Cathy Nordström shares the secrets of her revolutionary living room layout

cathy nordström portrait
Cathy Nordström’s revolutionary living room layoutFanny Radvik

‘It’s interesting how just rearranging and changing some furniture can transform the whole way you live in a house,’ muses Cathy Nordström, founder of the eponymous Swedish textile house, whose own L-shaped living room had been posing a challenge for some time.

She knew that its previous layout, with a sofa situated with its back to the window at the end of the room and armchairs placed with their backs to people in the adjoining kitchen, wasn’t making full use of the space, but the solution eluded her. ‘I told my husband, but he thought it was fine. He works in IT, so I asked him to just imagine a technology issue. You should be able to solve it because you’re good at it, but you can’t. How annoying is that?!’ What Nordström needed was a new perspective; a fresh pair of eyes.

cathy nordström living room stockholm
Cathy Nordström’s living room in StockholmFanny Radvik

She turned to her friend, Rebecca Pitt of Inuti Design, who had a revolutionary solution. ‘The living room is an extension, with this invisible beam in the ceiling marking the start of the newer space. I always felt confined by that,’ admits Nordstrom, ‘but Rebecca was like, “Ignore it, and let’s pull the whole living-room area out.”’

Now, the room opens out to the kitchen, dining room and what she calls the ‘TV dungeon’. The rethink has turned the whole area into a more usable, less formal space. It’s a revelation that forced her to reconsider furniture, too.

cathy nordström's living room in stockholm
Nordström upholstered this vintage sofa with brown velvet as part of the refreshFanny Radvik

The first thing to be replaced was the sofa. Nordström loved her old Josef Frank piece, but wanted something bigger and more cosy. New for her, though, more often than not means secondhand. She has a love for design with a story, and pre-loved furniture is a more ethical choice for the designer whose own brand has a strong sustainability ethos. She found her current sofa for £400 on Blocket, a Swedish alternative to Ebay, reupholstering it in chocolate-brown velvet and adding a skirt to hide its metallic legs. ‘It’s a very innocent addiction,’ she says of her love for a secondhand furniture hunt, ‘especially on a Friday night after a glass of wine – you get very bold in your bidding!’

cathy nordström's living room
Nordström moved her Bruno Mathsson armchairs from the entrance to the window to free up spaceFanny Radvik

Alongside items won this way, there are also heirloom pieces, like the floor lamp (also Josef Frank for Svenskt Tenn), inherited from a great-grandparent, or the Bruno Mathsson armchairs, recovered in her own ‘Florence’ fabric, named after her grandmother. There are custom-made items by artisans who share Nordström’s eco-awareness. The green-lacquered side table by the sofa is one such piece, made by Diaform.

Perhaps the largest new addition, though, is the painting by Swedish artist Isak Hall. ‘My husband and I just fell in love with it,’ she recalls. ‘I felt liberated, because the painting is so strong.’ In a clever bit of optical trickery, the horizontal lines in the composition help to emphasise the new layout, visually stretching the space out to the adjoining rooms.

‘Before, you had to push your way past armchairs to enter this room, but now it’s much more open,’ says Nordström. ‘At the weekends, we now have a cocktail here before dinner and encourage the kids to talk about their weeks. It’s become the place we spend time as a family.’