some homes in the book mix Swedish with French inspired interiors, others are inspired by a more pure historical rustic Swedish design. Our personal favorites blend contemporary design with Swedish antiques. All the chapters are about individuals who are passionate about their homes and love of Sweden. We were also very fortunate to have the support of both Lisa Newsom (Veranda founder and Editor-in-chief) and designer David Easton who both wrote wonderful Forwards for our readers on their own love of Swedish style!

3. What can you tell us about your next project?

Lights, camera, action…..

(Splendid Willow can’t wait to cover that!)

We are also very busy right now merging our traditional antique offerings with modern and contemporary furniture designs. We are very proud to be working with one of the hottest of the Scandinavian furniture manufacturers, Fritz Hansen of Denmark. We have partnered with them and are excited to have such beautiful furniture in our showroom! Fritz Hansen is a dynamic company in that they really support new designers and have come out in the past few years with new furniture by upcoming designers such as Kasper Salto, Jehs & Laud and Todd Bracher. Fritz Hansen is world known for being the maker of timeless and iconic designs. To represent these “modern masters” of furniture in our own showroom is a thrill!

Images from Fritz Hansen

4. List some of your greatest sources of design inspiration.

E: Artisans, craftsmen and manufacturers…anyone who is doing new and innovative things with materials or, conversely, anyone devoted to preserving quality traditional practices and techniques – to me they are all the true unsung heroes of interior design.

R: An amazing swatch of fabric, the location of the project, an inspirational client.

5. Do you have any design heroes that truly inspire you?

E: I still find myself looking back to the 18th c. Swedish and French architects time and again. I am also awed by the assured wit, elegance, snap and crackle of interiors by David Hicks, Albert Hadley, Billy Baldwin, Gio Ponti.

R: I want to be Albert Hadley when I grow up. If I have half the grace and elegance he has I will have succeeded.

6. The trick to merging old style or antiques with contemporary interior design?

E: The ability to make the bold, unexpected gesture. Only the finest bones – quality construction makes success easier.

R: Inner confidence. Try it! If you don’t like it you can always change it. Don’t be afraid.

7. What wall color can you not get enough of?

E: Deep butter cream/beeswax pigmented plaster.

R: Shades of light pale and grays.

8. Describe your dream kitchen? (Are you living it now?)

R: I am living in my dream kitchen – decidedly, yes! Sunlit, spacious and properly equipped for ease of use; that is what I love for myself. The kitchen is really the heartbeat, the artery of the home, and as such, should be a reflection of the homeowners needs and culinary ability. Are you a gourmand who entertains a lot? Do you need a pantry? A big entertaining space? Or are you someone who is not too into cooking but wants a cozy kitchen office? Are you a wine collector and instead of a pantry would like a wine bar from which to entertain? These are all very personal considerations. In the end it all comes down to life style.

E: My fantasy kitchen is really crazy – it involves an attached greenhouse and organic kitchen garden approximating the size of Villandry. I always awake from this reverie wondering how I could ever get my kids to help tend to that garden! That having been said, I agree with Rhonda! Light, a practical clean work space and decent equipment make any kitchen a pleasure to work in no matter what the size.

9. Do you have any true obsessions in design that makes you drool?

E: Amazing garden rooms, barns with modern interiors, 18th century buildings. I have a crush on Rogers and Goffigon linen-velvets and linen-silks on anything. I adore painted surfaces, especially paint that is expertly hand finished on furniture and walls.

R: I love to be in a space that is focused on detail. I’m really a detail person! What moves me are  – as in all things – ultimately the accessories. In design I am referring to the hardware, faucets, light fixtures, all of which can bring a project to another level. Sometimes people get caught up in the overall scheme and don’t leave enough in the budget to take care of these fine and very important details properly.

10. Knowing your wonderful collection of Swedish antiques, do you have a favorite piece you can’t live without?

E: It’s a real toss up between an ebony black Baroque mirror from a Swedish manor house or a rare painted 18th century bridal chest from Lapland. Both take my breath away.

R: My Swedish Rococo writing table I cannot part with.

11. Is there anything else we should know about you?

We are known for Scandinavian design but ironically our design projects over the past few years have been very eclectic ranging from ultra modern to full on period American. We are ultimately about lifestyle design and that is what people come to us for. We design for each client individually taking into account the complete package because everybody’s lifestyles and passions are different. We love our clients and want them to come home to feel inspired and totally supported by their environment.

Oh yes, and that we are huge fans of yours, Monika!  We just love Splendid Willow!

Thank you so much ladies! What a treat to get to know you even better!

If you are interested in purchasing EVB’s brand new book go here. But before we end:

Eleish & Van Breems have expressed their extra heartfelt gratitude to the following people involved in their new book. Let’s give them all warm applause!

“It was such a pleasure to profile the works of designers and architects Gary Brewer and Robert A.M. Stern of Robert A. M. Stern Architects, Jane Moore, Richard Hershner, Derek Clarke, Libby Holsten, Suzanna Havden Bell and Howard B. Clarke.

