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.
"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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Shop the Look
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.
"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."
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.
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