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Working Her Magic

Viveca Falkman brings a Scandinavian sensibility to her East Bay home

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Viveca Falkman has never seen a home she wasn’t able to put her personal stamp on. A Swedish native, she lived in London for 25 years before moving to New England, bringing her European sense of style with her. Through the years, she has transformed two historic homes in Bristol, including one that didn’t have a bright future. “It was so bad – the worst,” she says. “I totally redid that house. And it was fun.”

In addition to taking down walls and reconfiguring that home, she did her “usual thing” and painted almost everything. “I cannot tell you how many houses I have repainted, how many walls I’ve wallpapered,” says Falkman.

Ready for a change, Falkman sought a home that was a bit simpler, and more turnkey. “I knew I needed one floor – no more stairs – and I wanted a garage,” she says. A real estate agent took her to a condominium community in Warren that was like nothing Falkman ever imagined. “We drove into this park-like setting on an old estate,” says Falkman. “I walked straight from the garage into the kitchen, and I said, ‘I’ll take it.’”

Falkman concedes that when it comes to homes, she knows right away if she’s found a good fit. “I‘m very quick in saying, ‘I’ll take it,’” she says with a laugh. Offering three bedrooms, two baths, ample hidden storage and an open floor plan, the condominium provided everything she could need. Though she resolved not to do any major changes, Falkman was quick to add her signature Scandinavian styling. First, she painted the walls a soft white to complement her neutral-hued furnishings as she traditionally lets her artwork and décor add splashes of color. Next, she modified the kitchen by removing a cabinet and replacing it with an open bookcase. She also added an Oriental rug in the kitchen to give the space a warm, cozy feel.

“[There’s] a little breakfast room I have a sofa and a desk in. To make the kitchen not so ‘kitcheny,’ you have to work your magic,” she advises. And finally, as Falkman has often done – and is, perhaps, her most consistent design element – she removed the overhead lighting and filled the space with table and floor lamps throughout. Lighting, she says, it key to creating the aesthetic that reminds her of home.

“Scandinavian style, it’s simplicity. Lighting is very important in Sweden – soft lighting, lots of candles and lots of flowers, always,” she says.

Though she has collected a lot of artwork and décor through the years, Falkman says she has pared down considerably, giving many pieces away, many to her son and daughter and their families. But some pieces have come around the world with her and remain a part of her permanent collection. “I’ve become very economical,” Falkman says. “I don’t bring something in without taking something away.”

A terrace allows Falkman to enjoy the bucolic views including a tranquil apple orchard outside her home. Sounds from a babbling brook nearby enhance the pastoral ambiance. “I feel like I’m in the country,” she says.

As for East Bay living, Falkman says this area offers everything she could ever want, including easy proximity to Providence and points north as well as simple travel to see friends and family along the East Coast. “Wonderful, quiet, historic and pretty,” is how she describes life here. And her house, where a sign above the door reads “Mormor’s Haus: Est. 2015” (Swedish for “grandma’s house”) is a warm dwelling that merges her heritage and personal style. “This house looks like every house I’ve ever had, almost like my parents’ house in Sweden,” says Falkman. “I don’t think my taste has changed.” That’s a good thing.