Living With Kids: Johanna Gartmyr

I’ve been living with the assumption that Swedish homes are born crisp and gorgeous, but the effortlessly stylish Johanna might disagree just a little. She and her husband are midway through a home renovation with two busy daughters, yet she somehow makes it seem far less stressful and much more of a joyful, organic process not to be rushed. So many of us have probably found ourselves in the middle of something messy and wishing for a fast-forward option, haven’t we? But as Johanna sweetly reminds us, some of the happiest moments exist in the right now. Regardless of the mess or little girls standing on desks! Please enjoy the tour.

Q: Who are the lucky ones who live in this bright home?

A: I’d love to introduce my family! I’m Johanna, and I’m a designer at Tretorn. My husband, Andreas, is a 3-D artist. Our daughters are Lillo, age five, and Elsa, who is one-and-a-half years old. We love hanging around in this house and our garden, spending time with friends and family.

Q: Tell us a little about where you live.

A: We live in Helsingborg, situated in the south of Sweden. We found our house two years ago after many years of searching. It wasn’t nicely renovated, so it wasn’t love at first sight. But we saw the potential. Step by step, we have tried to release the inner beauty of this home. It was there all along, just very well hidden under soulless details, plastic floors, and ugly wallpaper.

Q: How would you describe your style? Who inspires you?

A: We like retro. We gravitate toward things with history and personality, like furniture from the fifties and sixties. Our home is in constant change. Alive, I guess! I collect inspiration from everywhere: blogs, magazines, friends’ homes, and flea markets.

Q: You’ve experienced a lot of major events lately! There’s been a family wedding (loved the photobooth!) and a kitchen renovation, right? How did you keep calm through it all?

A: There are long periods where we don’t do anything at all in the house. Everyday life is enough. To avoid stress, we’ve decided to only renovate when we feel like it. But then we have to be fine with unfinished details everywhere.

We want to live in our house for a long time, so why hurry and be depressed and stressed when you can drop all the musts and lists and feel good? Then the energy to renovate appears by itself, and you have fun doing it. But I’m not gonna lie; of course we have had times when we both felt that we just want to be finished!

Q: What are the lessons you learned when redoing your kitchen? What would you have done differently?

A: We made a budget renovation of our kitchen. We kept what was original from the sixties, like the cabinets, and repainted them. Then we removed the black plastic floor and found the wooden original floor underneath. The black tiles on the wall were replaced with standard white tiles.

The kitchen is not ready yet. It’s still missing the final touches, but I’m so glad we decided to keep most of the original kitchen. We originally had thoughts of removing one of the walls to integrate the kitchen with the living room.

If we were able to go back and do anything differently, it would be the floor. At first we decided not to sand the old wooden floor. To save time and money, we just painted it white. The result was, of course, not that good. So we had to go back and do it the expensive and time-consuming way. But now the floor is perfect!

Q: I see a few Matryoshka dolls; do you collect them? What are your favorite, instant happy-making accessories in your home?

A: I guess I do have a few sets! I like that they are both decorative and the kids love to play with them.

I like the decoration we have on our walls: a mix of old and new photos of family, illustrations, and art. Above the stairs on the wall, I hung lots of photos and they make me smile whenever going up or downstairs.

Q: What’s your philosophy on decorating? Where do you buy most of your treasures and furniture?

A: We buy almost all toys at flea markets. It’s often better quality, and you can just give it back when the kids are tired of it. I love recycling! Almost all the furniture in our house is also second-hand.

We have a white base in the whole house, and then add lots of color in accessories. I think our home would be seen as a bit messy if we had colorful wallpapers together with the colorful accessories. So when I find beautiful wallpaper that tempts me, I just frame a piece and hang it up on the wall!

Q: What’s your favorite spot in your home?

A: Our grey wool couch in our living room. I love to sit there with my husband at night when the kids are asleep and the house is cleaned. We drink some tea, watch a good movie, and just relax.

Q: When does your home work best?

A: During the summer, when the days are long and bright. Our door to the garden is always open. It makes the house feel bigger and everything is easier. The kids have another “room” to play in!

Q: Finish this sentence, please: If I had only known…

A: I started to realize recently that you just have to love the mess: the dishes, the cleaning, and the picking up of toys and the pile of dirty laundry that never ends. This is the life I chose to live, and I wouldn’t want to change it for the world. So I have to remind myself sometimes when I sigh over the mess everywhere.

Grab your partner, wash the dishes together, and talk about the day. We did that yesterday, and it was actually one of the nicest moments that day! And the kitchen was cleaned in no time!

So…If I had only known that the key to happiness is making everyday life work!


I can’t possibly add anything to that beautiful advice. Thank you so much, Johanna, for sharing your home with us. It took my breath away…as did Lillo’s daredevil furniture jumping!

Friends, the case for all-white walls is growing stronger, isn’t it?

P.S. — If you’d like to share your home with us in my Living With Kids series, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!

