Design Interview With Lars Bolander

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!’
He later used the pool house as the cover photo for his book Lars Bolander’s Scandinavian Design’.
‘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?
‘Eclectic. Mixing.
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


  • Mia says:

    What a refreshing, inspiring and interesting post! And the homes are stunning, personal and lovely!

    Tack Monika och Lars, nu kan jag möta dagen full av inspiration :)

    Kram Mia

  • Will says:

    What a glorious interview, Mon! Thank you so much for taking the time to post this so brilliantly for us all to read. I loved that he is excited about “Eclectic. Mixing” in interiors as that excites me as well. Plus, he’s developing a furniture line – how cool!

    Warm hugs from the UK!

    Will xo

  • Greet says:


    This was a surprise!!!! Lars is one of my favrite designers and I file every picture of his work I can find on the web!!! And here you are with that marvellous interview!!! Thank you so much! I so enjoyed it!

    I loved reading about the paintings for which Lars sold his life pension!! Woooouuwww! Oh yes they are of amazing beauty!! And what I especially will remember is that Lars recommend us to be ourselves in designing and decorating our homes! He is so right!

    Mon, thank you so much for this post! You made my day!!

    I will refer to it in my next blogpost!


  • wow Mon, such an amazing interview! loved this post darling! his home is just breathtaking! xo

  • Piper says:

    Such a great interview – loved the questions you asked. Loved that he used gutsy to describe his style. His home is just beautiful – wow.

  • Franki Parde says:

    Aren’t you THE princess! Lars, no less! Well done!!! franki

  • Dear Monika,

    Lars is so much fun! The chapter we did on he and his wife Nadine’s apartment in Palm Beach for our book Swedish Interiors was made so enjoyable by Lars’ relaxed and inspiring attitude towards his work and lifestyle. Having as he calls it “the guts” to personalize your space with things one loves is what can make coming home just what it should be – a pleasure. Many thanks for the link to our post on Lars! xoo E & R

  • What a totally wonderful post, Monika. This interview is HUGE! I have admired his work for years and this post has given me much insight into his design concepts. I completely agree with him in overhead ceiling lights…awful! Congratulations on a really interesting article about Lars… I think he’s waaaaaay good looking too.

  • Tina says:

    OMG, I feel like he is talking right to me. I so appriciate this post, I feel guided and my heart beats faster cause I feel deep down inside that I have made the right decision when it comes to my personal style, the eclectic one!
    These qoutes by Bolander I will bring along with me through my journey:
    ‘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’ How great and true isn´t that, love it!
    I also loved this one:
    ‘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!’, Exactly what I need to hear once again(you have alreday brought that insight to me dear Mon:)!

    Ps. Förstår verkligen att du har mycket att göra och mååånga att besöka!!!
    Jag blir jätteglad när du kikar förbi, och jag lovar att inte ta det så ‘personally’ om det inte blir varje dag, eller varannan, eller var tredje, eller var 5:e, var 10:e, 50:e eller ens var 100:e dag!!! När du kikar in så gör du det med barvur!
    Du andar inte vilken stor del Du har i mitt sökande efter min egen stil, det är som en ny värld har öppnat sig och jag har precis hittat en mindre pjäs som jag ska börja min nya inredningsstil med(ligger bild på bloggen om du är nyfiken:):).

  • Tina says:

    ‘Bravur’ skulle det vara…:)

  • Delishhh says:

    Monika – What a fabulous interview. Very personable and just great. Thanks for sharing and making this amazing post!

  • Joe Clarke says:

    Wow! What a great interview and collection of photographs. Love it all! Big thanks to you and Lars for sharing it with us.

  • Thank you for this interview…love him!

  • Fantastic Interview! I enjoyed it so much! Lars Bolander is a genious an so are you for this post! Congrats! Xoxo Maca

  • Tricia says:

    Monika, What a fascinating interview with an incredibly talented man. The beauty of his work is astounding. I have tremendous respect for his talent and success. Thank you!

  • Willow Decor says:

    Outstanding!!! Absolutely wonderful interview!! Lars seems so easy going and open – or perhaps he fell under your spell. I have saved this in my forever file!! Wonderful Mon! Really exceptional!! PS. Called you today and spoke to your hubby I think!

