To make a place a home

November 15, 2012

Two years ago Johan and I found the apartment where we live now. No one else wanted it, it was empty for a long time and the house owner had almost given up on renting it out. We went to have look at it for fun, to have something to compare with after seeing all fixed-up places that didn’t really appeal to us. We both fell in love. It reminded us pretty much of Adolf’s house, but an apartment version of it in a big city instead of on the north Swedish mosquitofilled countryside.

You can see pictures from this summer of what it looks like now at Freunde von Freunden. It’s not finished (does a home ever get finished, no, but you know what I mean).

Will show you pictures from before we started fixing it up and a few from the process.


This is several months later, painting the walls in the hallway.

Welcome to the fancy kitchen.

It took a couple of months of cleaning before we could start putty and paint the walls.

The lady who lived here before us had used this corner of the kitchen as…

…a toilet for the cat.

We first thought the kitchen walls were sponge painted, but it was all dirt.

A couple of weeks, and a couple of beers later, it was time to start painting.

I remember sending this picture to my father and his reaction was It looks like Adolf’s house. Well, the inspiration is obvious.

Putting up some of our good old shelves (we brought all our stuff from Sweden when we moved).

A couple of months after moving in, we could start using the kitchen.

Now, it’s time for the livingroom – welcome!
Once upon a time someone had the good taste of removing all the beautiful stucco and replace it with squares of fake wood wallpaper in the ceiling. The areas around are so drenched with nicotine, that we still have a strange pattern in the ceiling, but it looks better than this at least.

Lovely old floors that I have polished after this picture was taken, they look healthier now.

This is from my first day at this place, before our stuff arrived. Luckily I had my computer, water and toilet paper 😉

Love the shape of the livingroom. Actually, no room has a square shape, which I find really nice.

It took us almost 1.5 years to finish this room.

The hot squares.

Painting the walls. We have used the same cream white colour in almost all rooms.

This picture was taken for the a day project on May 15th this year. It was accepted and will now be in the book and is being exhibited, my friend Bibbi posted about it here. Fun!

Welcome to my studio. Pink and white Rauhfaser-wallpaper, I was so happy that this wallpaper was only in one room. 70 kilos of putty later it was hidden and forgotten, phew!

It was a hard job removing that strange felt carpet that was in most rooms, so worth it.

I kind of liked the pink, but I like the plain cream white better when I work.

Rauhfaser wallpaper is such an uninspiring thing to be surrounded with (my opinion, not a fact).

I thought 1 layer of paint was enough on the stucco, it makes it look nice. The old wallpaper is covered with putty waiting for paint.

In August last year it was time for my job to move in.
Here you can see more pictures of my work space.

I am so happy we found this place. It has been lots of blood, sweat and tears to make it a place to live in, so so worth it. There are still plenty of things to do; the bathroom for example, but it can wait.

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  • Reply dianne/icefloe November 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Such a wonderful space. I am in love as well. I'd love to have a do up project!

  • Reply Samantha November 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    It's so startling to see all the photos in one post like this! I know you two had done a lot of work in the apartment but it's just incredible how different and great it looks now. Grattis to you both!

  • Reply Annalisa Babysan Laterza November 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Oh wow!!!! Fantastic!!!

  • Reply antares November 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    This is so unbelievable! You guys turned it into a jewel! Love it – congratulations! One question: What kind of paint did you use for the floors and is it removable? I really would like to have my wooden floor painted but guess the owner would not allow it 🙁

    • Reply sandrajuto_6360gn November 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      it's a basic paint for wood, not removable unless you sand the floors.

  • Reply Egle sandboxmonster November 15, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    And today I thought I was a hero, when bought furniture paint for my table 🙂 Nice work with the place!

  • Reply antonella November 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Fair play to ya, as the Irish would say! You've done a tremendous job!

  • Reply Magali Vaz November 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Wow. I had read the apartment was bad before but didn't know how bad. It takes an artists's eye to see the true beauty in that old place. And it must have been so much work to fix. But the end result is so lovely. Congrats Sandra. 🙂

  • Reply tut November 15, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    So worth it!

  • Reply Marie November 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    What a job! Wow! The atmosphere is also the people who live there… It's beautiful !

  • Reply Purrfect Kat November 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    I LOVED every second of reading that post. THANKS ☻
    I wish I lived in a place like this!! huge windows and no-square rooms…. ♥
    Love your place, love your blog

  • Reply Memento Vivere November 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Oh, what a huge work you had to do!
    But now, your flat looks wonderful. 🙂

  • Reply Sarah Dee November 15, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Wow thank you for letting us read about the process! I remember reading your interview and home tour and when you said how bad it was I had NO idea it was that bad! You two were so brave for taking that on with such great outcomes!

