Food & Drink, Work & Business
Catching Up: Jenny Ljungberg, owner of c/o The MaidstoneFebruary 9, 2016
While it’s impossible to describe c/o The Maidstone, a Scandinavian-inspired boutique hotel in The Hamptons, in just two words, those two begin to paint the picture. From there, it takes a blend of imagination, ingenuity and immaculacy. Mix in a bit of the whimsical and you have a hotel unlike any other, featuring 19 unique rooms decorated to celebrate 19 famous Scandinavians.
We caught up with Jenny Ljungberg, the owner of The Maidstone who was born in Stockholm and studied at Columbia University, to discuss the inspiration for her hotel and what’s next in her busy, busy life.
Congratulations on your wedding in July. What was it like to celebrate your big day at your very own hotel?
Jonathan and I had planned to get married for three consecutive years in a row. The first year it was set at my family´s country estate in Sweden. The second year, it was set at my historic hotel outside of Stockholm in Sweden. And then the third time at our hotel in the Hamptons. All of a sudden it all felt right… To do it at our favorite spots in the Hamptons that we love to go to and be at. And to now create shared memories with the people that we love, who all came to the Hamptons to celebrate our love. It felt magical on a totally new level, and almost a bit surreal. To have people from Sweden and L.A. join us at our local spots in the Hamptons…
How did you learn about the property, and what attracted you to purchase it in 2008?
I was looking for hotel opportunities on Manhattan and was busy scouring the market when my strategic advisor told me about an ad he had read in the London Financial Times. It advertised a hotel and restaurant for sale in the Hamptons. Everything that was in the ad represented what I had been looking for, except that it was not on Manhattan. I went out to look and saw that I could create something that stood out in the crowd in a market that included all of the people I wanted to attract to my Manhattan spot, and that´s how it all began. Eight years later I am still in the Hamptons and love it whereas the hotel opportunity on Manhattan is still on the back burner.
c/o The Maidstone has 19 unique rooms decorated to celebrate 19 famous Scandinavians. How did that idea develop?
I have been fascinated by how little the outside world know of Swedes. Being Swedish in the U.S. left me with ample situations where people hear I’m Swedish and they respond “I love your cheese” or “I love your watches,” statements that both refer to Switzerland. People from Sweden and Scandinavia as a whole have done such extraordinary things on a world scale, but we rarely talk about it as it is not in our nature to boast. I wanted to alter that and picked 19 people that I thought were worthy of a celebration! And then had fun with choosing different pieces of furniture, fabrics, photo art and stories that related to their greatness!
What was the process like to design 19 distinct rooms; how long did it take?
We designed and renovated the rooms in six months. Two months for design work and four months to put it all together. The biggest challenge was getting it all to the U.S. as most of the things we bought came from Scandinavia, since these things have not yet been exported to the U.S. on a large scale. The storytelling aspect was my favorite when we did the research and decided which story to tell the market. People may know of HC Andersen’s stories but they may not know his specific fetishes… Or they’ll have heard about the Nobel Peace Prize but do not know that it was created to combat all of the bad that came out of the invention of dynamite, which gave Alfred Nobel the financial means to institute the Nobel Prices… Or that Meryl Streep’s impersonation of Karen Blixen in Out of Africa only represented a small part of her life as the rest of her life was lived in Denmark, dreaming about Africa.
Do you have a favorite room or two?
My favorite room is the Edward Munch room since I am madly in love with the two black oversized armoire chairs in the bedroom and the all black bathroom. My husband loves the Saarinen room because of its open setting and the fabulous bathtub that fits us both, with a view over the cemetery. And then I have a special place in my heart for the Kurbits room as it has a lot of my great grandfather’s Kurbits art in there while it also celebrates modern kurbits art via the wallpaper that was designed by an up and coming young artist.
What is “Scandinavian Cozy?”
Scandinavian Cozy is a mixture of old and new, inherited furniture and cutting-edge design, upholstered old gems with velvet and bright fabrics. Lots of photo art, plants, jazz music and fur. A living room to truly live in and comfy furniture in the garden. The sort of place you’d like to bring your dog, your friend, your kids, your ex, your lover or your favorite book. To be combined with champagne or a freshly squeezed juice with chia seeds…
You’ve recently begun offering gifts from Swedish company Tictail. What do you hope that partnership brings?
More exposure for things that are absolutely divine. But not yet out on the U.S. market!
Tell us about The Living Room and its use of the “Slow Food” movement.
The Living Room is a restaurant space that is supposed to feel like home. But much better because it’s swanky, has gorgeous eye candy to look at, is consistently cleaned by somebody else and offers you yummy things without having to cook it yourself. It’s based on the Slow Food movement, which celebrates organic, local produce that is brought to us in an ethical way where animals and people are treated well, paid fairly and respected as living beings. We follow the seasons and celebrate the beauty and bounty of Long Island. Thirty percent of our wine list comes from the neighboring vineyards on Long Island and upstate New York, which has been unheard of out here!
Say my wife and I are dining at The Living Room for dinner… what should we order to eat and drink?
The Toast Skagen appetizer is my absolute favorite of all time. A mixture of shrimps on a toasted brioche that is to die for… And then top it off with a Stockholmopolitan that is our own take on the Cosmopolitan with hints of lingonberries!
The Maidstone has been open for eight years. What’s next for the hotel? And what’s next for you? Any chance you’ll be opening another hotel anytime soon?
An amazingly sexy Valentine’s with a Burlesque show, an Agent Provocateur pop up shop, erotic literature in the rooms and aphrodisiacs in the food…
As for me, I’m hoping I’ll have some more children and will be out for Valentine’s with my husband so maybe we’ll be able to combine the news of the hotel and my personal news 🙂
My next hotel is currently competing with the construction of our home in L.A. as well as the rescue dogs that I take on. Once we get these things in order and our next baby comes, I´m sure it will come into sharp focus again.
Compete the sentence…The perfect vacation is ______________.
The perfect vacation is going on a safari in Africa. It’s been my long-held dream and will become reality in the fall of 2016!