23 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Johanna Gartmyr”

  1. I SO agree with her opinion of only renovating when one feels like it. When my husband and I moved into our home, everywhere we looked seemed to be shouting at us to fix it up. And we did an insane amount of work within the first 2 weeks. I remember one night/early morning, collapsing on our mattress that was laid out on the subflooring, holding my husband’s hand and saying, “This isn’t fun anymore.” And so once that wave of fixing was finished, we stopped. I think we both felt great pressure to have it done so we could get busy living in it already, when we forgot that living in it included the fixing process. So now, once in a while we’ll get a bee in our bonnets, and actually DO things. But now, it’s on OUR terms. And it’s way more fun. She has a beautiful home! It’s very refreshing!

  2. what a charming family and house!
    those white walls are growing on me. i keep reminding myself that when i lived with all white walls i didn’t totally love it. it helps keep the jealousy at bay. (but gosh those photos look amazing against a white backdrop!)

  3. Thanks for such an inspiring tour and experience!

    Gabrielle, we wanted to have an interview with you for our mom bloggers community and got your ok. But I’m afraid you haven’t got the questions. Would you like me to send them to you once again?

    Thank you and have a great day,

  4. So beautiful! I love the whole white with splashes of color thing. Maybe if I was going to redo my house, I’d try it – but my house isn’t open and airy, so I wonder if it would work the same way. Color gives my small rooms personality, which is why I keep it :)

  5. I really love Scandinavian design, they are so coll yet effortless. Swedish houses just look awesome. You can feel that a family lives in this house. Her blog is really nice too – I speak Swedish and it’s a good way to practice the language.:)

  6. great. i’m in constant “gilt” over not “fixing it up” our house but yeah, there is thing called life and it’s , of course, OK to go at pace you can manage. yay. :)

  7. What a stunning house… Love the splashes of fun!!! What really makes this house a home are the fun little characters that are bouncing around in it!!!

  8. What a happy home! I agree about taking it slow. I have lost hope for us finding a dream home once or twice but staying appreciative and positive is great advice for pushing through those moments.

  9. I love white walls! I feel that allows me to add enough color through art and photos. I’d like to submit my home pics as we recently moved to a new home and are updating/decorating slowly and enjoying the process:) Your blog and guests keeps me inspired!:)

  10. I love that: Let’s all just accept the dishes, laundry, and crazy messes as a part of these lovely lives we’ve chosen to live. Beautiful advice.

    I am really thinking hard about painting my walls white this summer. I used to love colored walls, but I’m finding that I love colorful accessories more. Lately I’ve been gravitating toward spaces that use cream or white as a base with pops of color all over.

  11. FUN – another one for Sweden…!
    I think it’s so hard to live unfinished when one is a creative & surroundings create harmony or disharmony … however, that’s exactly why I am glad I heeded advise of other to “live in your house for a while”.After moving into a house 2 years ago, I understand that advise: live there a little — I can see that some of my larger inspirations are still exactly the same, but the details of how we use and live with the small really needed this breathing room — the flow.

    I am reading this thinking: Swede’s are so amazing at doing home repairs and renovations themselves – I am guessing this featured guess is doing that, too, although I’m not completely clear on this — it’s an amazing “Menards-nation!” People are incredible handy and determined to do home renovations themselves… (I’ve had friends husbands who’ve dug swimming pools, built entire new house fasades and entrances!) I should add: although living in Sweden, our family DNA is wired different: 1/2 French husband & American wife … inspiration comes from home, but we definitely need help with things many Swedes I know would call us sissy’s over!)

  12. I love this house! The furniture and decor is so colorful, but the white walls makes it work. Wish I was that bold with my color choices. And those fun hanging banner flags are calling my name…. I need to make me some of those for the kids room.

  13. My partner bought our house before we knew each other. He likes colored walls so he painted every room in mediterranean colors, yellow, orange etc.
    So after I moved in of course we didn’t repaint the whole thing again. I just have to live with it and try to keep the majority of the design elements neutral.
    The same goes for the kitchen and the floors, they are now ten years old and the previous owners chose them. So I would love the rip everything out and get an all white kitchen. The ripping out part is doable. Not the white kitchen…
    Sometimes its not that easy to combine your tastes!

  14. I love this so much! Just, the whole thing – the home, the family, the relaxed way of looking at things…to be honest, I’ve had a crummy day today and this cheered me up, so thanks. : ) xo Laura

  15. This house is so inspiring. We are also renovating our house slowly and while we’re living here. It can be painful and so exciting! The artwork in this house is particularly lovely!

  16. Thanks for this – The house is adorable, I could happily move here tomorrow!

    Lately I’ve been feeling like things around the house aren’t moving as fast as I want them to. It’s so refreshing to be reminded to live in and connect with the moment. It will all come together eventually and we will have a much nicer time doing it in a relaxed way! :) xo

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