Our friends and colleagues were more then generous and among the homes are those of many Swedish antiques and design purveyors your readers may be familiar with: The Minnesota home of Doris Blondell of Blondell’s Antiques, Edith Gilson of Cupboards & Roses own Mill house retreat in the Berkshires, Paulette and John Peden’s charming Connecticut store Dawn Hill, the Atlanta home of Angie & Hugh Tyner of A. Tyner Antiques, the Laguna Beach house of Ann and Torbjorn Millang of Swedish Blonde & St. Barths, the Dallas residence of Shannon & Andrew Newsom of Wisteria, to name but a few. Designers Jane Moore of Houston and Suzanna Havden Bell of San Francisco have amazing Swedish antique shops as well!

Our great friends and supporters, both old and new, who also generously opened their doors to us are: Cynthia and Bruce Baber, Carolyn and Edward Wagner, Peggy and Keith Anderson, Marianne Thorsen, Heidi and David Freilich, Cherie & Michael McKinney, Lisa Segalis, Lisa and Bob Nesbitt, Gretel Holsten and Chris Lord. The book would be nothing without them. We’ve also been really blessed with a supportive publisher Gibbs Smith and our fantastic editor Jennifer Grillone”.


  • joni webb says:

    hi – great interview!!!! thank you so much for mentioning me and the Skirted Roundtable! That was so great of you, much appreciated. I can’t wait for this book to come out – I loved their first one.

  • Caroline Oates says:

    I agree. Super interview. I am in the process of creating a new home – a new build and have taken some of your thoughts on board. Thank you.

  • Di Overton says:

    I must have been a joy working with such talented people. Lucky You

  • This is a great interview and given me inspiration for my sitting room which I need to repaint..I always get great ideas from Splendid Willow and have a special file for the day when we build our dream house. I am the number one fan of Swedish design!

  • Thank you so much for the Skirted Roundtable shoutout! I so appreciate the mention and even better, the introduction to your beautiful blog!

  • Rhonda says:

    Dear Monika,

    It has been so nice re-connecting with you after some time. I just love your blog and am a huge fan! Thank you so much for such a lovely interview!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have met and re-connected with such talented, creative and inspirational people via the blogging world. Just loving It!!!!!!!!!!!
    With love and many thanks,

  • Joe Clarke says:

    Great interview and post Monika! You know how I love Swedish Antiques. I might just have to go get their book.

  • Brook says:

    The Swedish Country Interiors sounds lovely!! I look forward to picking up a copy.

  • SST says:

    What a great interview,I hope to see more like it. This sounds like a book I need to add to my dream home inspiration collection.

  • Congratulations on a wonderful interview. Such lovely and talented ladies.

    I’ve been told that my business is included as a resource so I can’t wait to see the finished product!

    My best,

  • I’m a huge fan of their first book so interview was a real treat! My copy has been thumbed through over and over. :) I can’t wait to get my hands on the new book. Thanks so much for a great interview!

  • lotta says:

    My husband has wanted an egg chair for years. We both love its look and shape. Now I know where to look for it when the time is right. Great interview with two talented women. Can’t wait to get my hands on the book.

  • Delishhh says:

    Great Interview! Thanks for sharing!

  • edie says:


    You are doing such an amazing job to help inform and inspire all of us who are hungry here in America for more information (in English!) on Swedish decor and design. It was such an honor to be interviewed by you!!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for supporting Eleish van Breems and “Swedish Country Interiors” on your beautiful blog.

    W/ Love,

    xo Edie

  • Monika says:

    Thank you all wonderful blog friends! There is so much about design I have yet to learn.(French, Italian, English, Belgian you name it!). And there are so many things that I am absolutely clueless about. But I do know my Sweden and Swedish interiors and design. And I am so happy and touched that so many of you are interested in joining me on this fun blog adventure. You are simply the best! Monika

  • sylvia says:

    Great interview! Awesome addition to your blog! You are talented in many areas! Keep up the good ideas! Syl :)

  • I’m so pleased to have discovered your blog! Amazing!
    Wonderful pictures,good texts!

    Greet from Belgian Pearls

  • kiki alvord says:

    Dear Monika,
    Skål!You’ve done it again, an amazing interview, this time with my absolute 2 favourite ladies in this business of ours!!! No one has honored our Swedish heritage so well. I am so exited to get the new book any day now, and I am humbly honored and thankful to them to be mentioned as a source for the west coast.
    Thank you!
    K. kiki

  • So, I had to come back when I had the proper time to read through this, and… here I am! Thanks you for this post, Monika! I loved all the links, too. I am so inspired by Scandinavian design… and I am really interested in seeing where these women go, since they seem to be moving in a more modern direction, which I think complements Swedish design so well… Thanks so much again for posting.

  • EM Dixon says:

    I came to your site via Rhonda and Edie -so great of you to post this interview with them – love your design style too.(I am a self avowed design junkie as well) This blog will be one of my new faves!

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