    Just wondering, did you rent or buy the apartment?

    xoxo missdottidee.blogspot.com

  • Reply lena November 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Oh wow!
    This reminds me a lot of our home where we moved in just 7month ago. It was full of garbage, dirt and old furniture. Unfortunately- after we sandpapered the "colourfull" floorsboards, get rid of rauhfaser, painted walls and put new tiles in the kitchen- we got a letter that our house is going to be restored and modernised 🙁

  • Reply planktonfisher November 15, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    This is the mother of all before-and-afters! often, you can´t tell, what is the before and what is the after picture, but it this case, it is stunning what you did. especially the kitchen couldn´t have been worse before with a cat toilet included. and now it is the perfect place! btw. i hate rauhfaser as well. we have it in almost every room, but we are not allowed to remove it…

  • Reply Anonymous November 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Absolutely fantastic what you guys've done to the apartment! My husband and I don't have a knack for painting, fixing and renovating things. It's really inspiring to see the process how you've turned this hopeless-looking apartment into such a charming abode.

  • Reply s t e F a N i a November 15, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Good thing you weren't put off the wonderful kitchen (and cat area), you are so right the not-rectangular rooms are very special. Well done and enjoy it all.
    I am so much in Love with Berlin flats atmosphere..

  • Reply amiechristo November 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    The transformation is absolutely stunning. I love the interview and all the photographs that go with it.

  • Reply Saskia November 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    This is very impressive! We've had the same problem with rauhfaser wallpaper and nicotine drenched ceilings in our apartment. You both have done a great job!

  • Reply Pela Marela November 15, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    So inspiring to see how old apartments can be brought back to life, really lovely!
    Xoxo, Peppi

  • Reply Mei November 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    It's great that you found this place, and that this place found you! How lovely that you've poured so much energy and love into it – it shows.

  • Reply Littlebigcitytales November 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Wow, what a tremendous work you´ve done! Great to see the before and after. You´ve turned the apartment into a lovely home. Did you move in before doing all the renovation work?!

  • Reply shelley November 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I get such a thrill out of seeing this process. Your aesthetic is inspiring!

  • Reply in dreams November 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    wow, is it ever great seeing what you guys bought into, and what you managed to make of it…you did SUCH a great job, i'm stunned at the difference!! *high five* 🙂

  • Reply Anna November 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Such an interesting post, thank you Sandra! What a project.

  • Reply nina corvallo November 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    you have come such a long way and have created such a wonderful home!

  • Reply Floor Number Four. November 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    It is so nice you could see the potential of this pretty place, which was camouflaged so well under layers of dirt and old carpet and wallpaper. Your work and tears worth it, now you get to enjoy this dreamy apartment and we are all so in love with it too! x

    Has the landlord seen it after you had it all fixed?

  • Reply Simone November 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    This is amazing! And how horrifying that the previous owner used part of her KITCHEN as her cat's litter box!!!!! I cannot get over that, and it is absolutely astonishing that you've gotten the place looking so great, especially after such careless treatment.

  • Reply schlawittchen November 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    First of all: WONDERFUL! ♥ we have a much similar place (I told you about it before), so I about the hard work to get it into shape. We're nowhere near done.

    Second thought: You covered the Rauhfaser with putty??? Why didn't you remove it?!

    • Reply sandrajuto_6360gn November 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      it's much easier. if you take it down, you have to putty the walls anyway (especially if the wallpapers are as stuck to the wall as ours were, so when we tried to take it down, pieces of the wall came down too), so you save a lot of time. it's how swedes do anyway, i heard germans do it differently.

  • Reply * HOPSCOTCH * ~ Charlyn November 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    The most beautiful home. Ever.

    Great job, S+J!

    xoxo ;D

  • Reply Karin A November 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Åh så otroligt bra det har blivit! 🙂 Vilken tur att alla andra förbisåg lägenhetens potential så att ni kunde få fram dess skönhet. Gillar alldeles särskilt formen på vardagsrummet.

  • Reply Jenn November 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Your home is beautiful! I am curious though, being from the U.S., how does it work if you ever decide to move? you have put A LOT of time, money and effort into that home, that the landlord will profit from when you leave….

    • Reply sandrajuto_6360gn November 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      it's the same here, but since i can't afford buying a place i think it's worth it to make a rental place a home 🙂

  • Reply Mihaeko November 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Having just stopped renovating myself (yes, can you ever say finished?) I'm thoroughly enjoying this post. All those old quirky details, some charming others just weird. But you kind of love them just because they're relics, even as you rip them out or plaster over them. We decided to keep some of our cracked plaster with remnants of hand-printed wallpaper ca. 1930 (you can see a little here). We're also renting, and I agree, it's important to love where you live. Nice work!

