IKEA hacks used to be the realm of DIY YouTube videos and trial-and-error blogs, but when Swedish native Lesley Pennington launched Bemz, the landscape shifted. The company creates custom, high-quality covers for classic IKEA furniture like sofas and chairs, turning a mass-produced, inexpensive item into an almost unrecognizable statement piece. Tom Dixon has even joined forces with them to create high-end covers.
So when Pennington reached out to us with images of her home in Viggbyholm, a suburb north of Stockholm, Sweden, we were curious: How does this design pro nail the high-low mix in her own abode? With ease. A first glance at Pennington's warm and welcoming home has the hallmarks of Swedish style—think exposed wood floorboards, bulbs teetering on wires, and plenty of natural light—but there's a twist. Naturally, the Bemz founder has included her own products in her home, carefully disguising popular IKEA wares to look like one-of-a-kind pieces. Can you spot them?
Take a peek inside Lesley Pennington's gorgeous Swedish seaside home.
Formerly a summer community for Stockholmers, Viggbyholm has evolved into a gorgeous seaside suburb with full-time residences. "That is one of the things that I love about the neighborhood—there are no cookie-cutter house styles—it is a neighborhood that has evolved over time with its own ethos and personality," says Pennington. "It's also directly on the sea, which has affected its personality very much. People come here to honor nature, and it is reflected in the design of the houses, and by the people who stroll, bike, and enjoy nature every day."
The house itself is rich in history: The former owner is a famous Swedish textile designer, and the three-level abode is nearly 100 years old. "The owners prior to us had completed a major renovation of the house, and that was one of the reasons I fell in love with the house," she says. "They had opened it up and completely modernized the house. But at the same time, they preserved its history and its artistic soul."
Now Pennington lives in the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with her husband Fredrik, their daughter, Zoë, step sons Björn and Emil, and their dog, Ruffa, a Tibetan Terrier.
It's clear that Pennington has an eclectic sense of style. "I'm influenced by Scandinavian style and design, but [I am] still Canadian. So, I tend to bring style elements together in a diverse, eclectic way," she says.
When decorating the home, she says it was important to reuse and recycle furniture and avoid adding to the landfill. "I sold most of my furniture from our previous house on a secondhand website, and then I combined new, antique, used, and existing pieces to create the final look," she says. "I always feel good when I can keep furniture in the ecosystem through reuse and recycling. Textiles were an important part of the final design—a great way to reuse furniture and completely change the look and style of the room, simply by changing textiles."
As the founder of Bemz, a company that specializes in making IKEA furniture look high-end, it's little wonder that the home is scattered with furniture and accessories from the Swedish giant. "I see the opportunity to recycle or upcycle an IKEA sofa to create a completely personal designed piece of furniture," she says. "With so many styles to choose from, IKEA sofas are the perfect starting point for any design solution. And I feel good that I am keeping a sofa in the ecosystem."
By simply swapping out the furniture covers, she explains she can completely reimagine the look and feel of each room. "I believe in using textiles to refresh your home. It's an inexpensive and conscious way to decorate without switching out or throwing away key pieces of furniture."
While IKEA and Bemz products pepper the artfully styled home, there are also many iconic pieces of furniture that reflect its Swedish heritage. "Yes, it's a very Scandinavian house! I have some key pieces of Scandinavian furniture—both modern and 20th century," she says. Among her favorites is the Super Circle Table by Piet Hein and Bruno Mathsson. "It's the focal point of the dining room."
Like other Scandinavian homes, natural light is paramount. "The interiors are lit with an homage to the sunlight, which streams in through big picture windows," she explains. "The lightness of the walls and the whitewashed pine floors provide a counterpoint and foundation for the style and color elements that are added to the canvas."
There's a certain playfulness to the color palette, which Pennington says is inspired by the home's surroundings. "I chose to bring nature into the house. It's the middle of a 100-year-old apple orchard, and the house is white with a red/orange roof. So I chose red/orange as an anchor color with accents in green," she explains. "The white/gray base gave me the opportunity to play with color. The result is a harmonious, holistic interplay between inside and outside spaces."
While she was naturally design-minded when decorating the home, Pennington admits that wasn't the only focus. "[I wanted] to create a home in which we could live and enjoy—not just a design statement," she says. "It should suit our lifestyle (cooking, entertaining, just relaxing, reading, and looking at the sea) and be a place of comfort and refuge. A home is meant to be lived in and provide a place of comfort and respite."
The upper level consists of three bedrooms and a communal family room, which is "very typical in Swedish houses," Pennington says. Their daughter, Zoë, 15, has a serene pale pink and neutral room, which contains a mix of high and low furniture. The bedcover is Bemz Chenille Rose, the carpet is from IKEA, and the dusty pink nightstand is by Danish design company Hay.
As for the greatest challenge decorating the expansive three-story home? "Bringing it all together," she admits. "Eclectic can be difficult, and there is the potential to make big mistakes." Thankfully, with Pennington's sense of style, her resourcefulness, and her flair for making any item look luxe, the result is spot-on.
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