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A Swedish Couple Turn a Mercedes Sprinter White Van Into a Cosy Home

Let's celebrate the weekend with something a little different - and super inspiring! Meet nomadic Swedish couple Indie and Joel who were travelling the world when the pandemic hit. Forced to return home, they decided to pursue their dream of a more sustainable and minimalistic lifestyle and turned their Mercedes Sprinter van into a home. When they first bought the van, whom they've since christened 'Luna', the main compartment was an empty shell, but they immediately saw its potential as a living space. Read on to find out how they converted their little van into a cosy home!

Before

 The pair designed, built and decorated the van entirely on their own from scratch, without any prior experience! Amazing! 

The back of the 2008 van measures 4.3 metres, making her the second longest model in the range - and with a little work and careful planning, enough space to create a small kitchen, social area and bed!


The fully functional van was fitted solar panels, an 84 litre freshwater tank, a fridge and freezer compartment, a 100-amp lithium battery, mains hook up, arctic insulation, and a fully equipped kitchen among many other things. 

You can read about the entire build - which took eight months (including all the items they used) on their 'On the freeside' blog and vlog (in case you're feeling inspired to do something similar!). 

After

It's hard to imagine that you can create such a lovely, cosy living space in a mere 4.3 metres, but not only have Indie and Joel created a practical, highly functional home, it's also lovely and cosy too! Think traditional kitchen cabinets with cup handles, tiles, wood details and plenty of storage as well as a social area. 

When space is of a premium, it's important to make use of every inch. In the kitchen, the side of the sink has been used to store washing up liquid, soap, chopping boards and utensils. 

The cabinet on the far side was built by hand using plexiglass: ""The idea of a glass cabinet was inspired by the old glass pantries our parents and grandparents once had," Indie explains, "we thought they look so beautiful. So, we created our own using plastic".

"We wanted to create a bright light Scandinavian style interior with a bit of a farmhouse feel", Indie tells me, "the feeling of stepping into a modern cabin in the woods. All the horizontal lines, including the countertops, ceiling and floor, are made out of dark walnut and all the vertical lines (cabinet doors, walls etc) are white". 

The loo and shower are located under the countertop beside the sink. For those of you who love tech / want to read more about the ins and outs - you can find out more information about the van water life and plumbing system here

The spice rack is made from wood shelving and brass pipes - which help to keep the jars in place (follow the steps here). 

A wooden door gives access to the main driving compartment. 

"For us, it was important that it felt like a home; somewhere peaceful", Indie tells me, "we used warm colours to make it feel cosy and it was also important to be able to host friends - hence our big U-shaped sofa".

At night, the table is lowered to make a platform in the middle and two mattresses are added to form a 160 x 200 cm bed with a 24 cm thick memory foam mattress. A comfortable place to wake up each day, looking out over the nature - or end the day, gazing at the stars!


In Scandinavia its customary to take your shoes off when you enter a home - and in Indie and Joel's van it's no different! Simple, low wooden shelves by the entrance provide storage and help to keep the entrance-way clear. 

***

All in all, one INCREDIBLE project! And such a special home. 

If you'd like to follow Indie and Joel's journey, hop on over to their instagram @onthefreeside - which is full of pictures from the van and the various locations they visit, or explore their website and vlog for know-how on how you can build your very own home on wheels from a white van! 

Feel like reading about a few other inspiring stories involving tiny homes this weekend?


Although not quite as tiny as this van, you might also like to see our plans for the little cabin which we are hoping to start building in September. Exciting!

Wishing you all a fabulous weekend, thank you so much for stopping by! 

Niki

Photography: Jennifer Nilsson

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The Design Plans For Our Tiny Swedish Cabin (Komplementbostadshus / Attefallshus)

A while back I wrote that Per and I are planning on building an attefallshus (a small Swedish cabin usually measuring 25 m2 (269 sq.ft) - but in this case it's a 'komplementbostadshus' which is allowed to be 30 m2 / (322 sq.ft) in the garden of Per's family's summer cottage in South Sweden. We've been pouring over lovely cabins for ages as you know from this post! We were hoping to buy something ready-made but after assessing all the options we eventually decided to design it ourselves. Out-of-the-blue, I came across Anela Tahirovic - a really talented architect based just outside of Malmö, whose home I featured yesterday. Anela has been working with us to help realise our idea - while also adding some great ideas,  tips and tricks of her own. Ready to see the plan?!

Tadaaaa! This 3D drawing (by the fab Mahir at Studio Ark) gives an idea of the overall look and feel. We wanted to draw inspiration from the surrounding forest - and decided on brown wood panelling (see the inspiration below for a photo of the wood finish we are hoping to achieve). 

Since the living space is so small, we were also keen to draw in as much natural light as possible and create an indoor-outdoor living space. This is why the cabin has so many windows and doors - which we can throw open on warm summer days.

I am toying with the idea of swapping out the black frames in favour of slim brown ones for a softer look (as seen below in this lovely 'Hållbar' 40 m2 house by Woodworks. What do you think? 

