Emma and her partner Martin recently moved to the Welsh coastal city of Swansea, and they were over the moon to find this apartment space on the top floor of a renovated old social club. The open beams lend it an industrial feel, but with its soft furnishings and minimal cozy look it’s definitely got Scandinavian styling. Could that be thanks to Emma’s Swedish heritage?
Emma is originally from Sweden, although over the last 10 years she has lived in Scotland as well as a couple of years in Los Angeles. For the last 10 months she has been in Wales, living with her partner of 11 years. Emma works for Swansea University as Student Communications Officer, while Martin is a surgeon specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
The main space in the house is this open plan area, with a living room, dining room space, and a kitchen.
Emma: We spend most of our time in the open plan – between the kitchen, dining area, and living room. This is where you get to really enjoy all the unique features of the space, and also where you can be most social. Both of us love to cook, so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and we have friends over as often as we can, putting on dinner parties where we all can enjoy good food and good company together. My other absolute favorite is the bathtub!
The building was originally used as a Conservative Social Club built in the early 1900s, with a series of ballrooms, bars, and restaurants. After sitting unoccupied for a number of years, it has been developed into eight modern apartments, with a nod to the building’s heritage past.
How long did it take to design the home?
When we moved in in August 2016, the apartments had just been finished which provided the perfect clean canvas for me to design it and make it my own. For several weeks, I spent most of my time planning and designing the space, sourcing and purchasing furniture, art, and other details to fit the space. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like the place is completely finished, as I always keep finding ways of improving or adding to it, but from being an empty shell to a cozy liveable and enjoyable space it took around three months.
Emma even turned her hand to a bit of DIY to make the home feel more personalized.
Are there any particular home accessories that have sentimental value to you?
I would have to say the dining table. When we moved to Wales we didn’t have any furniture with us, so we needed to buy everything from scratch. I always wanted a large dining table, but couldn’t find any that I really liked.
After much searching they came across this huge dining table at a discount sale. It wasn’t in ideal shape, being badly bruised, scratched and discolored. But the price was right and they brought it up to the apartment.
For a good couple of weeks. I just wasn’t too enthused about it because of the state of it, so I couldn’t bring myself to do anything with it. But one day I got my upcycling hat on and gave it a go! After hours of stripping paint, sanding, and buffing by hand, I painted it a brilliant white and lacquered it to a high gloss finish. In just a few days it was transformed! The table looked stunning – just the right balance between robust, classy, and quirky that I was looking for. Add eight chairs and the rest is history! I think the sheer amount of work and love put into this table makes it so special to me. Also the fact that I initially didn’t want it! Goes to show that with a little bit of vision and elbow grease, you can score some amazing and unique pieces through upcycling.
How would you describe your design style?
This is a difficult one! I’ve always loved Scandinavian design, with its minimalistic, white and monochrome themes. But at the same time I like a lot of American influences, and I’m not afraid of a statement piece or two. I think moving around to different countries has influenced my design aesthetic, and I love to mix and match whenever I get inspiration or ideas from other beautiful homes.
One of the fascinating bits of the apartment is the loft room tucked away above the kitchen.
Our guest room is in a loft above the kitchen, which you climb up a ladder to get to. It’s probably the best room in the house – at least it’s got the best view! It’s a snug little corner for guests to retreat to, enough space for a large double bed and a couple of suitcases – and a bird’s-eye view of the whole apartment. Plus if you’re lucky you’ll wake up to the smell of bacon cooking in the morning. It doesn’t get any better than that!
The exposed brick work in the kitchen extends right up to the rafters, paired with the original beams you get a sense of the building’s history. The high ceilings give the home a spacious feel.
It’s a gorgeous pad for the two of them, with soft cozy furnishings fitting in just right alongside the industrial features of the original architecture. Many thanks to Emma for sharing her Swansea-Scandinavian chic apartment! If you’re interested in submitting your home tour, don’t be shy.
Check out some of our other home tours, such as this bohemian home with blue walls, owned by artist and designer Dila Baymarov. For other loft inspiration ideas with exposed brick walls, you have to see Studio Bonta in Budapest.
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Photos: Courtesy of Emma Carlen
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity