Resident Peter Østergaard (with Maja, 6, and Carl, 20 months) and architect and photographer Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen have been best friends since they were 13, which makes for easy collaboration. Says Bjerre-Poulsen: “There are always a lot of challenges in a renovation, but Peter and Åsa trusted my judgment and gave me a completely free hand. Usually it’s hard to push people into unconventional solutions, but Peter has all these wild and crazy ideas.” One such idea was to embed a transparent glass-and-iron door in the floor, operated by a hydraulic pump, which allows access to the subterranean wine cellar. At night, the lit-up cellar glows, lending the compact living room an increased sense of verticality.
Their dining room and sitting area used to be an uninsulated greenhouse; now it’s a light-filled space where the family gathers for meals at a weathered table and Åsa curls up on two custom daybeds, designed by Bjerre-Poulsen, to read and look at the garden.
When Bjerre-Poulsen first saw the house, “I instantly saw all the interesting possibilities,” he says. “As an architect you see not what it is but what it could be.” Among those possibilities: transforming an adjacent storehouse into a guest room, connected to the original house via the renovated dining room and sitting area.
Maja demonstrates another use for the guest bed: a trampoline. Behind her is a wall of storage, an essential attribute in the 1,260-square-foot house. Extreme editing of material possessions also helps.
To maintain a uniform look in the kitchen, Bjerre-Poulsen secreted most of the appliances, including the fridge, behind white Kvik cabinets. He installed can lights with brass-colored interiors on the ceiling; the halogen bulbs reflect the golden interior, giving off a warm glow. Every light in the house is an overbright fixture on a dimmer, for maximum flexibility—if you can adjust different levels for every situation, from working to entertaining, then you don’t need to rely on secondary floor or table lights, Bjerre-Poulsen points out.
The home’s previous owner’s father was one of the first wine importers to Denmark, and the cellar still contains some of his bottles, first placed there 40 years ago and now dusty, with obscured labels and decaying corks. The couple opens one once in a while—"they’re usually very bad, but sometimes very good," says Østergaard.
The stepping stone, like the skylight, was inspired by zen architecture. “In most traditional wooden houses and temples in Japan, the house is lifted above the garden, and the transition is always marked by a sculptural stepping stone,” says Bjerre-Poulsen. “We used the same principle between the old house and the addition.”
A central challenge of the renovation was to integrate lighting into the architecture in such a way that “even if the space had no furniture, you could turn on the lights and instantly get a cozy atmosphere,” says Bjerre-Poulsen. After Europe banned incandescents in 2009 Bjerre-Poulsen turned to halogen fixtures, which are more energy-efficient and give off a similar quality of light. (He won’t use LEDs until their ability to render color is further developed, he says.) In Østergaard and Olofsson’s kitchen, he embedded a halogen strip in the underside of the wooden shelf over the countertop to direct light onto the work surface.