Ett Hem: it sounds like clearing your throat, it feels like clearing your mind. In Stockholm, in the leafy, residential district that stretches up alongside Valhallavägen, there was a beautiful townhouse, a couple of streets back from the main road and spread over four floors. The couple who lived there were childless but left it in a marvellous state, and thus were its sumptuous nooks and crannies transformed into a 12-room boutique hotel of stunning quality by owner Jeanette Mix. A discreet panelled gate keeps the uninvited from entering at all, but you’d be hard pushed to know the hotel was there if you weren’t one of the lucky few to have a booking. Well, I am such a fellow, and when I buzz (late, weary, flustered) the disembodied voice seems thrilled that I’m finally here.
The private garden and courtyard inside house a distinctive greenhouse where we’ll later have breakfast. Everything is quiet and still – birds chirruping somewhere, a cup of tea being stirred. While we check in, a nice smell distracts us and we stare absent mindedly into the salon, where there’s a grand piano, and a few guitars lying around. Staff inform us that the smell is cake – baked daily mid-afternoon for guests to enjoy.
The house itself reminds me a little of when you visit a friend’s parents’ house for a party or a wedding, and then stumble down the next day through your hangovers into a domestic idyll with polished wood, liberally sprinkled baked goods, something fatty slow-roasting in a stone-floored kitchen and a beguiling collection of knick-knacks. It’s beautiful, essentially – luxurious and attractive, homely and welcoming, and overwhelmingly relaxing. There’s an honesty bar with a highly respectable range of whiskies, along with the kind of accoutrements one needs to put together an adequate cocktail – fresh fruit, bitters, bar spoons and so forth. I’m admiring it whilst wondering silently to myself whether the ice bucket is full; inexplicably a handsome gent sidles up with fresh cubes.
The room itself is massive – space isn’t really an issue if you only have to fit in 12 rooms – and simply decorated in muted greens. Key elements of the room are controlled by a leather-bound iPad that’s sitting at the desk. Throwing open the windows lets in a gentle breeze but not much noise, simply because there’s not much noise out there – we’re overlooking a small park. The shower cascades onto the floor next to the giant bath, because this whole room is a wet room. My favourite feature is the toilet (stay with me): a sleek wooden panel opens up the reveal the WC in a manner not dissimilar to the kind of castle-based long-drop where Game of Thrones watchers last saw Tywin Lannister. Of course, the plumbing itself is up-to-date and perfectly functional (in stark contrast to the aforementioned Lannister).
The best thing about staying at Ett Hem is mealtime. Until check-out, at least, I find myself forgetting I’m a paying customer at a hotel and instead I feel like a guest in someone’s house. The staff come and find us and tell us what they’re thinking about cooking, and ask when we’d like to come down. When it’s time, we grab an honest Old Fashioned from the lounge and sit down in the kitchen (or the greenhouse for breakfast). We natter away while they’re making our dinner over my shoulder, then they bring it straight from the stove, crack a bottle of wine from the cupboard and leave us to it. I just feel so spoiled. The food itself is excellent, which is a relief as this is a Sunday night and the restaurants we’d earmarked are closed. We retire to the lounge, grab a book and a drink, and hunker down amongst the board games and blankets.
The next morning we make the short walk down to Biblioteksgatan for some retail therapy; drinking and dining in Stockholm is phenomenally expensive but the shopping is fairly reasonable by comparison. Stockholm’s Urban Outfitters is oddly breathtaking, as it sprawls over a lovingly restored former theatre. But soon enough, without ever really discussing it, without a definitive reason why, we find ourselves sidling slowly back up the road to Ett Hem. Neither of us says it out loud, but it’s the cake – we know it’ll be almost ready and the kettle will be on. If we wait in the kitchen we can eat it straight out of the oven! It’s easy to settle in at Ett Hem – and it’s surprisingly hard to leave.
Ett Hem, Sköldungagatan 2, SE-114 27 Stockholm, Sweden. For reservations, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, including details of specials and more on the Ett Hem story, visit www.stthem.se.
Christmas Carols and Scandinavian Stocking Fillers
With the festive season fast approaching, what could be more enticing to get one in the mood than a Scandinavian seasonal break. Reap the benefits of having Ett Hem as your Swedish home and feel festive by attending the nearby carol concert in Engelbrektkyrkan, and visit the Old Town’s Christmas market. Then return to the hotel for Ett Hem’s home-baked gingerbread and a warming Christmas Glogg whilst thawing by a roaring fire.
And this Christmas, for just £97 per person, Ett Hem will host an elegant evening, starting with pre-dinner drinks, gingerbread cookies and cheese in front of twinkling Christmas tree lights. Sit down to a festive Swedish gourmet supper and end the evening wrapped up in reindeer skin outside in the candlelit garden.
For reservations telephone +46 (0) 8 200 590 or via e-mail email@example.com.
Ett Hem is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. www.slh.com