David Hasselho, TV, plastic and lowbrow culture. Those are the words that photographer Jenny Brandt uses when describing the home, in Skårby, Sweden, that she shares with her husband, illustrator and graphic designer, Jens Grönberg. What Jenny is really implying, in her tongue-in-cheek manner, is that here nothing has cost a fortune, everything is constantly changing and the only thing considered precious are the couple’s two young children: Viola, eight, and Frank, three. After several years of house hunting, Jenny and Jens finally fell for a small, ramshackle post-war building dating back to 1945. Something of an ugly duckling, it had a crumbling façade, paint was peeling o every surface and, in the garden, a rusting excavator had turned the lawn into a field of mud.
‘We were originally on the hunt for something old-school with lots of charm, or an industrial-type building with high ceilings and open spaces, but when we saw this place we started to have second thoughts.’ Those second thoughts turned into an oer on the house – a positive spino being that the couple could ‘live cheap and not be tied up in high mortgages,’ says Jens. ‘Although the neighbours called it the “junkie house”, and there were lots of horror stories circulating, we liked the feel of it’. And so the Brandt-Grönberg duo, along with Viola, who was then just a babe-in-arms, moved into the ‘one that nobody else wanted’. Today, the house is no longer the disgrace of the village.
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Much has been done since the couple signed on the dotted line, to both the interiors and the exterior. Work has been done simply and on a small budget: walls and kitchen cupboards were patched up and painted; plastic carpets were removed, revealing floorboards that were restored and painted white; and the spacious attic has been transformed into three bedrooms plus a playroom for the children. ‘I get a buzz out of cheap and clever solutions,’ explains Jenny.
‘Indoors, we are happy to compromise. What I’ve learnt along the way is it doesn’t always have to be done according to “the rules”. It usually always turns out fine anyway.’ The interior décor is a mixed bag of heritage hand-me-downs, flea-market bargains and other serendipitous finds. The TV is a ‘sacred piece of furniture’ and can be seen from both the livingroom sofa and the adjacent dining room with its large purple table and Mid-century modern-style chairs. Here, the family plays Xbox and watches Days of Our Lives, TV Carnage (a show that splices together excerpts from ‘exceptionally bad TV’), The Addams Family and Scooby-Doo.
A few bespoke pieces are exceptional in their modernity and functionality, such as the floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall bookshelf that holds interior design magazines, books about Norwegian Black Metal music and the collected works of the cartoonist Jan Stenmark. Jenny’s favourite book, Role Models by John Waters, is displayed on a table, ready to oer inspiration. Every wall is adorned with pictures, design work and objects: everything from inherited art pieces and Jenny’s photographs to album covers designed by Jens. Just as the couple are always expressing their creativity in their respective careers, this is a house in constant flux.
‘Nothing is ever really finished,’ says Jenny. ‘That is not the main goal’. Rather, this is a house for a family to live in and a canvas for the imagination to flourish. ‘Our home seems to change along with the growth of the children. And with my moods,’ she says. ‘Today it looks like this, but tomorrow the rooms might have traded functions. It’s a part of our philosophy on life. Nothing is static, everything is possible.’ In keeping with their quirky outlook, their next dream project is to construct a basketball field or tar a passage through the garden. ‘I’m looking forward to what the neighbours will say,’ smiles Jenny. ‘After almost six years, I believe they have got used to our fanciful ideas. We’ll just have to see what happens…’