Rich colours, traditional Swedish design cues, and a fictional story about the namesake make up the homey but refined cocktail lounge in Philadelphia’s Andra Hem, designed by decorated New York-based creative Ghislaine Viñas.
Philadelphia native and art collector Paige West was on the hunt for a space to house her large private art collection when she came across a charming four-storey prewar townhouse in Rittenhouse Square. Though it was too small to fit her West Collection, she thought it would be perfect for a microhotel or cocktail lounge, and Andra Hem, which means “second home” in Swedish, was born, consisting of a two-floor cocktail lounge and intimate upstairs suites for family and friends.
Viñas was the obvious design mind for the project for West, as the duo have collaborated on over a dozen projects throughout the last 25 years. “Our creative process typically commences with Paige envisioning the space,” Viñas says, noting that they seldom require talking to communicate their ideas. “We then curate a collection of inspiration images to help guide the look and feel of the space, simultaneously engaging in meticulous space planning and outlining the space’s requirements.”
For Andra Hem, Viñas and West travelled to Stockholm in search of inspiration, knowing they wanted to imbue Swedish design elements as a nod to the early Swedish settlers in the Philadelphia region. West imagined Andra Hem as a person who ran the townhouse as a bed and breakfast.
“Immersing ourselves in the rich history of Sweden and their arrival in Philadelphia became our foundation,” Viñas says. “This historical background inspired the creation of Andra Hem’s character, shaping a fictional narrative that, in turn, provided a guiding light for the interior design. We even wove a love story involving an English soldier, which adds intrigue to the lounge’s lore.” An unsigned portrait, embellished and revived by contemporary artist Mark Mulroney, has become the embodiment of the Andra Hem character, watching over the bar area and her customers with a coy smile.
The biggest challenge was working with the narrowness of the space, particularly on the first floor. “Striking a balance between creating comfy seating, establishing a functional bar, and ensuring good flow presented a formidable task,” Viñas reflects. The deep teal blue of the first floor’s walls, ceiling, banquette, and stools was taken from a historic Stockholm interior Viñas and West visited during their trip, as were the painted thick-oak squared panels on both levels of the cocktail lounge.
Flowered damask wallpaper adorns the walls and ceilings around the first-floor bar, giving way to a small L-shaped seating area. “Our vision was to create a sense of opulence and luxury. Introducing brass accents with the chairs and lights served as a beautiful accent to the rich panelling.”
Upstairs, a sleek black bar area with gleaming brass bar stools opens into a lively mustard-coloured lounge area, another traditional Scandinavian hue. Black bistro curtains maintain intimacy, and as with downstairs, playful artwork adds to the eclectic and homey feel. Pill-shaped cut-outs between the lounge and bar sections reference old Swedish staircases.
Throughout, statement pendant lights—swirling black and white orbs, cream lanterns, ornate flowers, and striped golden tiers—draw focus. “Our intention was always to create a space that combines classic detailing with modern minimal elements, resulting in an atmosphere that feels both unique and pleasantly surprising,” the designer says. Both the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms are dark and moody, with black counters and colourful cartoonish murals.
Andra Hem embodies a playful take on historical-inspired design, bolstering the imaginative charm that can come from bringing together two creative minds. “Working together is an absolute delight, and over the past 25 years, there have been maybe six months where we haven’t embarked on one or multiple projects together,” Viñas says, noting it’s the duo’s first hospitality project together. “Paige is my Medici, a constant source of inspiration and collaboration.”
Photography by Jason Varney.