A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life

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By Amanda Dameron / Published by Dwell
A 19th-century apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden, is reborn.

When creative director Martin Ringqvist and his wife, My, a teacher, moved back to Sweden after a year in Los Angeles, they wanted an authentic, warm space to live in with their two children. After much deliberation and house hunting, they found what they needed in a four-bedroom flat in Gothenburg’s downtown neighborhood of Vasastan, where many of the buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries. 

A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 1 of 11 - The apartment building dates to 1888, and the various residences feature high ceilings, mirrored doors, massive skirtings, and richly ornamented white stucco. "When it was built, there was no central heating, so each and every room had tiled, wood-burning stoves," says resident Martin Ringqvist.

The apartment building dates to 1888, and the various residences feature high ceilings, mirrored doors, massive skirtings, and richly ornamented white stucco. "When it was built, there was no central heating, so each and every room had tiled, wood-burning stoves," says resident Martin Ringqvist.


A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 2 of 11 -

"On a rainy day in fall, when you feel a bit low, you can look out from our windows and pretend that you’re in the Marais in Paris," says Martin. "When we stepped into this apartment, everything felt right. Many of the original details from the 19th century were still there—and the rest we were able to re-create. So we didn’t even hesitate."

A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 3 of 11 - The residents removed vestiges of bad renovations from the past. "The 11-foot ceiling had been lowered in some rooms, which was a popular thing to do in Sweden in the 1970s in order to save energy," Martin explains. "Some of the stucco had been destroyed, so we re-created both ceilings and windows." The restored floors are original; the residents also removed and replaced all the electrical outlets, switches, and door handles. 

The residents removed vestiges of bad renovations from the past. "The 11-foot ceiling had been lowered in some rooms, which was a popular thing to do in Sweden in the 1970s in order to save energy," Martin explains. "Some of the stucco had been destroyed, so we re-created both ceilings and windows." The restored floors are original; the residents also removed and replaced all the electrical outlets, switches, and door handles. 

Original details were respected, first and foremost. "The trick is to find a balance. We love to mix stuff," explains Martin. "We bought black marble for nearly nothing from a quarry outside Valencia and paired it with worn-down furniture; we placed a 200-year-old tiled stove with a super-slick Vipp kitchen system. An apartment like this one needs to be ‘dressed down’ a bit. Otherwise it can quickly get tacky."

A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 4 of 11 - In the living room, a Vipp table lamp rests on a Hockney sofa by Eero Koivisto for David Design.

In the living room, a Vipp table lamp rests on a Hockney sofa by Eero Koivisto for David Design.

"We tried to find a balance between old and new furniture, exclusive and cheap materials, shiny and worn-down surfaces." Martin Ringqvist, resident 

A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 5 of 11 - The Penta chairs are by Kim Moltzer and Jean-Paul Barray.

The Penta chairs are by Kim Moltzer and Jean-Paul Barray.


A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 6 of 11 - A Snowball pendant by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen hangs in the dining room; the J46 chairs are by Poul M. Volther. 

A Snowball pendant by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen hangs in the dining room; the J46 chairs are by Poul M. Volther. 

Martin and My have lived together for 18 years, and in the very beginning of their relationship they agreed not to buy a single item unless they believed they would keep it for the rest of their lives. They’ve stayed true to that promise—their television sat on a paper box for five years, and it took five more to find the table to hold the remote. They applied the same principle to one of the project’s biggest-ticket items: the Vipp kitchen system.

A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 7 of 11 - The kitchen’s matte-black Vipp system is paired with an antique white ceramic tile stove that was typical in the late 19th century. Although it’s not operable, the stove is used by the couple as a staging ground for illuminated candles and a storage space for an iPad that controls the home’s sound system. 

The kitchen’s matte-black Vipp system is paired with an antique white ceramic tile stove that was typical in the late 19th century. Although it’s not operable, the stove is used by the couple as a staging ground for illuminated candles and a storage space for an iPad that controls the home’s sound system. 


A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 8 of 11 -

"We saw a picture in a magazine, and it was love at first sight. We immediately booked a meeting at Vipp’s concept store in Copenhagen. We were nervous as we were walking over there," Martin says. "We thought, ‘What if the kitchen isn’t as perfect in real life?’ Luckily for us, it was. After an hour, we walked back to the hotel, happy and broke."  

A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 9 of 11 - The bathroom is clad in black marble sourced from Spain.

The bathroom is clad in black marble sourced from Spain.

"We’ve renovated previous homes and have learned from our mistakes." Martin Ringqvist

A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 10 of 11 - In the bedroom, a weathered Swan chair by Arne Jacobsen is next to a table designed by Vipp. 

In the bedroom, a weathered Swan chair by Arne Jacobsen is next to a table designed by Vipp. 


A Careful Renovation of a 19th-Century Flat in Gothenburg Brings it Back to Life - Photo 11 of 11 -