Näset, a narrow peninsula off the southwest tip of Sweden, is better known for its rocky coastline, abundant golf courses and quaint summerhouse cottages than it is for its contemporary architecture.
At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything remarkable about the windowless wooden box tucked away in this densely populated Gothenburg suburb. However, step across the timber threshold and the Mediterranean-inspired villa, designed by renowned Swedish architect Gert Wingårdh, transports you to a breathtaking oasis of calm and tranquillity.
Villa Kristina, the home of car designer Anders Bergström and judge Kristina Lagercrantz, together with their one-year-old daughter Ingrid, sits on a rocky piece of land that has been in Kristina’s family for five generations. In order to avoid the expensive, disruptive excavation of the stony site, Gert designed the wooden villa to sit atop a series of columns, with the house appearing to float lightly above its rocky landscape.
Vertically clad in a pale timber, the most striking thing about the building is its lack of outward-facing windows. The house closes in on itself like a fortress – and this element of privacy became key to the design process. "The house is in a heavily populated area," says Anders. "However, as soon as you enter, you don’t see any neighbours. You just step into your own little world."
Shut off from the rest of suburbia, the inside is an open, transparent haven. Rooms flow into one another, making the small footprint feel spacious. A sofa built into the wall in the open-plan living area provides a snug hideaway corner, which can be partitioned off by a curtain without interrupting the flow of the space. "I can be in the bedroom and look out the window to see Kristina playing the piano in the living room," says Anders. "The central garden allows us to experience different areas of the house even when we aren’t in them, as well as the exterior that wraps around the courtyard."
Just a stone’s throw away from the seafront, the villa boasts magnificent views. However, the real masterpiece is found up a steep, steel ladder leading from the open living area onto a small mezzanine in a turret that protrudes from the house. Also clad in wood, the sharp, geometric tower is reminiscent of traditional Scandinavian pitched roofs. The top-lit watchtower pushes out elegantly from the low villa, evocative of the angular viewing areas on the Tåkern birdwatching sanctuary in Glänås, on which Gert worked in 2008.
"This tower was designed as an area where you can really soak up the sea views," the architect explains. "On the whole, the low villa has a wide, horizontal emphasis, so the contrasting tower provides a cosy area with a very different feel from the rest of the house. Light floods in from the top, making for a fabulous workspace." For Anders, the tower is also an important part of the design. "I like the changing view. Downstairs, the courtyard is so private you can only catch glimpses of the sea behind the trees, but when you go up into the tower you get a great element of surprise, with the ocean opening out beyond."
The family worked closely with the architects, with Gert likening the process to "a ping-pong match, where ideas and inspiration bounced between myself and Anders and Kristina". As avid collectors of various objects and art, it was important that the house could accommodate the family’s treasures, including a black-and-white painting by Linda Spåman and other bold pieces by Kurt Lightner. For Anders, one of the best bits about the house is the contrast between modern elements, such as "the crisp, minimal design of the space and building, and the more traditional wood used to clad it".
As a car designer, Anders’ love for automobiles also seeps into the architecture. A new high-tech window system by Swedish company Hajom creates a seamless finish where the glass meets the exterior cladding, which Anders likens to the streamlined design found in car windscreens. His passion for cars takes further pride of place in the tower, where two seats from a Ferrari 512BB add a quirky touch to the relaxing space.
Surprisingly, Kristina’s role as a judge is also incorporated into the design; the architects turned to the main staircase in the Gothenburg courthouse when considering the external stairs leading up onto the roof terrace. "We took inspiration from the low gradient of the courthouse staircase, but then applied this idea to achieve a completely different result," explains Gert. "In the courthouse, the staircase is designed to slow down the procession, forcing criminals to meditate on the severity of their punishment. In stark contrast, the shallow steps at Villa Kristina are intended to provide an easy and enjoyable ascent to the roof terrace from the kitchen."
Furthermore, the simple grid-like design of the house means it is flexible for expansion and adaptation – a key requirement for the family. By future-proofing the design, Gert has certainly made the most out of this personal piece of family land. The result is a modest and unassuming fortress that emerges like a diamond in the rough, opening out into a light and spacious family home.
Photography: James Silverman
Styling: Miriam Söder and Emil Karlsson