If there was a way that I could capture the feeling of Wanås Restaurant Hotel – the air, the light, the feeling of complete relaxation – and include that feeling in this post, I would. As it goes, I fear my words will fall flat of just how special this hotel really is. It’s not actually just a hotel or a restaurant at all. It’s an entire ethos that captures the way the Swedes live with nature. How it affects everything they do, how they live in this world. It is the effect, I believe, of the Swedish concept of ‘Lagom’ which roughly translated, means, ‘not too much, not too little.’ While this concept touches on sustainability and the environment – taking not too much from the world around you – it also embraces community and the idea of being satisfied with just enough.
As so for the mere 17 hours we were there, thanks to the invitation to explore by Visit Sweden and Visit Skåne, me and my three blogging companions – Sarah Akwisombe, Lou from Little Green Shed and Abi from These Four Walls – embraced the gorgeous surroundings of the Wanås Estate, Restaurant, Hotel and Sculpture Park and soaked in as much of the beauty, food, design and art as we possibly could. Needless to say, by the time we had to say our goodbyes, there were protestations from us all to our organiser, Steve, shamelessly begging for more time. Alas, we had a schedule to keep and he basically had to drag us out kicking and screaming (okay not really but nearly). It seemed we had all just fallen a little too in love with this gorgeous place.
Also, I must apologise for the sheer number of photos in this post. Everything was so beautiful that I couldn’t help myself.
The hotel, restaurant and sculpture park reside on the same grounds as the Wanås Estate, a 15th-century castle with a history that dates back to medieval times. It is where Marika Wachtmeister who founded the non-profit Wanås Foundation in 1987 and the resulting sculpture park and gallery, now reside. The location has a long history with the arts. We were told by her daughter, Kristina, a former architect who now runs the estate, that her mother had deep ties to the New York art scene of the 1960’s and decided to open the estate to allow artists a place to show off their work more than 30 years ago. This deep tie to the art scene is evident throughout the hotel with some of the family’s personal collections gracing the walls alongside artist collaborations over many years.
Kristina Wachtmeister and her family now live on the grounds as well and run the estate. Wanås (pronounced ‘Vanoos’) is located about 1.5 hours from Malmö and Copenhagen and its remote location adds to the feeling of escape. Kristina, putting her architect skills to excellent use, converted the 18th-century buildings into a modern hotel and restaurant in May of this year, sourcing many items from local producers as well as from the ground’s own organic farm and estate. The straps on the luggage holders and the leather which forms the comfortable sofas in the lounge area of the restaurant were from their own cows. The stairs leading to the upstairs rooms in the hotel were sourced from the birch trees on the grounds, the floors from salvaged timber. The entire estate is organically certified and sustainable.
The 11 hotel rooms are sparsely but beautifully decorated again utilising local products to create a thoughtful and relaxing vibe. You won’t find a television in the rooms but you will find a speaker to listen to music if you wish and there are fluffy bed linens, beautiful bathroom tiles and luxury products which add to the environment of wanting to unplug. And really, where I would normally prefer a more glamorous or bold design choice, the rooms really did add to that feeling of being a million miles from anyone. It truly embodied the idea of ‘not too much, not too little’.
That said, stepping outside of the quiet minimalism of the bedrooms, the hotel lounge area was really quite breathtaking and perhaps more my natural style. Here, vintage pieces mixed beautifully with contemporary and mid-century designs, the art engaging and brilliantly chosen (a given by now at Wanås) and the stunning blue built-ins encouraged you to sit and relax a while. This was my favourite designed space that Kristina had created, showing off her skills, not just as an architect but as an interior designer as well.
In the restaurant, which utilise Wanås own homemade products from the working farm that also form part of the estate, beautiful glass sculptural light fixtures, natural wood finishes and a beautiful brick fireplace (welcoming and roaring upon our arrival) all create a warm and inviting area to enjoy meals. We were told the 18th-century converted barn where the restaurant now resides is completely influenced by its surroundings: the forests here teem with game, mushrooms, berries, and the organic farm produces milk, meat and vegetables.
They serve what is grown, hunted and harvested locally and this serves as the base for the restaurant. At the heart of every meal is an ethos to value, and to be proud of what nature and the farm provide, and the produce of small-scale artisanal producers from the area. The menu, seasonal and changeable depending on availability, is expertly created. The steak tartare was the best I’d ever tasted, the lamb melt in your mouth.
