Light-Filled Family Home Renovation in Copenhagen

written by:
photos by:
March 8, 2012
Originally published in Light & Energy
as
Hygge House

In a former fishermen’s cottage outside Copenhagen, a young family has carved out a cozy, light-filled home.

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  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.

    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.

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  Olofsson and Østergaard have personalized their home with quirky finds from flea markets and mementos from their travels.

    Olofsson and Østergaard have personalized their home with quirky finds from flea markets and mementos from their travels.

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  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.

    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.

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  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.

    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.

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  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.

    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.

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  As Østergaard says, “With a small house, you really consider everything you own. You don’t have 20 pots and pans, you have only four good ones.”

    As Østergaard says, “With a small house, you really consider everything you own. You don’t have 20 pots and pans, you have only four good ones.”

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  Items that made the cut include a sofa from the Swedish company Ire; an Eames side table; a wall-mounted Artemide light; and a Moser pendant from Louis Poulsen.

    Items that made the cut include a sofa from the Swedish company Ire; an Eames side table; a wall-mounted Artemide light; and a Moser pendant from Louis Poulsen.

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  The snug attic contains the couple’s platform bed, custom designed by Bjerre-Poulsen to maximize storage and fit the unusual space.

    The snug attic contains the couple’s platform bed, custom designed by Bjerre-Poulsen to maximize storage and fit the unusual space.

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  A small bed for Maja is tucked under the eaves on the other side of the photo wall.

    A small bed for Maja is tucked under the eaves on the other side of the photo wall.

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  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.

    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.

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  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 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.

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  The skylight over the home’s entrance “helps simulate a feeling of grandeur and creates an airy and welcoming atmosphere,” says Bjerre-Poulsen.

    The skylight over the home’s entrance “helps simulate a feeling of grandeur and creates an airy and welcoming atmosphere,” says Bjerre-Poulsen.

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  Another view of the entrance area.

    Another view of the entrance area.

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  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.”

    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.”

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  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.

    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.

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  Here's the weathered wooden dining table where the family gathers for meals and conversation.

    Here's the weathered wooden dining table where the family gathers for meals and conversation.

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  Maja and Asa hang out in the guestroom, which also doubles as storage space with an entire wall of closets along one end.

    Maja and Asa hang out in the guestroom, which also doubles as storage space with an entire wall of closets along one end.

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  Maja's room is filled with toys and includes a little desk area for drawing and writing.

    Maja's room is filled with toys and includes a little desk area for drawing and writing.

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  French doors in the living room let light into the kitchen and open onto a lovely garden.

    French doors in the living room let light into the kitchen and open onto a lovely garden.

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  Another view of the kitchen. What looks like drawers are not all drawers—some are false cabinet fronts that conceal appliances.

    Another view of the kitchen. What looks like drawers are not all drawers—some are false cabinet fronts that conceal appliances.

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  The sculptural staircase is a centerpiece of the open-plan kitchen and living room.

    The sculptural staircase is a centerpiece of the open-plan kitchen and living room.

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  The family gathers around the staircase for a family portrait.

    The family gathers around the staircase for a family portrait.

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