Christmas is a very special time of year for the Hjort family, who live in a picturesque village near Sundsvall in Sweden, and the preparations begin well before the first week of Advent.
For Hanna and Robert, along with their children Leia and Neo, their comfortable home is especially charming and cosy at this time of year when, decorated with natural foliage and bathed in candlelight, it’s the perfect place to enjoy cosy gatherings with family and friends. The Hjorts moved here in 2001, drawn to the rural village that is surrounded by thick woodland and fields, and beautiful scenery. An extensive renovation was, however, in order.
‘The basement was filled with sand when we moved in,’ say Hanna. ‘But we redesigned it so that now we have a sauna, a bathroom, two guest rooms and our living room there instead.’ On the main floor, a porch and conservatory were added to provide more space and character, while the original living room was turned into the dining room, adjoining the kitchen with its island created from vintage wood, and the pantry. ‘We love to cook and bake, so this is an important space for us,’ explains Hanna. ‘The house is functional now but it also looks good and, most of all, we enjoy just being here,’ she says. ‘I spent a lot of time making it as nice as I could and think I have succeeded in creating a warm atmosphere.’
When it comes to Christmas decor, Hanna takes her inspiration from nature with a colour scheme of white, green, grey and brown. ‘I decorate almost exclusively with natural materials such as pine cones, pine boughs, and hyacinths,’ she says. She gathers the foliage and branches in the forest nearby and makes many of the ornaments herself, including hearts sewn from linen and fabric remnants, home-made candlesticks made of birch, handcrafted wreaths and paper decorations.
Light is a critical element in the overall scheme. In winter the days this far north are short, so Christmas lights and candles are very important. ‘We always put the lights up together and play a “drum roll” just like the one in the movie National Lampoon,’ she smiles. ‘Afterwards we sip on hot mulled drinks and eat gingerbread – another one of our traditions!’
Christmas Eve is traditionally celebrated with a porridge breakfast. After that it’s off to a nearby hill, where the whole extended family goes sledding and gets plenty of fresh air, before spending time in the sauna, as is traditional in Scandinavian homes. ‘Then we are ready for the Christmas meal – we’re usually really hungry by then,’ laughs Hanna. ‘When we’ve finished, we exchange presents and everyone from the smallest child to the grandparents takes part.’ Undoubtedly, being with the family is what matters most now. ‘It’s great to do things together,’ she says. ‘We enjoy a very Swedish Christmas and for us, it’s the best holiday of the year.’
Hanna and Robert Hjort and their two children, Leia (14) and Neo (11) live here with their cats Simba and Charlie, and rabbits Ville and Moa.
The property sits just outside the small Swedish village of Sundsvall, surrounded by thick woodlands and fields. It comprises three floors, including the basement, which has been converted to include guest rooms, a sauna and family sitting room.