I will admit it — I am a sucker for a beautiful, unique hotel experience. And so our Swedish adventure began at the Skeppsholmen in Stockholm. The website was interesting with intriguing but incomplete room photos — enough to draw you in, without revealing all. A renovated barracks building dating from 1699, with minimalist modern furnishings and possibly the coolest sink ever. I was hooked.
The hotel exemplifies the adage: location, location, location. Set on a tiny island near Stockholm's center, it is adjacent to, but removed from, the bustle of the city.
The modern art museum is across the small road.
Room 166, extra large with sea view, did not disappoint. But from my perspective — there are a few points where design was allowed to overrule practicality. Given the transitory nature of the hotel experience, hotel designers have freedom to incorporate fun and fashionable elements that might not translate well into the everyday residential environment.
First the positives: a fabulous bed, the Duxiana, renowned around the world for comfort. Absolute quiet — we never heard any sound from nearby rooms, and with windows closed, total peace. With windows open, quiet susurrations of city noises and seagulls from across the water. That bathroom — love the sink and faucets! I used that Vola lavatory faucet in an Atlanta powder room ten years ago and still adore it.
The slightly less positives — the long rectangular bathroom is wrapped in chocolate brown tile, a bit cave-like, and like the rest of the room, woefully underlit. Aside from the desk lamp, there is no task lighting. Interesting little lamps are scattered around the room, but here too design trumped usefulness. My iPhone flashlight provided better reading light. Interestingly, the hotel prides itself on its modern lighting, and the public spaces really showcase exciting contemporary fixtures.
The only true absurdity — the translucent blue sliding panel bathroom door, inexplicably located directly in front of the toilet. Design delight — yes. But completely useless as privacy barrier — be sure you are staying with someone close, because all your bathroom endeavors will be on view. The room features a seating area along with a desk and chair. The Tacchini Italia furniture, in an olive-on-blue abstract map fabric, is perfectly scaled for a 5 year old, but under-scaled for anyone taller. The mini loveseat opens out into a single bed, although bedding for this is a special request.
The Skeppsholmen offers a few "green" touches I have not encountered elsewhere. Bags to send out your laundry are brown paper rather than plastic. The toiletries are somewhat larger volume and ours were only half full on arrival. It's hard to tell if leaving them for us to finish before replacing is a conscious green choice or an oversight by housekeeping. The staff at the hotel are wonderful. We arrived just ahead of the Icelandic volcano ash cloud which shut down flights across northern Europe. The hotel was able to secure train tickets for our continuing journey. The restaurant is small but bright and inviting, the menu selections limited but well prepared. An off-menu request was graciously accommodated by the chef. The breakfast buffet is extensive and fresh, and lunch/ dinner options are very nice and patio dining is lovely. Overall, a remarkable hotel is an amazing location offering the blend of modern and historic that I so adore. Worth the visit and the price.
Addendum: due to the volcano situation, we unexpectedly returned to the Skeppsholmen for two more nights. This time we took room 270, also extra large with sea view, in the second building. The bedroom here has a door to close off the living area, more like a suite. The bathroom is much smaller (no tub), and the water from the rainfall showerhead drenches the entire floor. On the plus side, the translucent door is not directly in front of the toilet!
The second building is even quieter than the first, although it requires a dash outside to reach the main building where reception and dining are located. Both buildings are equally charming. Mind your head while on the third floor – preservation restrictions prevented moving any walls or making any changes to the ceilings.