Here are some drawings by Anela showing how the cabin will look from different directions:


Inside, there will be a tiny sitting room area, basic kitchenette (fridge and sink), double bed and bathroom on the lower level, and then an upper loft area (accessed by a ladder) for two more beds. In such a small space, storage is a struggle - so, not only do we need to live fairly minimalist (not easy for the Brantmarks!), but we will also need to find some smart storage solutions! Here is a sketch of the layout: 
I am looking forward to sharing more inspiration for the interior and the outdoor area with you soon. In the meantime, this past post might just give you some idea of the general design direction!

And good news, we have planning permission - WOOHOOOO! We were hoping to have started the build this spring, but all the local builders are crazy busy due to the pandemic, so now we're looking at September. Feeling excited but ever so slightly nervous too! 

I hope you like the plans so far! 

Wishing you all a lovely day, 

Niki

A huge thanks to Anela Tahirovic for the design sketches and Mahir from Studio Ark for the building and construction drawings as well as the 3D visualisations.

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Our Tiny Swedish Holiday Cabin: Exterior Inspiration


Those of you who have been following My Scandinavian Home for a while (thank you!), will know that Per's family have a little summer cottage on the coast of North West Skåne. It was built by Per's grandparents in the 1930s and today, it's enjoyed by Per's Mother - who heads there for much of the summer. We also love to stay there whenever possible - at the weekends, over Easter and for several weeks in the summer. It's our very own little paradise, understated, raw, rugged and windswept. Days are spent sipping coffee, wondering through the pine forest or village in our dressing gowns to the water's edge, playing games while the rain comes down or chugging out to the island of Hallands Väderö (second picture down) by boat. Here are a few shots I've snapped with my phone over the years. I hope it'll give you an idea of the surrounding nature, and the simple life we lead at the cottage!




Tiny Cabin Location and Inspiration 



Per's Grandfather fell in love with the area just like we have many years later and built the little cottage (above) up on a hill near the church. Per's Mother, an avid reader of my blog (hej hej!), recalls playing in the meadows in front of the cottage as a child, and taking a 'morgondopp' (morning dip) in the sea. These days, the 'meadows' are occupied by summer houses, but Liv and Allie still love to run carefree down to the water for a swim, no matter the weather. 

The cottage itself is tiny, and if we're all in place - the sofa becomes a sofa bed and the children and their friends sleep on a bunkbed and a blow-up mattress. It works for now, but we'd love to spend more time there - and as the children grow-up, we'd love for their children to enjoy it as we do today! 

In Sweden, it's common to build tiny cabins in the grounds of a summer cottage to make space. Known as an 'Attefallshus', you are permitted to build a 25 square metre (269 square feet) cabin and, recently, also a 30m2 cabin (322 square feet) - known as a 'Komplimentbostadshus' (try pronouncing that!) in the grounds of your property (see restrictions here - in Swedish). It's the latter we're interested in since it will give us enough space for a family of four. This winter, we marked out a section of the lawn and the planning has finally begun! So exciting! 


We have earmarked this section of the garden beside an old oak tree running parallel along the fence to the neighbours' garden (with their kind permission) - which affords both properties some privacy.  

Cabin Exterior Inspiration

When Per and I brainstormed the look and feel of the cabin we decided against replicating the main house and instead were keen for the exterior to blend into the surroundings - and incorporate the rugged nature of the forest and coastline. Wood therefore felt like an obvious material for the exterior - and we love that it ages gracefully over time. The exact wood and tone is to be determined (watch this space) but we particularly love the look and feel of the cladding above and below. 

Since life at the cabin is about spending time outdoors and soaking up the surroundings, we're keen for the cabin to have large windows which draw the outdoors in and allow a seamlessness between the garden and the interior. Lately I've been partial to grid windows, seen below. 

This is obviously WAY bigger than 30m2, but more to demonstrate the windows I was talking about! 

Off-plan or Our Own Design? 

There are a fair few 'off-plan' cabin solutions available in Sweden, some of which create the entire cabin in their yard before dropping into place with a truck and crane. This sounds like a brilliant hassle-free option on paper, but  in practise, we have a really clear picture of what we were looking for - and none of them quite fit the bill. So began the search for an architect. More of which I'll share with you in my next 'Tiny Cabin' update along with the plans. 

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you like the wood exterior? Are you also a fan of these types of windows? Perhaps you have some experience of building a tiny cabin or house yourself and like to share some insight (as rookies, we'd be eternally grateful!). 

Here is a little more great 'tiny cabin' inspiration:


Oh, and the last cabin is actually a holiday home on the Isle of Skye - available to rent! I know! Scotland anyone?   

Wishing you all a lovely 'lillördag'! 

Niki

Photography credits: 1 - 9 Niki Brantmark / My Scandinavian home, 10. Krista Keltanen for the book Happy Homes, 11. Barn House Cabin 12. Light and Dwell 13. Wild croft on the Isle of Skye

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God Jul / Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! 