  • Ok, Monika I am just dying. How exciting to interview Lars. His work is fabulous and he’s not so bad looking himself. I love, love every image here. He just brought together something for me that I have wondered about but have never been able to explain. As I have been blogging over the past year, I am so drawn to Swedish style and beautiful clean spaces, all white kitchens and rooms. I download these images constantly. Yet, I just built a new home and it doesn’t look anything like that, or is it more similar than I think? I’ve rationalized the whole thing as if I could have two houses one would be all white per say, with probably gray (like 85% of what bloggers are posting these days, but I would still have to have my muted warm colors like I currently have, because as much as I love the other style, I feel warm colors are just cozier. Lars artfully combines the two. His art is very important as it is with us. We’ve collected since our honeymoon when we couldn’t afford a thing. I continue to pare down, the bones of the house and the architecture are extremely important and I’m definitely starting to mix more light painted pieces in. Can’t live without the old mixed with the new. I know I’m rambling, but this interview has helped me personally define my style and understand why I can be so drawn to two seemingly opposites but wonderfully combined they are not at all, just better. a lot of what is being published over and over is just trend. He is classic. and it’s not about money, either. It may take more effort and talent, but you can achieve his look on the same budget that you go the trend all white and gray route. I think he is a Master. I have got to buy his book. Ok, I’m through rambling. This sounds more like a post than a comment. Sorry. I just got so excited. In case you’ve noticed I haven’t been out much lately since the launch of my online store. Hope you get a chance to stop by and take a peek. I honestly don’t know who has or hasn’t. Great job on this interview. Mona

  • gaia says:

    Dear…this is just a great, fabulous post!

    I have a thing for North European decor and this post is totally fantastic!

    Have a great weekend!


  • wonderful interview, Mon! I’ve enjoyed it. I like reading about the paintings for which he sold his life pension. Have a magnificent weekend :-) Hugs from Germany

  • Loved every second of this interview! I’m going to have to go back and read it a few times just so I can absorb all of its subtleties- fantastic stuff! Have a wonderful weekend:) xo

  • I have recently moved my site into a blog portal and my links “fell off” but now you are among my favourites again!

    Charlotte at hemmariket

  • Tereza says:

    He is amazing and his home is fabulous.
    Love your post.
    Have a nice weekend!

  • What a wonderful interview Monika!! I love Lars’ work and it’s so nice to read more about such a talented designer. Than you for sharing this!
    Nancy xo

  • The Zhush says:

    Wow! All that and the man can cook too? Great interview…now dying to see this new furniture line, and if I ever meet Lars I will be sure to never say “gorgeous”! :)

  • Purple Area says:

    Wonderful Monika, what a post, inspiring and interesting!! As we say – bra jobbat!!

  • Wonderful interview! His work is gorgeous and his approach seems very down to earth – love it!

  • Julie at BV says:

    What a fantastic interview Monica. He is so down to earth and relaxed and his design approach is very inspiring. Love the story of the paintings found in an attic in Paris and can’t believe what he did to get them. He is a passionate man and only those make it.

    I hope you’re having a great weekend. I’ve been working a little bit more than I wish, jeje

  • Charlotta says:

    Ok, so first of all I want to say that I think you should totally do a TV talk show! Designer interviews, trend scouting, inspiration reports.. You’d totally rock!!

    Secondly. If I didn’t know you are happily married, Lars would be your perfect match!! :)

    As always, your interviews are amazing! Well structured, fun, informative, personal and brilliant.
    I can imagine he was very flattered to have a beautiful Swede call him with such passion and interest for his work.
    And, I agree, what’s not to love!?! He is incredible, charismatic, inspirational and with a great sense of humour! Love it!!

    Marvellous my dear. THANK YOU!

    Kramar till hela familjen!

    xx Charlotta

  • What an unbelievable opportunity! Your interview is brilliant.

  • I have few words to add, other than to say that the man is a genius! I loved reading this post and enjoying his work… I’m still thinking about that gold trimmed clock *sigh*…

  • escapade says:

    Monika what a fantastic interview!! How lucky of you to be able to speak to Lars and get such insight. Really enjoyed reading this!

    Hope you’re having a lovely week so far!

  • what a great interview! I met Lars this fall in Southampton when he was signing copies of his new book at Nancy Corzine. (I wrote a bit about him then) He was charming and I wish that we could have spent more time together–we realized that my best friends aunt is one of his dearest friends-a bit of 6 degrees Swedish style! Great blog, so glad I found you!

  • Monika, that was a wonderful interview. You have a way with your writing. We really get a sense of Lars as a person. LOVED the story about the French art pieces that he just had to have. That tells a lot about his passion -his ‘soul’ connection art and the things he loves. And it shows how much he trusts his instincts. I think often we are too afraid to trust our own instincts.

    wonderful piece. I am asking ‘santa’ (husband) for a few books for Christmas and this one is on my list.

    Love, Donna

  • Janell Beals says:

    Now this was a great read!! Thanks for sharing…Janell

  • kiki alvord says:

    He totally ROCKS!!!!and so do YOU!!!
    ….”Jag är så glad att jag är SVENSK”!!!

  • kayron8 says:

    bara bra! Love this interview, can practically hear him punctuating his replies with saying “Monika”.

  • This is fantastic Monika!
    Lars’ warmth and humor are reflected in his designs. I could live in all of the images you featured in this post.
    Thank you so much for this insight into the mind of one of my favorite designers!


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