  • Reply gretchenhayhurst November 16, 2012 at 12:43 am

    I love your apartment. It has so much character. Kind of reminds me of the first place I had in Portland. Please keep showing us your interiors.

  • Reply handmade romance November 16, 2012 at 1:07 am

    very inspiring you two! congratulations on all of that hard work and effort, it certainly has paid off. i love the home you have created! and im not sure i could have been so brave as to take a challenge like this, in a new city, while living amongst the renovations too. x

  • Reply Riri - all around ree November 16, 2012 at 3:13 am

    WOW! Speechless..
    But congratulations! Finally you have a home.

  • Reply joanna November 16, 2012 at 3:19 am

    wow. i am completely in awe when i imagine how much time and effort you guys put into this. guess how long it took my boyfriend and i to paint our 1 bedroom apartment from an ugly cream/yellow to a pretty pale gray? TWO MONTHS! i found even the simple task of painting to be the most boring and tedious work ever and i hated it so much. we'd paint one room/area then put it off for a few weeks before moving on to another, and finally we finished the other week. pathetic, i know. your photos inspire me!

  • Reply Cristina November 16, 2012 at 7:34 am

    So many time waiting for these photos… was worth. Artist!

  • Reply Cosas que pasan November 16, 2012 at 8:01 am

    I only can say, amazing

  • Reply gratis total November 16, 2012 at 8:48 am

    You had have the capacity to see the potential of this pretty place, congrats!

  • Reply Anonymous November 16, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Oh, I've longed for this post since you moved in. Amazing to see what you've done with it!

    I'm moving in to an apartment where the former tenant was a heavy smoker, and I'm a bit concerned of how it will smell. Do you experience any unpleasant smell from the smoke-residues?


    • Reply sandrajuto_6360gn November 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      most of the smell has left the building thanks to new paint and a lot of cleaning 🙂

  • Reply cerealjoe November 16, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I cannot help but admire your courage! Many would never have had the guts to undertake such humongous renovation projects.

  • Reply Malin November 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Ni är så oootroligt duktiga!
    och vilket tålamod 🙂

  • Reply Anna November 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    A very nice and hard work!

  • Reply Jennifer November 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    such a beautiful space, thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Alexandra K. (shurupchik) November 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    dear Sandra,
    it is just so wonderful!! You are taking care about every detail and pouring love and attention to every single corner of your no-square-corners appartment! You have a great place, especially since it is all made by you!
    Thank you for sharing..it is a great inspirating, especially now when I am fighting with flood in my appartment =)
    Enjoy your weekend.

  • Reply Paulina November 16, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Your place looks just lovely, Sandra!

  • Reply Suzy et son lapin November 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    well done, you!!!

  • Reply mette / ungt blod November 16, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    <3 . You two worked so very very hard! you are amazing, both of you

  • Reply Merle, Gisbert und Hannelore November 16, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    That's awesome! you two did a great job!

  • Reply Sylee November 16, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    I am so glad you shared this process! All the photos make it clear how hard you worked to create what now looks like an effortlessly tranquil space.

  • Reply Mopsa November 17, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Your place is wonderful! You and Johan did a great job. I love how it is beautiful in a non-perfect-spotless-magazine kind of way. It has character 🙂

  • Reply pRiyA November 17, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Absolutely loved this post Sandra. It is good to see the hard work that goes into making a house a home and keeping it that way.

  • Reply chadebergamota November 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

    i love all your posts but this one is simply wonderfull. soon we'll move to a house and we'll try to make it a home too. i'm absolutely inpired by what you and johan have done. thanks!!

  • Reply claire November 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    absolutely fantastic, sandra & johan.

  • Reply Christie November 18, 2012 at 7:19 am

    What an undertaking! It looks amazing.

  • Reply Gracia November 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I loved seeing this start to finish post, and am in awe of the transformation. I love painting best of all. Thinking about little and thinking about lots. So relaxing, hard work can be (if that makes sense)… and super exhausting (yet so very worth it). Beautiful (back-breaking) work, super duo.

  • Reply Vix February 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    who could have imagined that underneath those now beautiful white walls there had been such amount of uglyness and dirt before!! You've done an AMAZING job in that appartment. Congrats!

  • Reply heather moore January 7, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Wow. You guys have sticking power and imagination. I'm in awe! Congratulations. x

  • Reply patrícia September 9, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Hello Sandra.
    When you removed the old paper from the living room wall you gave any special treatment to the wall? I'll remove the paint from my kitchen wall and leave it with the first layer of paint, but I want to know if I should do anything to protect it. thank you *

  • Reply When we got the keys – Sandra Juto January 7, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    […] you why, don’t think I have posted all of them before. You can read the story about our home here. When we saw the apartment, before moving in, we never went out on the balcony, so the first thing […]

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