The Sculpture Park
Outside, the restaurant’s courtyard overlooks the working organic farm as well as the castle and after an incredible breakfast of organic meats, cheeses, homemade fruit jams, granola and yoghurt, we ventured to explore the art park. In the hotel, guests are encouraged to explore, a coatroom filled with Hunter boots and rubber coats and we took advantage of this, leaving our walking shoes behind and pulling on our Hunters to see what was in store.
The grounds are simply spectacular, the castle overlooking a stunning lake, and it was easy to forget it was a sculpture park at all – at least at first. We were so incredibly lucky with the weather that day – the sunlight dappled under the canopy of the forest of birch trees and oak and we marvelled at the bright pink and white spotted mushrooms sprouting from between the fallen leaves and moss underfoot.
Venture deeper, however, and suddenly you may come across a lone house with no windows, an enormous red ball ‘stuck’ in a tree, an abandoned dining table, a glass ‘lake’ filled with oversized children’s toys, or a large lego-like structure of every different colour of the rainbow. The site-specific installations are by internationally established artists from Yoko Ono to Anna Hamilton, as well as Charlotte Gyllenhammar, Maya Lin and many many others.
Yoko Ono, Wish Trees for Wanås (1996/2011)
Each of the installations evoked an emotion but none more than a sound installation with speakers hidden in trees. You would hear it from afar and it was unnerving. “Mama!” the disembodied adult male voice would say behind you. You’d turn, startled. Then again, “mama!” by a scared child somewhere on your left? Or was it your right? “MAMA!” The man would scream out at you just ahead. It was completely unnerving and made everyone feel uncomfortable – especially as we are walking through an overgrown forest. I couldn’t even imagine how it would feel if you were exploring alone on a dreary day. It gives me chills just thinking about it!
Antony Gormley, Together and Apart (1998)
Jacob Dahlgren, Primary Structure (2011)
Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, In Dreams (2016)
Melissa Martin, Dining Room (2006)
Robin Wilson, A House for Edwin Denby (2000)
I particularly loved the work of Jenny Holzer, who’s 2002 project sees 260 sentences carved into the stone wall along 1.8 kilometres of the Park perimeter, forming a boundary to the forest. The stone wall blends so well, you hardly notice it and if it wasn’t for Sophia Bertilsson, the Press and PR Manager of the Wanås site and our warm and friendly guide for the day, pointing them out to me, I would have walked right by them. But there, hidden under the moss and leaves and undergrowth, the etchings emerged.
The texts were taken from Holzer’s own work and cover a wide span with regard to politics, social injustices, private experiences and emotions and we found ourselves in discussion – what could she have meant? Is this sad? Or hopeful?
Jenny Holzer, Wanås Wall (2002)
I felt like there was so much more we could have seen (the permanent collection alone has over 70 works and we probably only saw a fraction of them) in our short time there. Back through the grounds and past the castle, we made our way to a beautiful lunch, sad that our time was due to end at this magical place. We convinced Steve to let us have a look around the shop and indoor gallery after lunch but it was only once we started dawdling, clearly not in any hurry to leave and we could see Steve repeatedly looking at his watch in worry, that we figured we’d best move on.
Genuinely, it was one of the most beautiful, relaxing and inspirational places I’ve ever been. Thankfully, a night stay is actually incredibly reasonably priced with double rooms starting at just £220 per person and that includes breakfast and lunch as well as access to the beautiful sculpture park. The staff are friendly, warm and attentive and we were very privileged to have Kristina herself join us for dinner the night before. I would desperately love to go back again for a visit and couldn’t recommend it enough if you find yourself wanting a break from the everyday.
Huge thanks to Kristina and Sofia of Wanås Hotel Restaurant as well as the amazing staff for welcoming us and of course, Steve from Visit Sweden and Anna from Visit Skåne who organised this amazing adventure. I’ll be sharing more of my trip to Sweden with you soon. In the meantime, do tell me, what do you think of this amazing place? Is it somewhere you’d like to visit?
Disclaimer: My visit was paid for by Visit Sweden and Visit Skåne. I have not been paid for my review and of course, all images, words and opinions are my very own. Thanks so much for supporting the brands that support Swoon Worthy. I have also submitted this post as a competition entry in Urban Cottage Industries #LetThereBeLight campaign.