The guest-friendly hotel in Arvika

A structural engineer, a designer and a desire for another life. This is what is required in order to start a successful guesthouse and hotel in the forests of Värmland.

Ten years ago Brenda Oudendijk and Michel Muys decided together with their two children to completely transform their lives. They were looking for freedom and nature and a different life. From their terraced house and jobs as a structural engineer and a graphic designer in Amersterdam, their journey took them to Jössefors, just outside of Arvika. The old primary school was for sale.

“We had travelled around the region a bit. This was the perfect place. Not too long north and in the vicinity of water and nature. And we like it so very much better here. We feel good”, says Michel.

From hovel to castle

Michel and Brenda purchased that large school building. For two years they devoted all their waking hours to its renovation. By 2008 ten room were complete, a restaurant kitchen, a conference department in the attic and a large dining room. An enormous job which the family carried out themselves. Michel shows us around the building and explains what was previously in the now fresh and completely renovated rooms, all with en-suite bathrooms. Dining room, classroom, cloakroom.  Up the creaking stairs that have been preserved to the attic where the classrooms for needlecraft and woodwork were located.

“Our guests come from all over the world, but mainly from Europe. They often stay a couple of nights and discover the countryside. We rent out mountain bikes, city bikes,canoes and organise geocaching. When the family is to travel further, the children often remain. That's probably the best rating you can get, Brenda says, laughing.

Listen to the guests

The projects never really seem to end. Nor our strength, for that matter. Michel shows us the recently renovated basement. From unutilised space to a relaxation section with a sauna and showers. Brenda and Michel always listen to their guests and add activities and spaces that are in demand. If the guests want a sauna, then they will build a sauna.

“Our guests may not know us personally, but we really want them to feel at home here. Like coming home to the family. If we aren’t in reception or the kitchen, just come and knock on our door!”, says Michel and points towards the old teacher’s residence next to the school building and which is the family home.

As home

And it’s familiar. Easy-going, simple and homely. Brenda cooks good food in the kitchen and Michel serves and chats with the guests during dinner in the evenings.

There is a group of Norwegian ladies sitting at a table who are making plans for their visit to the Rackstad Museum (Rackstadmuseem) tomorrow and at another table the young Dutch couple who are unobtrusively holding hands between plates of home-cooked food. The rain patters against the window panes and beautiful soul music is being played in the background. A clatter can be heard in the kitchen and when the almost grown up children roll in the laughter and chatter of the family can be heard. Just like at home, but away.

Guest House Eleven in Arvika
Photo credit: Guest House Eleven in Arvika
Guest House Eleven in Arvika
Activities all year around
Photo credit: Activities all year around
Activities all year around
Easy-going, simple and homely in Arvika
Photo credit: Easy-going, simple and homely in Arvika
Easy-going, simple and homely in Arvika