It's a difficult time, with many of us missing our family this year. Even so, I hope you can find joy in the small things - A Zoom call with a loved one, a great book, a glimpse of sunshine or a slither of cake. You might also take comfort (along with the cake!) as I do from the words in the chorus of a very famous Swedish Christmas song:

Tänd ett ljus och låt det brinna, 
låt aldrig hoppet försvinna,
det är mörkt nu, 
men det blir ljusare igen. 

Light a candle and let it burn
Never let hope fade away,
It's dark now,
But it will be brighter again. 

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas friends!

Niki

PS You can listen to 'Tändet Ljus' here sung completely a cappella!) - and find the full lyrics in English here

PPS I'll be back for a few days in between Christmas and new year! See you then!

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Before And After: A Tiny Off-the-grid Swedish Cabin In The Woods

Have you ever considered a more simple life? Perhaps one that involves swapping urban adventures for a serene rural life? Or maybe you've been considering down-sizing in order to save money and realise a dream! Either way - I think you're going to find todays tour amazingly inspiring! 

As an 'Organic Farming and Sustainable Living' student, Paula Edén had lived in a little caravan in the countryside. Since graduating, she'd always dreamed of returning to 'tiny house' living and a more simple life. Paula set about sketching her dream home and built herself a tiny cabin on wheels. Today, she lives completely off-grid in a 13 metre2 living space, where everything she needs is right there on her doorstep. 

The sketch

Paula had always loved the ideas of a traditional Swedish Falu-red cottage with yellow doors. Her sketch (above) would form the blue-print for the construction phase. 

The Construction

Paula was keen to ensure her cottage was constructed in as sustainable was possible. She worked with natural materials (avoiding plastic and aluminium) and also sought upcycled pieces from reclaim yards - for example, the chassis was made using an old boat trailer. 

Paula sought the help of her Father - a woodwork teacher - and also looked for advice from other people who had carried out similar projects, joining many Facebook groups. As a first-timer, Paula decided to break down the house building process into smaller parts, allowing her creativity to guide her as much as possible. 

As someone who has always been interested in interiors, Paula was keen to put form ahead of function - which is fairly unusual in the 'tiny house' world where space is of a premium! The interior was constructed with left over storm wood, which she combined with new bead boards. 

Once the construction work was complete, the fun began: decorating! Paula painted the interior an earthy sage green using linseed oil paint code S 3010-G70Y and complimented it with Waldemar wallpaper from Boråstapeter. The muted colour scheme and natural wood were deliberately chosen to reflect the surrounding nature. 


Delivery!

The house was delivered to a borrowed plot of land on a farm in Småland, on a hill surrounded by pastures, forest and lakes.  

The interior

The cottage has been kitted out with everything Paula needs - including seating lined with cushions and a set of table and chairs from where she sits to eats, reads and catches up with friends - after coming home from her job as a nursery teacher. 

Living completely off-grid, Paula uses the Wood-burning stove to cook her meals as well as for heating. She collects drinking-water from the nearby farm and a hole in the ground serves as a fridge. Paula also collects rainwater from the roof and swims in the nearby lake to wash. A small solar panel has been attached to the side of the cottage to generate electricity. 

The ceiling serves as extra storage for important utensils such as an oil lamp and a basket used for foraging and gathering homegrown fruit and vegetables. 

Look closely and you'll also spot her sleep loft - a cosy nook above the kitchen!


Vintage tins and jars in the kitchen add to the warm, cosy vibe of Paula's home while providing somewhere to store food. 


How lovely! 

Such a beautiful, cosy little space to potter around in!  

Per and I are planning to build a small cottage in the garden of the summer cottage - but we never actually considered building it ourselves! Feeling inspired, I asked Paula a little more about what it was like to build a cottage, and if she has any tips for anyone looking to do the same:

"It's so much fun to learn how to build a house! It's also great to be able to build your home just the way you want it. On the whole, I felt the process went really well.  I may not have done everything by the book, but I'm happy with it! 

Taking it one step at a time and leave room for creativity. Look for support from other people who have carried out similar projects (there are plenty of groups on Facebook).  And don't think too much, just go for it! 

Remember: not everything needs to be perfect - it won't turn out as you had planned anyway!"

Wise words indeed! 

I couldn't resist asking Paula one more question - how is she finding life in her tiny cabin in the woods and how does she have any plans for the future?

"I really enjoy living in the woods and I feel at home surrounded by trees and meadows. My dream is to be surrounded by a couple of other tiny houses occupied by friends so we can share water and electricity. There's something beautiful about silence, but life is more fun with others!" 

Thank you so much to Paula for graciously sharing her thoughts and images. You can see many more snapshots of her life on a farm over at @paulas.hus


Are you feeling as inspired as I am? I'd love to hear your thoughts on Paula's lovely home below! 

Niki

Photography: Paula Edén, first seen in Land magazine 

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