The cab driver circled the block a few times, uttering what were undoubtedly epithets at her apparently gone-rogue GPS device attached to the dashboard. “I don’t understand,” she said, “it should be right here.” That’s when I noticed it, a small bronze sign above a call box on the stone wall that simply read: Ett Hem. That level of privacy and seclusion is all part of the Ett Hem experience though, it’s why guests excitedly book their stay at what has become the top luxury hotel, if not also the most unlikely, in Stockholm.
I’ve stayed in a lot of luxury hotels, from some of the most famous in the world to smaller, more intimate accommodations. I’ve never stayed at anywhere quite like the Ett Hem Hotel in Stockholm though, but its differences from all the others are what ultimately made me love the experience so very much. In Swedish Ett Hem means “At Home” and that’s exactly what the experience is like. Situated in the upscale embassy district of Stockholm, entering the 1910 Arts and Crafts style home really does feel like walking into a friend’s house, but don’t confuse the Ett Hem with a bed and breakfast. No, the Ett Hem has all of the amenities one expects from a great small luxury hotel, including 24-hour staff, a gym and even a sauna and Moroccan hammam room.
But it doesn’t feel like any hotel you’ve stayed in before, and that’s a credit to the creative minds behind the project who transformed what was once a private residence into a state of the art, 12-room boutique luxury hotel. Thanks to the limited number of rooms, it’s hard not to feel special staying there as a guest. Where the staff almost outnumbers clientele, the experience feels special, as if it were hand crafted for you personally. Inside, the house is light and airy, well designed but also homey. In the winter the roaring fire is a perfect spot to curl up next to, book in hand and coffee by the side. Almost immediately I knew it was a place where I wanted to spend time, instead of a hotel that is only a place to relax in the evenings.
The Rooms & Restaurant
Thanks to the fact that the Ett Hem was once a private residence, no two rooms are exactly the same. Instead, the hotel has a nice mix of suites and more standard rooms that appeal to a variety of tastes. My room was small but comfortable, situated on the top floor climbing the stairs made it feel like a loft experience. Just because it was small didn’t mean it wasn’t luxurious, it had many of the same amenities as every room at the Ett Hem. Muted but sophisticated Scandinavian design using oak, stone and sheepskin, plenty of natural light, rainforest shower, complimentary (and fast) WiFi, robust turn-down service and a healthy supply of Kiehl’s toiletries were all luxurious touches that transformed the stay from something ordinary into something remarkable.
The hotel is also well known for its acclaimed restaurant, inviting scores of people who come just to taste the delicacies from the Ett Hem kitchen. Guests though get the star treatment when it comes to food, and that feeling of staying at a friend’s house resonates throughout the day. The breakfast however was my personal favorite, and honestly ranks as one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve ever enjoyed. Finding a seat in the Ett Hem greenhouse dining area, I walked through the open kitchen on the way, watching the chefs create magic right there before my eyes. Breakfast starts out with coffee and tea, homemade yogurts and granola, fresh fruit, meats, cheeses and freshly made (and still warm) pastries. That would be enough for me, but at the Ett Hem it’s just the beginning. From there you can order whatever you want from the kitchen, whether it’s an omelet or something more imaginative. Guests also enjoy other dining perks during their stay. While the restaurant has a set, seasonal menu for outsiders, the chef is happy to work with guests of the hotel to create meals that are to their liking, but which still honor the look and taste of the Ett Hem restaurant experience.
The Overall Experience
Great luxury hotels are not defined by the thread count of the sheets, or how comfortable the chairs are. Luxury hotels are necessarily defined by attention to detail and service. From my brief, 2-night stay at the Ett Hem, I can say without hesitation that these are two areas where the hotel excels. The kindness and dedication to my happiness and well being on behalf of the staff was almost embarrassing at times. From offering to whip together something to chase away a lingering cold, to helping out when a minor emergency struck, every need was seen to with speed and grace. Service isn’t something you can buy, it has to be learned and it has to be something that a staff is truly passionate about. This innate, increasingly hard to find trait is at the core of the Ett Hem experience I think. It’s through the amazing service and attention to every detail that everything else shines.
The Ett Hem Hotel isn’t your normal luxury experience, it’s something much better. The property takes all of the great qualities of a larger hotel and highlights them in a smaller, more intimate package. If you’re like me and don’t care for the over-personalization of a B&B, but do like smaller hotels and properties, then in Stockholm there honestly is no better choice than booking a few nights at the Ett Hem. I think you’ll soon agree with me that it is the home away from home that you’ve always been looking for.