...these days not just over summer. Right now (in December, 2011) browse an impressive photo art exhibit while sipping on a mug of hot Swedish glögg or hot chocolate and round off your visit savoring a 'julbord' - the traditional Swedish Christmas Table - in the Maidstone restaurant The Living Room. A visit to the Swedish hotel “The Maidstone” in the Hamptons fits the bill any time of the year. Nordstjernan was welcomed in the late summer by Pär and Sophie Bonér, who at the time themselves had recently landed in the U.S. Definitely [More than] A touch of Sweden in the Hamptons.

Ask any hardcore New Yorker what he or she thinks about the Hamptons, and they are likely to get a dreamy look in their eyes. And why not? When the pace gets hectic, who doesn’t dream of pristine beaches and rolling waves and a relaxed lifestyle? A game of tennis anyone? A bike ride? Shopping that would shush the most professional of shoppers? East Hampton offers it all, and you don’t need to travel far to get there. The Long Island Railroad or the Hampton Jitney will take you to the tip of Long Island in a couple hours. And while there, why not stay at a hotel that gives you some Swedish comfort? The Maidstone, owned by Jenny Ljungberg as part of the c/o hotel chain, and managed by Pär and Sophie Bonér, is a spoonful of quiet elegance on East Hampton’s Main Street.

A challenging adventure
“We’ve known Jenny [Ljungberg, creative director, owner] for some time, and when she bought the Maidstone hotel a couple of years ago and we met with her, we both agreed that we ought to manage it,” says Sophie, as we sit down on a couch sprinkled with Joseph Frank pillows. Both she and Pär have an easy air about them, the talent to make everything they do seem effortless and pleasant. They clearly know their stuff. Previously, they managed well-known Swedish hotels Karlaby Kro and Tomarps Gårdshotel. They ran the former for eight years.
“And we could have easily just kept going with Karlaby for another eight years,” Sophie says. “We lived in Kristianstad and loved our life there.”
But Pär had long harbored a dream of living in the U.S., and was eager to get out. Though initially they hesitated, a really difficult last year made them change their minds.
“It was a really bad year in many respects,” Pär says. “I had a motorcycle accident, which lead to operations and so on. It made me realize that if you want to do something new, do it now. You never know how much time you have.”

The couple took the plunge and moved, with their three children, to East Hampton and a house close to the Maidstone.
“And now here we are,” says Sophie, “after a lot of paper work. It’s going to be a great adventure for our entire family. We have the will and we see the possibility of turning this into something new, but it will also be a challenge.”
Unlike many hotels in the Hamptons, the Maidstone is open year-round, and one challenge that presents itself is to lure New Yorkers (and others) out to the far end of Long Island in the winter, when restaurants and shops are closed and tourists have long since fled.
“There’s no set formula to make people come to you,” explains Sophie. “You just have to figure it out as you go along. Karlaby Kro, which is situated on Österlen, presented us with similar challenges.”
The Bonérs believe that package deals can be one way to entice customers in the off-season.
“In Karlaby we had a Cozy Friday package, which meant you could come straight from work on a Friday with your partner, get a massage in your hotel room, there would be snacks and candy and films to view, and in the morning you’d have brunch before checking out,” says Pär.
This sort of package deals isn’t as common in American hotels, so the process of getting them into the system has taken some time. Pär and Sophie would also like to work on the restaurant part of the hotel, fusing it into a single entity. The restaurant, which is called “The Living Room,” is praised for its great food, but the Bonérs want to make it even better.
“We don’t want the two to be viewed separately, but as a whole. And we really have to make sure the Swedish meatballs are really Swedish, not anything else,” Sophie says.
And Pär adds: 
“We are actually looking forward to the off season, so we can work on these changes and challenges.”

Cozy but different
What sets the Maidstone apart? From the outside, it looks just like any other little Hampton hotel: white with white-and-green striped awnings, nicely pruned lawn, inviting. Stepping inside you might think you entered Svenskt Tenn; there’s Joseph Frank from top to bottom, teamed with walls in turquoise and magenta, the c/o hotels flag colors.
What’s most special about the hotel itself is no doubt the 19 rooms, all of which are uniquely designed by Nadia Tolstoy. The rooms are named after famous Scandinavian personalities and designed to reflect something about that person. For instance, there’s the Karen Blixen Room, named after the Danish author with the same name (she often used her pseudonym Isak Dinesen), complete with zebra hides on the floor, African wall art and mosquito nets over the beds. The Carl von Linné Cottage (a freestanding affair), named after the famous Swedish botanist, is a lush room with old-school posters of plants, a marvelous sea green wallpaper and a clawfoot tub, easily making it the hotel’s most exquisite room. From here, it’s easy to step out and into the Buddha garden for a complimentary morning yoga pass. Or recline in the Swedish lawn furniture with a book. Or borrow one of the hotel’s fire engine red Kronan bikes, and explore the surroundings.
The Maidstone also boasts being green. The bathroom features the environmentally friendly brand Malin+Goetz and the organic linens come from Coyuchi. The walls are covered mainly with art photography. There are no plastic water bottles, but glass bottles filled with water from an on-site Natura water filtration system.

American with a Swedish twist
The Living Room offers an American menu with a Swedish twist, using the slow food process (meaning they make an effort to preserve traditional and regional cuisine, encouraging the farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem). Signature dishes include house-cured smoked salmon tarte flambé with crème fraîche and capers and Scandinavian classics like Toast Skagen.
It’s a cozy restaurant with an intimate feel. And everyone is welcome to dine here, and that does mean everyone—there’s a Woof Menu for dogs featuring Hot Diggity Dog (plain all beef hot dog, no bun, bite size pieces), Rover Easy (two scrambled eggs) and Mormor’s homemade biscuit plate. In East Hampton everybody owns a dog—the Bonérs themselves just bought a dog from the popular ARF shelter nearby—so the fact that dogs (and cats) are welcomed in the dining room makes the Living Room a popular choice. Dogs are also allowed to stay in some rooms.
“We want everybody to feel welcome here, no matter what race, gender or nationality,” says Pär. “Everyone should leave here feeling satisfied.”

For more info, see The Maidstone