Located on a desolate Swedish island, this former home for generations of lighthouse keepers today offers a alternative take on luxury for experience-seeking travellers. Perceptive design agency Stylt was appointed to deliver an appropriate property for this unique location ...
Pater Noster is Sweden’s most famous and spectacular lighthouse, located on the tiny island of Hamneskär outside Marstrand on Sweden’s west coast. The hazardous waters surrounding the island have been feared for centuries, leading to seafarers reading The Lord’s Prayer – Pater Noster in Latin – when their ships approached the treacherous archipelago.
When the lighthouse was constructed in 1868, it was named after the prayer. Although the island was considered uninhabitable, a house was built for the lighthouse master, his family and staff. For almost 110 years, generations of lighthouse keepers lived with their families in this extreme environment, caring for the lighthouse, rescuing shipwrecked sailors and creating a small and isolated society of their own.
After being automated in the 1960s and finally deactivated in 1977, the lighthouse and the island were deserted. During the years that followed, attempts were made to breathe new life into the property. In the spring of 2020, a new era arrived when a group of Swedish entrepreneurs signed a lease contract with the National Property Board of Sweden. The vision was nothing less than to turn the abandoned island into one of Sweden’s top destinations.
“An inhabitable island that became the home for generations of lighthouse keepers and their families”
Award-winning Swedish design agency Stylt was contracted to create a concept, the branding and interior design. Then, a careful restoration of the old lighthouse keepers’ home began, aiming to turn it into a different kind of experience-driven boutique hotel.
“Some might say it’s a hotel, but we’d rather call it a home on the horizon,” says Stylt’s founder and creative director Erik Nissen Johansen, who is also a partner in the project together with Elisabeth Johansen, CEO at Stylt. “During my 30 years within the hospitality business, I have rarely come across such a unique destination.”
Depending on the weather conditions, guests arrive by boat or helicopter from Marstrand or Gothenburg – and it might be quite a bumpy ride. But when the engines go silent, it is only them and the sound of waves, wind and seagulls. Then a friendly voice invites them to enter the lighthouse master’s home.
While the main building’s 19th-century exterior was relatively well preserved, there was not a great deal left of the original interiors. Instead of recreating the former interior design in detail, Stylt dug into the fascinating story of the island and the sea, of the lighthouse and the people who once tended it. Based on this narrative, local vintage furniture and antiques were sourced, along with art, photographs, books and props.
“It’s a sign of the times that a place that is so inaccessible, weather-exposed and barren beats traditional luxury”
The impressive wallpapers were custom-designed by Stylt. “By combining old technical drawings of the lighthouse and kelp patterns, we wanted to create a relevant yet stylish link to local history and nature,” says Stylt partner and art director, Andreas Hagersjö. Another highlight is a huge photographic artwork by Hawaiian visual artist Christy Lee Rogers, an artistic tribute to the hundreds of ships and crews lost in the depths around Pater Noster. The overall ambience is rustic and homey, cosy and cool.
The living room’s bar offers champagne and local craft beer as well as rum and schnapps, flavoured with sea buckthorn, sloe berries and seaweed. The restaurant’s menu focuses on locally caught fish and fresh seafood. Lobster is fished seasonally, and crab is served all year round. Guests are more than welcome to cook their own catch – or let one of many prominent chefs who often visit the island do the job. In the summertime, the courtyard outside the main building hosts an outdoor cafe. The nine bedrooms accommodate up to 18 guests, and if a guest wants to sleep under the stars, a luxury king-size bed can be arranged on the cliffs next to the sea.
Although the island is isolated, it offers a wide range of activities and unique experiences. Visiting the old lighthouse is a must. Being totally restored 15 years ago, it offers an impressive 360° view of the archipelago. On a clear day, it is even possible to get a glimpse of Denmark. Apart from the scenery, everything from sunset wine tastings to meditation and yoga classes under the stars are arranged up here, 36m above sea level.
The salty sea offers great back-to-nature pursuits such as swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving as well as sailing, kayaking and deep-sea fishing. Try a seaweed-cooking class, enjoy the island’s hot tubs filled with warm seawater – or simply chill out, read a book, have a glass of wine and watch the sunset.
Since opening in the summer of 2020, the weather-beaten 152-year-old lighthouse master’s residence has attracted a great deal of global interest. Vogue, Condé Nast Traveller and Forbes are just a few that put Pater Noster high on their lists of ‘must-experience destinations’ around the world. The Telegraph went even further, naming it one of the 10 greatest hotels of the decade. In December 2020, Stylt and Pater Noster won the judges’ special award ‘Judges So Cool’ at the 40th annual Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design.
“It’s a sign of the times that a place that is so inaccessible, weather-exposed and barren beats traditional luxury,” says Erik. “We at Stylt strongly believe that Pater Noster delivers exactly what today’s guests are looking for – authenticity, personality and privacy, spiced with fantastic nature experiences and a thrilling history. Low-key luxury with a dash of roughness.”