A Scandinavian Summer Home Built for Surf, Sports, and Sun
When Henrik Lepasoon first conjured up an image of his dream vacation home, the sketch in his cerebral cortex looked much like a cross between a selection of Case Study Houses and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. But, in the end, it was the Lepasoon family’s love of surfing that really gave identity to this house on the southwest coast of Sweden. Part surf shack, part modernist abode, the 2,500-square-foot beachfront house is no fussy show home. Rather, the rooms reverberate with the sounds of children enjoying summer break, and no one worries about wet footprints on the concrete floor or sand brought in from the beach.
"It’s just ten minutes to an excellent wave spot, but the beach is also right outside," says Lepasoon. "It’s a fun house. We do a lot of cycling…anything with adrenaline. I have a race car, and there are three racetracks close by."
Having the family’s windsurfing and stand-up paddleboards peek out from behind the facade, viewable from the interior, certainly plays up that sense of fun. Board storage is integrated into the design, so residents just grab and go, rather than having to drag equipment out from a garage.
"The boards are always visually present, and we have light on them in the evening," says architect Håkan Widjedal, of Arkitektstudio Widjedal Racki. "If you look in one direction in two of the bedrooms, you see the sails hanging there, which also have lights on them in the evening. And when you walk the other way, from the bedrooms toward the hall, you see the boards."
The beach house is a five-hour drive from the family home in central Stockholm, which requires more of a commitment than just a weekend escape pod. So Lepasoon spends as much time as possible there, including seven weeks every summer. Due to the vagaries of Swedish weather, summer—not to mention fall and winter—can be unpredictable and harsh. But for Lepasoon and his sons, Oskar, 12, and Karl, 9, the location and design of the house mean that the weather is more entertainer than enemy.
"There is a lot of glass, so you can enjoy the view from inside," says Lepasoon. "It can be so spectacular in winter. If it’s bad weather in Sweden, it’s windy, and that’s good for windsurfing. If it’s not so bad, you can go golfing. You live in the middle of the weather somehow. It’s a really harsh environment, as you have these southwesterly winds blowing through the house. But it’s really beautiful as well."
Those southwesterly winds were certainly at the forefront of Widjedal’s mind, in 2010, when he set about working on the design for this home, to be built on a site that Lepasoon had bought back in 2005. There was an aging summerhouse on the plot, but with its tacked-on walls and roof, it was at the mercy of the elements.
"A lot of the discussion was about how to create something where you can both sit in the sun and be protected from the wind," says Widjedal. "It’s tough to solve because the bad weather systems usually come from the southwest. But the southwest is where you want to open up. It’s where you have the sun and good evening views. You want to sit and barbecue, but the wind comes from there."
The solution came in the shaping of the building and also in the way that glass was used. The home’s veranda can be screened off as the weather dictates, and a glass roof fills the space between it and the main building. This works without imposing on the design, inside or out. The interior brims with calm Scandinavian style, while the white exterior retains that touch of Hawaiian or Caribbean surf hut, with unobtrusive panels protecting the home from the worst gusts. This unlikely fusion of styles gels rather than jars, although the local construction workers did take some persuading about the design at first.
"The architect constructed the house with a steel frame, which you don’t do in Sweden," says Lepasoon. "He had to redraw it as a wooden house with steel reinforcement so they understood."
Despite this need for some backward engineering, Lepasoon enthuses greatly about the Swedish standards of construction, with extra superlatives reserved for the sheer love and care that workers showed when pouring the home’s concrete floor. Radiant heating is hidden beneath, making every postsurf moment a warm reminder of this Swedish dedication to Lepasoon’s much-loved American-inspired design, as filtered through northern Europe. Of the house’s complicated building process, Lepasoon says, "You really have to do it perfectly the first time."
Ian Aitch is a London & Margate-based author, writer, creative consultant and artist. He writes books, edits, takes photographs, and works as a creative consultant.