Small-space wisdom from Swedish homeowner Karin Karlsson

When I wrote earlier about a beautiful 375-square-foot Swedish apartment, I made a few educated guesses about the sources of certain items and about what the homeowner was thinking.

Well, now I don't need to guess, because the homeowner herself has not only weighed in in the comments on the post, she has also emailed me with more details and some pieces of advice.

Her name is Karin Karlsson, she's 27 years old, and she works in communications at an electrical wiring company founded by her father.

The photo of her here includes her favorite item in the kitchen: a paper dispenser from a company called POM, which stands for "Piece of Mind." (Yes, the company spells it "piece," not "peace." Sorry, I'm pathologically compelled to add that; once a copy editor, always a copy editor!)

Funny how such simple objects can make us happy, isn't it? I like how its polished surface echoes not only the toaster and the stove fan but even the finish of the entryway seat, which Karin says is an old doctor's stool.

Given how thoughtful the details of the apartment are -- the wall hooks that pick up a graphic poster element, or the vertical slats of a pendant lamp that pick up the view out a window -- I was surprised to learn that she's never formally studied interior design. "My mom has always had a great sense of home decoration so I've learnt a lot from her," she says. "I started reading Elle Decoration in younger years while my friends read 'girlier' magazines. Now I spend a lot of my time reading blogs about interior design and architecture."

(I've asked Karin which blogs she reads, so I'll update this post when I hear back. But I'll add that as much as I love the American version of Elle Decor -- a Yahoo! Homes partner -- its sister publications Elle Decoration in the U.K., Elle Decoration in South Africa, Elle Decor in India and Elle Deco in France are equally wonderful, yet quite different.)

Speaking of Karin's family ...

A number of objects in Karin's apartment are from her family, lending extra warmth to a space that could have been a little chilly in its spareness. The Moroccan side table used as a coffee table (along with a modern side table) is from her great-grandfather's home. She says its price is listed underneath as 31 kronor, or about $4.75. The posters on the wall are Vogue posters that her mother bought in the 1970s. And the dining table that some readers have asked about was purchased by her grandmother in the 1960s; "I've painted the legs white to make the impression of a floating table," she says in the comments on the original post. (Yes, she really has responded personally in the comments. Heart.)

Which leads me to my other favorite feature in her home (besides the foldaway shower, which I'll talk more about in a moment).

Karin's grandmother has a crystal lamp that Karin loves, so Karin "thought of the idea to photograph it and mount it on a plexiglass board to make it more alive."

So clever! I've cropped the photos where the "lamp" appeared so that you can see it more clearly. (Sorry about the lost resolution.)

If my eyes don't deceive me, there's a light behind the plexiglass, making it almost a trompe l'oeil chandelier sconce. And if my eyes do deceive me ... well, you could always use that as a DIY idea.

I asked Karin how much of the apartment she's responsible for, and it sounds like she has renovated it top to bottom in the year and a half that she's lived there for about $15,000. There's just one area she can't claim credit for.

"The bathroom: This is the only space in the apartment that I haven't renovated. It was like this when I bought it. I fell in love instantly (like most others) with the clever shower screens. The only thing I miss is more light for doing my makeup."

Because I get paid to ask the gross questions, I did ask her delicately about how the wet room works. She replied: "When I've finished showering, I always use a small floor scraper (it's actually a window scraper) to remove the water. It takes less than 20 seconds and is well worth it." And she makes an extra point of keeping the area neat and clean, since visitors who use the facilities are essentially inside her shower; it "makes the bathroom feel so much fresher."

Other random details Karin shared:

  • The kitchen cabinets aren't IKEA, as I'd guessed; they're from the Mano high-gloss line at Kvik, a Danish kitchen company. She elaborates: "I've decided to put the kitchen cabinets on visible kitchen legs to make it feel lighter, and tile up under the ceiling for a more spacious feeling. Think outside the box! I decided to make the kitchen slightly bigger than when I bought the apartment. That resulted in a cabinet on the wall between the kitchen and sleeping alcove for more storage space."

  • The shelving in the sleeping alcove is indeed Elfa.

  • She really does have very few clothes -- just the ones you see in the sleeping alcove, plus outdoor wear stowed in the entryway cabinets.

  • The pendant light is a cheaper version of the one I mentioned in the original blog post that she picked up for about $15.

  • The yellow pillows in the living room are a sweet little elephant print from Svenskt Tenn. The pattern was designed by Estrid Ericson and first printed in the 1930s, based on a model from the Belgian Congo.

  • "Try to hang as much as you can on the walls to make the room feel 'lighter.'"

  • "Use plants instead of curtains -- you don't have to spend lots of money on expensive fabrics, change curtains for Christmas, summer, etc."

  • "I have changed all the lighting switches so that they all are in the same series. That brings a wholeness to the room/apartment even though you can't really figure out what's been done."

So. With all this attentiveness brought to bear on this charming apartment, you might be wondering why Karin is selling.

Turns out she's planning to buy a bed-and-breakfast in the "midlands of northern Sweden." I hope she shares pictures once she's outfitted the place. Lucky guests!

And I'm sending my best wishes that it gets her closer to her ultimate dream: "Building my own house one day on a hill in the village where my grandmother grew up in the Swedish mountains.

"The architectural plan for the house is already finished."

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