Wanderlust and a keen sense of discovery brought Alexandra du Plessis and Sebastian Kelly to Frankfurt, Germany from their native Johannesburg, SA. Their journey continued much further north to their current home in Diö, a little town set equidistant between Stockholm and Copenhagen. All along the way, they’ve gathered a community of like-minded souls around them — warm, creative and open, both in mind and spirit, that is excited to share new experiences and meals together. It's a wonderful reminder that we are, in fact part of a global village, more similar than not. Also, that home is amongst many things a state of the heart.
I’d love to invite you to step into their beautiful space and share their story.
Alex and Seb, you live in a beautiful little bungalow in the Swedish countryside — please tell us more!
So last year, we did something a little crazy. We both quit our jobs in Frankfurt and gave up our apartment (together with roughly 90% of the stuff in it) to go do some true millennial soul-searching across Europe.
We were pretty sure we’d end up in another big city afterwards, but life had other thoughts. Alex ended up applying for a job at IKEA’s HQ in the Swedish countryside and was hired. So, with a car mostly full of pot plants (Seb has a thing for collecting and propagating cuttings) and a couple of suitcases, we made the journey further north. What an adventure it turned out to be!
After a few months in Malmö (and Alex commuting 3 hours daily!), we decided to start looking for a permanent place closer to her work. Property out here is a lot more affordable, so we were lucky enough to be able to buy our first home: a recently renovated 95m2 bungalow from the 1940s. We’ve been here for just over half a year now. It’s been a really interesting time trying to get a feel for the space, deciding what we want to do with it and – of course – replacing all of the furniture we parted ways with last year.
What has been most instrumental in creating a sense of home for each of you?
Seb: My kind of home is one that feels considered yet relaxed. It’s a tough balance and one that we don’t always get right. But that’s the fun of it, I guess! Functionality is also really important. I find it interesting to see how you initially envision the purpose of a space and how it eventually ends up being used.
Alex: Plants. All the plants! I realised that when we arrived at our temporary apartment in Malmö last year, which was a little… well, bleak. Just 30 minutes later though, after unpacking our carload of greenery, it felt like a completely different space. Not quite home, but definitely a lot closer. Books, for me, are a dealbreaker too. They were the only things packed in storage that I really missed while we were travelling last year.
How does South Africa and, more specifically, Johannesburg, influence your aesthetic?
As the good old saying goes, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. Only after leaving South Africa did we really develop an appreciation for where we came from. Four years of living in Europe later, we’re slowly bringing more and more of it into our home. We’ve definitely noticed that our colour palette has become warmer and earthier, and every trip back to SA becomes a desperate search to bring something handcrafted back with us! Our latest local love is the handwoven mohair rug beside our bed, by local brand The Ninevites
Tell us more about the beautiful, calming colour palette that pervades your home.
The house was very white and cool-toned when we bought it. Nothing wrong with that, but we prefer a bit more warmth. So right now we’re trying to bring in a bit more of that – swapping whites and greys out for creams and tans, with accents of earthy tones like mustard, terracotta, moss green etc.
You have a stunning cupboard/ sideboard in your bedroom — where’s that from?
The local flea market or “loppis” as they’re known in Sweden: We found it tucked in the corner, looking a little sad, and noticed that it was marked with the ridiculously low price of 100 SEK (10€). We called over one of the assistants who admitted that the price must be an error. Expecting the real price to be closer to 10x that, we couldn’t believe our luck when he told us we could have it for 15€! We snapped it up on the spot and painted it terracotta. It’s probably our favourite piece of furniture in the whole house.
You’ve managed to make this house feel like a warm, lived-in home in a few short months: do you have any tips for this?
Furnishing on a budget is, unsurprisingly, the most effective method! We shop a lot at the local loppis, as already mentioned, and IKEA of course. With IKEA stuff, we have a lot of fun hacking the pieces to make them our own. The OSB-board worktop for the NORDLI drawer unit in our living room, for instance. Or the two cake tin-turned pendant lights in the basement. Above all, though, it’s really just about putting in the time. Virtually every spare second we have is spent painting, making, moving or tweaking something for the house. It’s a real labour of love.
Has being in Sweden had an influence on your aesthetic regarding interior design?
The Scandinavian aesthetic is pretty well-established internationally, so living here hasn’t really changed our perspective, but rather made us more aware of it. There are certainly Scandinavian elements in our home, but I’m not sure we’d describe it as Scandinavian overall.
Quick side story though, while we’re on the topic of Scandinavian design: the Danish Louis Poulsen pendant lamp in our kitchen was actually salvaged by Seb’s dad from a derelict house in Johannesburg over twenty years ago. Funny that it inadvertently went full circle and ended up back in Scandinavia!
I think we’re more influenced and inspired by the people we’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with since living here. We’ve met some super talented interior designers, furniture designers and general creative minds who are doing awesome things. Seeing how they work with things like space, colour or styling has definitely given us a different perspective… and a few new ideas of our own!
You’ve designed and made so many of your own pieces — how does that happen?
Seb has always been annoyingly dexterous, but lately he’s ben especially busy – particularly with woodwork (having a workshop all to himself in the basement probably has something to do with it).
He’s made us some awesome solid oak curtain rods, a beautiful shelving unit with salvaged planks, and is currently working on our dining table. The goal is hopefully to launch his own line of furniture in the not-too-distant future, so watch this space!
What is your favourite thing to do at home?
Relaxing. Listening to music. Learning something new. Whipping up something in the kitchen. Plotting our next DIY project!
Alex and Seb, thank you for having us — all the very best for your upcoming projects.
All images courtesy Sebastian Kelly