Nature is the greatest source of inspiration when it comes to Christmas décor at this family farm in the Swedish countryside near Linköping. The holiday home of Emma Olai and Anders Nyhlén is fragrant with the scent of Christmas flowers and fir trees drifting through each room, creating a lovely atmosphere at the old family farmhouse, where they gather every year to celebrate the Christmas season.
The mood is often pre-set with the settled snow covering the exterior like a pristine white blanket. The frost nipping at the trees. The grand entrance decorated with spruce and beautiful wreaths to welcome everyone who crosses the threshold.
‘We actually moved here Christmas of 2012’, says Emma. ‘We lived in Motala when Anders and I met, but longed for the countryside. We moved to a different house in this area quite quickly after we got married, but when the question came about whether we wanted to take over the family farm, we were very interested and decided to move again.’
The farm had been in the family for several generations. Emma had always loved the house and its location. The beautiful old house, built around 1850, is located in a wonderful, small village and they had no doubts that they wanted to live there.
‘It was important for me to keep the country style when we moved in’, explains Emma. ‘I wanted to preserve that feeling in the house, but at the same time make it feel like ours. We renovated the surface layers by just painting and wallpapering. We focused more on the kitchen, where we replaced all the interior with new cabinets and sinks in a delightful country style.’
From the beginning, the new kitchen had both cabinets and a pantry to hold all the things the family had collected. However, even though the kitchen was new and fresh, Emma felt that it was not quite what she had intended. The room lacked a bit of the rustic charm and character that she was aiming for.
‘When it comes to interior design, I can be a little impulsive and act spontaneously when I have a new idea,’ laughs Emma. ‘So, I suddenly decided to take down all the cupboards – after I applied a bit of pressure to my husband – and stacked all the plateware in plain sight, and finally it felt right!’
The cosy kitchen plays a central role during the Christmas holiday season. It’s where the family cooks together, eats together and does most of their socialising. For larger dinners, the dining room is used where they can host many guests around the large table that Emma and Anders built from solid wood planks that they found in Emma’s parents’ storage room.
For a creative soul like Emma, it has been a gold mine to look for old gadgets and materials in family storage and flea markets. She takes what she finds, then makes something entirely new out of it. It is never more complicated than grabbing old planks, grinding and cutting them, and adding table legs. A rustic table setting makes a picturesque place to gather when it’s time to host a party.
‘However, I don’t think I have any particular style,’ she adds. ‘I love mixing different styles and decorating with various materials that I like. I draw inspiration for the interiors from everything around me. It can be things I see when I’m with my friends or family, things in nature, gadgets in a flea market or other places where I spot interesting items.
‘For Christmas, I am not a big fan of using red. With us, Christmas leans more towards shades of green since I use juniper, spruce, pine, and light trails to create Christmas lights. And I love lots of nice wreaths and scented Christmas flowers.’
Emma’s sense of what works together can be clearly seen in the house where the fresh scheme threads through the rooms. At the same time, there are also contrasts between old and new, hard and soft, straight and curvy, which makes the interiors exciting. Beautiful accents and a lot of greenery are the details that create a calm and harmonious Christmas atmosphere in every room.
‘I want my home to feel cosy, like a warm embrace,’ says Emma. ‘I really like to have people around me and I want them to thrive in my home, especially around the holidays.’
Since the first Christmas they spent in the house, Emma and Anders have continued the tradition of gathering the entire family at the farm for the holidays. It is a recreation of Emma’s childhood.
The beautiful family farm offers a soothing backdrop for the family’s holiday time. The rustic atmosphere is amplified by the scent of hyacinths and fir trees and the crackling of the tiled wood stove in the living room, creating a very homey atmosphere.
‘I love to decorate for Advent and Christmas,’ she says. ‘We usually celebrate with my parents and my brothers, with all of our kids. Something we try to convey to our children is that Christmas is about being together. That is the most important thing — to get together, play, and just have a good time!’
The owners Interior stylist Emma Olai and her husband Anders Nyhlén, a car manager at Skobes, and their two children, Nils, 8, and Hedda, 5, live in this country home in Sweden.
The home Built around 1850, the 200-square-metre farmhouse has been in Emma’s family for several generations.
Photography by Cecilia Möller.
Styling by Emma Olai.
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