In a Remote Norwegian Forest, a Family Home Sprouts Inside a Luminous Greenhouse

An architect and ardent locavore designs a residence with a glass shell that allows her to garden all year round.

At the end of a long road that winds through a dense spruce forest, just north of the small town of Kongsberg, Norway, sits an enormous greenhouse by a stream. Inside, an abundance of fruit trees—figs, grapes, citrus, cherries, and plums—and vegetables of all sorts grow, at odds with the surrounding snowy landscape. Alongside this vegetation sprouts something even more unusual: the family home of architect Margit-Kristine Solibakke Klev, her husband, physicist Arnstein Norheim, and their two young children.

The home of architect Margit-Kristine Solibakke Klev and her husband, Arnstein Norheim, is built inside an enormous greenhouse. 

The furnishings set amid the planting beds—including the Winnipeg armchairs and Royal pendant, all from Jotex—further blur the boundaries between interior and exterior. "I chose the light fixture because it’s simple and elegant, and, of course, I wanted something really big in the greenhouse space," says Margit. The Claystone floors are by ClayLime.

"The pink color scheme was something that Dagny and I started the design process with," says Margit. "We wanted a warm, natural color, so we decided to use pink Claystone on the floor. The other pink colors followed. It also makes a wonderful contrast to all the green leaves in summer." The glass pendants are from Jotex.

"I’ve always been fascinated by greenhouses," says Margit, who grew up on her family’s nearby farm and spent her childhood gardening and cooking with her grandmother. "My main hobby is to grow and cook my own food." In 2005, while studying architecture in Trondheim, she inherited a small plot of forested land on the farm but was unsure of what to do with the site. Then, a decade later, she came across Uppgrenna Naturhus, an events space in Sweden based on the concept of enclosing a building inside a greenhouse.

The home is clad in red-painted Norwegian pine, echoing the red-flecked trunks of the surrounding spruce forest. "We wanted to reference a traditional red barn in a modern way and pull it forward into our time and give it a complexity," says color consultant Dagny Thurmann-Moe. The pictured faucet is by Vola and the sink is from Duravit.

The couple decided they would build their own naturhus, effectively creating an "in-between" space around their home that would act as a barrier against the harsh Norwegian climate and allow Margit to pursue her love of gardening year round. Inside the 38-foot-tall, nearly 4,000-square-foot glass greenhouse—a standard model from Danish company Drivadan—the couple has built a large family home inspired by Norway’s traditional red-painted barns.

The dining table is vintage, and the pendants are from IKEA. 

Even on a video tour—necessitated by the coronavirus—stepping into the home feels like entering another world, but one still very connected to its surroundings. The house is built against the rear of the greenhouse, which allows every room to have windows that open to the fresh air, and the rushing sounds of a nearby waterfall can be heard throughout. The greenhouse itself has openings on three sides that permit cross ventilation in summer, and its mechanized roof panes automatically open when the temperature outside gets above 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

"During summer there is so much greenery, and it grows and changes every day. It’s very different in the autumn and winter—even the acoustics are different," notes Margit. The pink sofa in the gathering space is from Sofacompany.

In keeping with Margit’s love of cooking, the ground-floor kitchen/dining area is the largest room in the home, and the family uses it as the main living space. It opens into the greenhouse via a folding glass wall, which is left open when the weather is nice to create one enormous room, and the dusty pink clay-plaster floor seamlessly extends throughout the space. "There is no limit between inside and outside, and you don’t have the boundaries of the Norwegian climate," says Margit.

The two-story library wall that rises next to the dining area is one of the defining features of the interior. The shelves are made from glulam beams and contain storage along the base that the couple’s three-year-old daughter, Velaug, uses for toys.

The main kitchen, where Margit, left, is working with her niece Sarah, has a bright blue island that offers a striking contrast to the warm-toned wood and pink floors. "We wanted a color that would transform it into an object that really stands out in the room," says Thurmann-Moe. "It’s almost like a sapphire." The countertops are from Stala.

Two small bedrooms, a large family bathroom, and an office are also on the first floor, while the couple’s suite, another bedroom, and a second living room are above. The home is crowned with an expansive terrace beneath the greenhouse roof. Featuring a second kitchen and dining area, the terrace is used for entertaining—or will be again soon—and the couple eventually plan to add beds, so they can fall asleep watching the night sky.

The bathroom features wallpaper from Etsy retailer AwallonDesign. The faucet is by Grohe and the tile is from Winckelmans.

The greenhouse space surrounding the house is a hybrid living room and garden. Upholstered seating in the same pink tones as the floor is scattered among potted plants and garden beds, while a huge ring-shaped pendant hangs above a small dining table. There’s a clay-plaster counter for washing and prepping vegetables, and, in a pleasing play on scale and repetition, a smaller greenhouse inside the larger one that Margit uses to shelter young citrus saplings during the winter.

"Wallpaper is unusual in Scandinavian architecture, but we wanted to incorporate it to create an elegant, relaxing atmosphere that was a little bit fun," says Thurmann-Moe.

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While the couple had renovated several apartments and a home in Oslo, Margit had never undertaken a personal project of this size. "I wanted to use more color but didn’t know where to start," she says. "As an architect, I do white walls and timber floors. It’s very nice but also very safe." So she approached color consult- ant Dagny Thurmann-Moe, creative director at Koi Colour Studio, who agreed to collaborate.

The primary bedroom includes an IKEA wardrobe "hacked" with doors from Noremax in a custom orange color.

A neon green faucet by Grohe pops against the colored cabinets and Zellige tiles from Souk.

"Margit and her husband have a playfulness to them that I wanted to investigate," says Thurmann-Moe. "It was also important that there were spaces for different kinds of moods—we wanted the home to feel like it was a different universe."

Nine-year-old Herborg’s ensuite bathroom (previously pictured) matches her bedroom, which is painted almost entirely in Cooking Apple Green by Farrow & Ball. The color was selected by Thurmann-Moe to complement the floral wallpaper—Secret Garden by Cole & Son—which was chosen by Herborg herself. "She is so at one with her room, and it’s so obvious that she is in her own space," says Thurmann-Moe.

The rooftop terrace is covered by the greenhouse roof and features a long dining table surrounded by secondhand chairs from a community center and a pink kitchen used for preparing food when entertaining. The couple hope to add cooking facilities in the future. "It’s a great place for parties," says Margit. "I haven’t grown anything up here yet, but I’ll start this spring."

Simple rooms were transformed into vibrant spaces through color and patterned wallpaper—blooming vines and apple green in one of the children’s rooms, tropical jungle palms against blue skies in a bathroom. The team was also keen on elevating humble materials. The bathroom fixtures and much of the furniture, for example, are from IKEA, and the towering, two-story library wall is crafted from standard glulam beams.

"Most people think that if you want a special home you need to buy really exclusive materials," says Margit. "But," adds Thurmann-Moe, "you can use common materials to get a spectacular end result." The greenhouse certainly hits the mark.

Greenhouse Home floor plan

Project Credits:

Architecture: Margit-Kristine Solibakke Klev (margit@nilstveit.no) 

Interior Design: KOI Color Studio  

Glass Construction: Drivadan 

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