Visitors to Kristina and Mikael Pernfors’s home are always in for a treat—literally! The couple, both born and raised in Sweden, are sticklers about maintaining the custom of “fika,” the Swedish ritual of a coffee and cake break, much to the delight of their family and friends.
“Swedes love their sweets,” says Kristina, a certified interior design and image consultant, personal style influencer, and fitness instructor who participated in last year’s Dancing with Vero’s Stars.
“Fika is not just about having coffee and pastry,” she explains. “It’s about slowing down, sitting down, and having a connected conversation. It’s something we did growing up, and we’ve maintained it here, every day.”
While the Pernforses remained true to the Swedish tradition of fika, they deviated from minimalist Scandinavian sensibilities when it came to designing their home in The Antilles, a gated community off U.S. Highway 1. Rather than simply move into their newly built five-bedroom, four-bath D.R. Horton home in 2018, the couple undertook significant renovations to customize the 3,350 square-foot space for their family of four and French bulldog, Georgia.
“I think I was born with the ability to imagine the possibilities when I go into a space,” comments Kristina, who dishes out image and interior style tips on local and nationally syndicated television shows and assists clients through her design consultancy, Aesthetics & Style. “The house had good bones and we liked the layout and separation of space for our teenage kids.”
Yet some major tweaks were necessary, and Mikael, a former top-10 world-ranked tennis player who reached the men’s singles final at the 1986 French Open and won the 1993 Canadian Open, was all in. “We have fairly similar styles,” he says, adding that they both gravitate toward fun, bold colors and whimsical lighting that may be considered very “unSwedish.”
“We entertain a lot, and since people tend to collect in the kitchen, we knocked down walls to open up this entire area,” Kristina says of the kitchen, dining, living, and office spaces on the first floor. The nearly 12-by-6-foot quartz and butcher block island, illuminated by black and white brass-accented pendants, takes center stage and comfortably seats 10. Gray quartz countertops and beige, black, and white marble backsplash tiles add warmth to the clean lines of white IKEA cabinetry. “I love a good DIY project,” says Kristina, who stained the island’s butcher block center and painted the walls while Mikael assembled the cabinetry.
A modern Italian chandelier adds a touch of glam to the bold, eclectic artwork surrounding the dining area. Walls of built-in bookshelves, subtly lit with arrangements of pillar candles, accent the comfortable family room and Kristina’s open-concept office. A laundry room off the garage was transformed into a butler’s pantry and coffee station, while a first-floor bedroom was converted into a generously sized laundry/utility room with plenty of built-in storage.
At the top of a brightly wallpapered staircase to the second floor is Mikael’s office, which is adorned with photos and memorabilia from victorious matches against Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier, and other tennis greats. Mikael’s personal niche is complete with a work-station and racket-stringing equipment for the exhibition matches and corporate events in which he now plays after having retired from the professional tennis circuit in 1996.
The home’s upstairs also features a dedicated hangout area for the couple’s 19-year-old son, Figge, their 14-year-old daughter, Bella, and their assorted friends. One of the most distinctive and surprising customizations happens to be the smallest: a hall closet turned into a studio where Kristina and her dear friend Ingrid Hernandez record their weekly podcast, High Heels Happy Hour. “We can change around the background, so it looks a lot bigger when you see it on YouTube,” Kristina smiles proudly.
The Pernforses’ interior customization, coupled with the sizable lanai that incorporates a pool, spa, outdoor kitchen, and living area, suits their family’s active, multifaceted lifestyle perfectly. And now that it’s complete, it is understandable that they enjoy staying home and hosting friends and family, especially their many Swedish relatives.
I’ve never been a seasonal person,” says Mikael, who came to the United States in 1981 to attend college. After a brief stint at Seminole Community College in Sanford, Florida, he was recruited to the University of Georgia, where he was the first tennis player in two decades to win back-to-back NCAA singles titles. “I love the heat, and I love being outdoors. Here, you can go outside and do almost anything you want most of the time, whether it’s tennis, golf, the beach, or now pickleball.”
“I knew my tennis career wasn’t going to last forever,” he reflects, “so I’d like to do more locally with teaching and other projects.” One of those projects includes teaming up with fellow Vero Beach resident and former rival Ivan Lendl, who defeated him in the men’s singles final of the 1986 French Open. “I started hanging out with Lendl and playing pickleball with him, so now we’re looking to play some events together in the coming years.”
As for Kristina’s next project, she says, “I would love to develop the personal
styling business a little further,” adding that she’d like to reach more people remotely through her three-hour online digital course, Bring Your Style Bootcamp. “Personal and interior style are interrelated,” she points out. “We’re all objects of size, shape, and color, so many of the same rules apply. Usually, I’m asked to do something at a client’s house, and then it moves to the closet. It’s all about personal branding.”
“My design philosophy is, ‘It doesn’t have to cost a fortune,’” she says. “You can do things on a budget. Even if it’s a big-builder house, you can personalize it. Sometimes it’s hard for people to see what the possibilities are, especially when they only see the model home. I’ve helped people design other builder homes after they’ve seen ours.”
The Pernforses are the first to admit that theirs is not a typical Vero Beach residence. “It’s not blue and white, and there are no shells,” smiles Kristina. But, for them, it’s “Pernfors perfect”!