The Story of Villa SOlbacka

Villa Solbacka has a rich history. The secluded, serene location has been someone's dream since the mid-1800s, and the stunning views of the historic waterways to Stockholm are forever. But the beginning were far from rich and it hasn't always been a villa. The first living quarter on the property was a temporary barn.

1845 - The beginning
Today, the property boasts a grand national romantic-style house, a guesthouse from 1850, and a creamy white pavilion. But it all began with the dream of a young farming couple whom envisioned a small island farmstead. What later became a posh archipelago summer house, where recreational activities, boating, dinner parties, painting, music, and summer laziness ruled for 110 years – started with a story about determination and unimaginable hard work...

...Living here was a never-ending struggle. When the young couple first moved to the location they prioritized building a stone foundation for a barn, and lived in the cool stone basement together with potatoes, apples, and milk crates, for many years. The couple fished the sea and farmed the stony land. With great skill, lots of grit, and a vision for something better they managed to save up for a new house and built it with their own hands. The Old Cottage or the middle house. It was nothing “middle” with the house back then, the house had a separate kitchen, a living room with a tiled stove, a bedroom, and an attic with windows. An enormous achievement, and a luxury castle for most families like them.

But living off the ocean and the land is a tough life. And the times in northern Europe at that time were not good, starving was not uncommon if you were born on the wrong side of wealth. After something like 50 years of struggle, they sold their island property and emigrated to America. They left behind a house that would stay un-cared for, nearly a century.

1900 - Laziness and fun moving in
Remember that barn, or actually the cool stone foundation – where the farmer-couple lived together for some time with milk crates, potatoes, and occasionally cows and sheep? Well, that was to be inhabited by people yet again.

It all started sometime around the first decade of 1900. The land was then purchased by a wealthy inner-city woman and her county judge husband. They had a dream of their own – a big three-floor house in national romantic style, a summer haven for leisure, creation, and recreation.

The national romantic movement of Scandinavia at that time was and the Island of Skarpö became a hot spot. It’s located far enough from Stockholm, but close enough to the historic city of Vaxholm - a former military fort dating back to the 16th century. The rich and powerful jet-setters of Stockholm purchased land and started building. After only a few years the formerly humble island of hard-working farmers had some of the archipelagos’ grandest wooden mansions and its very own steamboat service.

The national romantic movement was a celebration of the individual, a search for a subjective truth where opinions mattered more than correctness. It was a counter-reaction and critique of progress, where people were looking for a way back to nature, a return to the past, and even childhood. 110 years later - this is all obvious in the villa.

The villa is designed in a playful manner. Influenced by nature, love, old stories, and fairytales. A typical national romantic style design, which kind of gave the middle finger to the stiffness of the grand past. Asymmetrical, mixed materials, shapes, and colors. Artistic, romantic, and childish. The new owners were no farmers and had no need for a barn. The villa - called The Big House was built where the barn used to be, right on the old foundation. Potatoes and cows moved out. Laziness and Fun moved in, and they never left.

2018 - Villa Solbacka gets a SPA-treatment
”The Swedish Dream House Nobody Else Wanted”
It was a headline in The Wall Street Journal, on July 28th, 2022, and the long article told a story about yet another couple buying a dream house - the third owners of Villa Solbacka. It all started in 2018 when a similar headline was found in the click-bate section of a big Swedish newspaper.

“The unsold dream house”

A family was selling their archipelago estate “Villa Solbacka”, after 110 years. Almost completely untouched and undisturbed by renovations since then. The house had no running water and no bathrooms. It had poor electricity with a wood stove in the big house. No electricity or stove in the two others. The old cottage is ready to cave in under a broken roof, the floors are askew, and most windows are broken. What’s left of the outhouse is still moving in the wind after the storm a few years back. And the big house is slightly sliding down the granite rock, all grey from only being painted once in a hundred years. And everything tucked away at the end of a small... Well, not a road. A small path. Too small and too bumpy for a car or any heavy machinery needed for a massive restoration.

The new couple and the soon-to-be owners were in love. ”What a magic place! So rare and hard to find”. They said; “How on earth can this not be sold?” When the couple first inquired about the property, the realtor was skeptical, having received countless inquiries before. ”We have had billionaires, builders, building conservationists, and brave entrepreneurs, we’ve had them all. Most of them LOVED it. Nobody bought it. Why would you?” It turned out to be a wise and relevant question. But the couple was blinded by love and didn’t see any of the challenges noted above.

The four-year restoration and modernization project was a journey filled with challenges, but ultimately a fantastic experience. A scenic road was carved through the old forest, and all the houses underwent extensive restorations, including new roofing and being repainted in their original colors. The buildings had purified sea water installed for all their water needs, including toilets and bathrooms that were integrated into the original architecture. A small jetty was built for boating and swimming in the sea, a small yoga studio with a view and a spa-like bathroom was added for those seeking a relaxing soak on a rainy day.

The view from Villa Solbacka is as breathtaking as ever, and the property is ready for new stories of fun and relaxation to be written.

The full story
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The Swedish dream house nobody else wanted

Villa Solbacka featured in:

Wall Street Journal

The Swedish dream house nobody else wanted

A design-savvy couple took on the four-year renovation of a tumbledown property on an island in the Stockholm archipelago.
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Inspirerande hem Villa Solbacka 1911

Här kommer ett följtips till er som älskar gamla hus och inredning med mycket själ. Nämligen Villa Solbacka 1911 på Instagram
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Where is it?

Villa Solbacka is found on the island of Skarpö, just outside the old town of Vaxholm. At the end of a small, private, not-so-old road you will find three houses. A brown, a red, and a white house. Embedded in green with an ocean backdrop, it’s an undisturbed and secluded oasis. On one side it’s an untamed archipelago park overlooking the ocean and the old major waterway to Stockholm. On the other a small secret garden with flowers, gravel parkways, and patios. The only close neighbors are a nationally protected forest on one side and an old Fisherman’s farmstead on the other.


Kursgårdsvägen 6-8,
185 91 Vaxholm


Please contact us for updated info.