I am so pleased to put the spotlight on an interior designer I am such a huge fan of, Lars Bolander
. I can hardly think of anyone who has more genius when it comes to mixing old styles with contemporary design — and often with a Swedish twist.
I spoke with him by phone last week when he was cooking away in the kitchen of his Palm Beach home.
I had no idea what to expect before my interview. But Lars is one if the friendliest and most charming people you could ever meet. We chatted for quite a while in “Swenglish” and he said things I would never expect coming from a person with so many influential and wealthy followers and clients. His approach to design is liberating.
Enjoy the conversation. I sure did!
How would you describe your interior design style for my readers?
‘Cozy, grand, gutsy, simple. A good mix.’
Do you have a special place you go to to really unleash your design creativity?
‘Monika, it is either in the kitchen, where I love to cook! (Lars was making a fantastic sounding pasta dish during the conversation). There I can totally let my thoughts wander. Or it’s early in the morning. Like at 5 am. When the day is just about to begin and the head is all clear. That is when fun ideas pop up.’
‘One morning I woke up early and decided to paint the wall in my pool house green!’
‘I wanted some color for the shoot. Nothing predictable. I dragged out some pieces from my house to use as styling props and the whole photo shoot came together in 10 minutes.’
What is it about Swedish (or Scandinavian) design and interiors that you are so drawn to?
‘The simplicity. The simple lines. It is very easy to mix Swedish furniture with other styles. Swedish design is not complicated.’
‘I often see many people from Asia buying old Swedish antiques and I sometimes wonder how these two cultures cultures with such different traditions and styles are going to be able to mix. But again, because of the simple, less ornate lines — it might just work. It is always interesting to watch how different styles marry.’
How important are antiques to you?
‘I always have to be surrounded by some. I love the beauty of the pieces and the history. You wonder who could have been sitting in that old chair. You sometimes wish old pieces could talk. Painted furniture (when not over-done) I find very attractive.’
”But I don’t like fancy, very expensive antiques [Monika here - I was shocked but pleased to hear that, having seen many images from his fantastic homes]. I find them stuffy and they don’t go with my lifestyle. I like a relaxed style.’
‘I also love art and books. Those I can’t be without. But not only old. I love contemporary art and since the 60′ Sweden has seen the rise with some amazing new, contemporary artists.’
[He goes on to tell me about cook books. "Monika, I love cook books! I must have 500 in my kitchen. And they all have pictures in them. They need to have pictures. The cook books today are amazing!"]
Any particular kind of antiques you are drawn to?
‘Nope. I like everything — from all different cultures and eras.
I always say — if you see something you really like with your heart (and you can afford it) — buy it. Figure out where to place it later. You will make room for it.
A few years ago, I found these amazing early 18th c, paintings of musical instruments while visiting Paris with my son. I could not stop thinking of them. Finally, I called my insurance guy and asked him how much my life pension was worth. He gave me a number and I said “sell it!”. And I used that money to buy the paintings!
(The art pieces are featured on the wall in the image below, which by the way is family Bolander’s residence in West Palm Beach).
It was meant to be. I later found out that these paintings were found in an attic on this tiny, tiny street in Paris, where my wife Nadine’s mother used to live! ‘
What is a beautiful home (or room) to you?
‘Cozy. As soon as you open that front door you should get a feeling of the atmosphere. The personality should greet you right in that door step.
I also like large rooms. And rooms with tons of light.’
When you visit friends’ homes can you leave your design persona at the door step?
‘Only sometimes (Lars says with a laugh). It depends on the friends. But more than once I have started to move furniture around in rooms where I hardly knew the owners.’
Is there a particular design item/s that you still kick yourself for not getting?
‘Yes. Two sensational chandeliers I found in Paris. They were out of this world but very pricey. I left the store to think it through — and when I came back, they were gone!’
Are there any particular design objects for the home that you think are not only beautiful but also could be good investments down the road?
‘It all depends on what you like and are interested in. But whatever that may be, always make sure to work with people who are knowledgeable about them.
Swedish period antiques will always be good investments. And mid-century Danish modern chairs. They are very expensive. But they made so few of them, so the prices will only continue to go up.
I am also a fan of David Linley’s
furniture (the son of Prinsess Margarete in England). His pieces are top quality. Expensive, yes. But they are good.’
Is there anything within the area of interior design (in general) that makes you extra excited today?
I also tend to get over-excited when I travel. There are so many wonderful objects in different parts of the world.
Architecture always has a place in my heart. I can go nuts for architecture.
Once we happened to drive by this gorgeous Chateau north of Toulouse in France. The architecture, the location and the sun opening up behind thick clouds right when we approached it – just made me want to buy it. And we did.
The architect of the house was from Turkey but he spoke Swedish fluently after many years in Sweden.That sealed the deal!’ (They never lived in the house and sold it four years later).
’I am convinced that I used to live in France in the 18th century. I can feel it!’
‘Our vacation home in Sweden (on the island Oland) is a place where I get to experiment with old Swedish architecture. I need a good dose of Sweden every year. My two sisters also have homes close to us. We talk on the phone every week. My Swedish roots are very important to me.’
Anything that gives you the hibee jibees?
‘Yes, lights high up in the middle of a ceiling – with no other purpose but to light a room. It gives the wrong kind of light!
Lighting is without a question the single most important thing in a room. Light has to be exciting. And there are many ways to light a room to make the room cozy.’
Other than that, I can get over most things. Except the word gorgeous!’
What things (2-5) could everyone do to easily bring beauty and comfort to a room?
1) Lighting, 2) Books, 3) Art, 4) Comfortable seating, 5) Flowers & plants
Art does not need to be expensive. I very often put a few art pieces together on one wall (much like an art wall) and leave the other walls empty. Makes more of an impact.’
What are your favorite places to shop for furnishings for the home?
‘Milan, Paris, Stockholm (primarily the neighborhood Ostermalmstorg).
Auctions all over the world and flea markets (but only in Paris).
I also buy things on-line.’
Lars is now in the process of designing his first furniture line. Initially the line will consist of fifteen pieces. Everything from chairs and tables to beds. The line will be launched in his NY store, fall of 2011.
Do you ever do your own DIY (Do It Yourself) projects? If so, any in particular you are extra proud of?
‘Monika, I am too lazy for that! I have too much to do! After a long day at work, I come home to cook and spend time with family and then I need to make room for biking and swimming and reading and all those things!
But I have painted a few paintings. And I like to paint my own own walls. I recently painted a pair of columns. I find that relaxing. I only bring in some help, when I need to paint the ceilings!
Today there are so many good paints on the market. Even the mainstream brands make great paint.’
Using the “Desert Island” metaphor…If you could only take one design item with you from your home, what would it be?
‘Most likely a painting. But don’t ask me which one! Or an antique bust.’
Finally, what is your design motto?
‘Don’t be afraid! I find that people are so afraid of what others are going to say. Forget about those others! Your home should be a refection of you! Be brave. Just do it!’
I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Brilliant he is, Mr. Bolander!
For more information on Lars go here
. And visit his NY store here
For another great interview with Lars, visit my friends at Eleish & Van Breems, here
Images: No. 1 (Spotlight) via Splendid Willow, no. 2, 3, 5-10, 15, 17, 19 + 20 via Lars Bolander Design, no. 4 unknown, no. 11 via Flickr, no. 12 via Modernity, no. 13+ 14 via David Linley, no. 16 unknown, no. 18 via Flickr, no. 21 via Cote De Texas