High above the sea, just outside Ljungskile in Lyckorna, West Sweden, a beautiful white Swiss – style villa has been standing since 1901. During the two last decades of the 1800-hundereds, people from Sweden’s high society streamed to the seaside resort where they could find exclusive facilities at that time – an open-air swimming pool, an indoor bath house, a restaurant and daily steamboat- and railroad connections.
Carl Emil Haeger, a successful engineer and foundry proprietor from Lilla Edets paper factory decided to build his summer resident here over one hundred years ago. It came to be called Villa Sjötorp. During the 40:ies, the house was sold and used as a lodging house for one decade, where after it was bought back by the paper factory and used as a summer house for the factory employees. Decades later, the paper factory was sold, and the Haeger family succeeded the house.
Since the mid 90:ies, Villa Sjötorp is a 14 room boutique hotel with an award winning restaurant run by great grandchild Ellika Mogenfelt. We managed to get an interview with the chef and hotel proprietor and learnt a lot more about this ultra-charming hotel. Find out how Ellika managed to win it back and follow her dream to start up a guesthouse after a long dispute…
The Villa is now back in your family’s possession. What driving forces made you buy back Villa Sjötorp? Did you have a clear business idea and what was your vision when opening a restaurant and a small hotel?
During my childhood summers I was staying with my loved grandmother. Her summer house was located right below “The Grand Villa” (Villa Sjötorp) , so the area has always been close to my heart. The ancient villa, which was then owned by Lilla Edet’s paper factory, got worn down from weather and wind and neglected maintenance. The “older generation” wanted to demolish the house to get access to the very valuable land where new summer houses could be constructed during the 70: ies and 80:ies. Some of my older cousins and second cousins then started to refurbish their own rooms in the house and a sort of house occupation evolved.
When the paper factory was sold, the Haeger family took over the villa again.
Time went by, and relatives discussed different allotments for a long time. One day, I had enough and demanded public selling according to ‘the law of joint ownership’. It took years for the district court to handle the case and not until May 1995, an auction could take place. Since I was playing hardball, there was a resistance to let me win the auction, so I let a solicitor help me…
Suddenly, I was sitting with an old house without water or electricity, a million of Swedish crowns in depths and high interest rates – during recession… And I was supposed to open a guesthouse! There weren’t much time for business concepts – it was just time to work hard. Really hard.
When you took over Villa Sjötorp, was it meant to be only a restaurant (considering your background as chef), or also a guesthouse?
I had used the word “pensionat” (guesthouse) during many years in my visions for Villa Sjötorp. So my idea was always to build a guesthouse. However, as the years have passed by, time has shaped what it actually is today… These days I use the word hotel.
How would you describe the feeling of living at Villa Sjötorp?
Villa Sjötorp is restored with a lot of respect for the year of construction, 1901. We managed to install water conduits and bathrooms without affecting the villa’s architecture or the space of the rooms. The hotel doesn’t have any modern “hotel-solutions” – every piece of furniture is unique! Returning guests compare their stay with being in someone’s private home, but with that extra luxurious feeling of privacy that you get in a hotel.
What’s special with your restaurant – why do people choose to eat there?
These days it’s “a-la-mode” with ecological, locally produced and fair traded food. I have worked with this philosophy since the start in 1995. At that time, people saw me as a quite cufic and odd person, but this has always been my life philosophy and my way of living. Unfortunately, I haven’t learnt how to promote this, simply because it’s so obvious and natural to me.
What types of guests come to your hotel? Why do they choose your hotel specifically?
Our guests come from all sort of segments. My perception is that they choose Villa Sjötorp because of its beauty, the atmosphere, the tranquility and our well-renowned restaurant!
What is your favorite activity around the hotel? What do you think the Americans would appreciate to do?
There are plenty of cultural and natural experiences around Lyckorna village. I would recommend the Nordic Watercolor Museum, the Sculpture Park in Pilane, Nordens Ark (a park for endangered animals), the saltwater aquarium Havets Hus, Liseberg amusement park and a visit to Gothenburg.
From our hotel garden there is staircase down to the ocean and a sand beach. Also, the hotel rents out kayaks and bicycles.
Do you think Americans would have appreciate to celebrate Christmas at Villa Sjötorp? Can they experience any typical Swedish traditions here?
Absolutely, it’s like a winter wonderland here during Christmas! On Christmas Eve, we are offering a 7-course “Christmas-spiced” menu with grand flavors and traditional Swedish items. On Christmas day, we are offering a menu with traditionally cooked turkey.
Is there anything else you would like to tell to our American readers?
I would like to wish them very Welcome to us at Villa Sjötorp!
By: Emilia Björk