What constantly stuns me about Stockholm is the way they get everything so unfailingly right. But what intrigues me about it, as a half-native, is what lies beneath that icy veneer of perfection. Can anyone or anywhere really have life so under control and perfectly designed? And, even if they have, isn’t all that beauty and perfection just a bit dull? Without an edge, how can we really see the form of a place? It’s our imperfections that make us lovable. That’s what I like to tell myself, anyway.
If the Grand Hotel is the fur-clad grand dame of Stockholm hotels and the Story Hotel someone’s hip, arty younger son, then the Lydmar is my self-confident, successful older cousin who sails through life on an apparently effortless wave of weal. Think the old-school alpha who may run a global media company but has no truck with new-fangled nonsense like lattes or Facebook. Double espressos for breakfast, sailing in the archipelago in the summer, hell, the chap’s not even forty and he wears a silk handkerchief in his breast pocket. So who better to share an Aperol Spritz with, surrounded by sleek Stockholmers in their winter plumage of black and grey on blonde?
The Lydmar’s is unlike most hotel bars: locals actually go there. There’s a definite buzz about it, provided in equal parts by the clientele (an eclectic mix of well-preserved ladies who lunch, smooth international types and young hipsters), live music and a barman mixing excellent drinks from behind a tiny marble bar, in front of bookshelves stacked with spirits. It feels like hanging out in the kitchen of someone with very good taste and a serious drinking problem.
This is five star luxury with a modish, very Scandinavian edge – or “second generation luxury”, as Daniel, the hotel manager, calls it. That translates as a bar/restaurant at the heart of the building, lined with bookshelves filled with an artfully higgledy-piggledy collection of books, wine bottles and personal items collected by the hotel’s owner, Peter “Pelle” Lydmar. There’s a menu full of food that I genuinely wanted to eat, like garlicky snails and striploin with truffle crème, and attentive but relaxed and totally unobsequious service. (If you want starchy uniforms, bell hops and bowing, head 200m down the road to the Grand.)
Before he began creating hip hotels in his own image, Pelle Lydmar was a successful photographer. Framed prints and books by photographers including James Nachtwey, Brenda Ann Kenneally, Gerhard Jörén and Tim Flach decorate and define the Lydmar. If, like me, you feel slightly uncomfortable about sitting in a luxury hotel in one of the safest and most economically stable countries in the world surrounded by documentary images of tsunami survivors, Manila prostitutes and Japanese porn actresses, well, according to my cousin, that’s just “middle class guilt”.
The glossy travel and art books spill into each of the hotel’s 46 bedrooms (and often “disappear” from them too, apparently). And oh, those bedrooms… Individually designed rooms with high ceilings, wood floors, huge beds to hibernate in, baths to wallow in, all the hi-tech gubbins you’d expect and of course those aforementioned covetable coffee-table books. The rooms are also very sexy, in a masculine, slightly kinky way. Flipping back the plain grey bedspread reveals a contrasting, more provocative material on the underside: Pascale Risbourg’s Erotic Toile du Jouy. It’s incredible that the businessmen staying here get any work done at all, but I suppose they must, since rooms start at SEK3,200 and go up to SEK12,500 per night for the cavernous suite, complete with leather sleigh bed and surround views of the Royal Palace and Strömkajen harbour.
The Lydmar is stylish, swanky, sybaritic, with a sharp edge and a slightly naughty side. It’s the perfect antidote to soulless, corporate luxury hotels and it blows my half-baked theory about Stockholm’s beauty and perfection being dull and annoying right out of the chilly waters of the Baltic.
The Lydmar, Södra Blasieholmshamnen 2, Stockholm
+46 8 22 31 60; lydmar.com
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