PURE AND SIMPLE
The secret to living in minimal style with four young children, say Maria and Claus, is to create heaps of storage, stick to natural materials and cut the clutter
Cool, calm, collected… And we’re not just talking about this home’s interior. That description can be applied to the owners, Maria and Claus Schei Mathisen, too. When the couple first viewed the house in 2012, it soon became clear that the foundations were good, but everything else, from the heating to the electrics to the plumbing, needed to be replaced. Many people would have done an immediate about turn, but the Schei Mathisens weren’t fazed. ‘We had been looking for a while – we needed more space as our family kept on growing,’ says Maria, now a mother of four. ‘When we saw this house, we knew it could be great – it just needed a loving hand.’
The couple were confident for a reason – Maria trained as an architect and was able, with input from Claus and her father, Norwegian architect Finn Haakonsen, to mastermind the extensive renovation. ‘The aim was to rediscover the house’s soul, yet add light and simplicity,’ she says. Over the next nine months, the building was painstakingly brought back to life. Two bathrooms and a toilet were added and the basement excavated to incorporate a guest room and playroom. The building was re-wired and re-plumbed and every wall, both inside and out, was stripped, re-plastered and re-painted. The carpets were removed and the original floors sandblasted and then soap treated or oiled. The finish is absolutely flawless and what gives the house its sense of quiet luxury.
When the family came to move, it was from a much smaller apartment in Copenhagen, and even after bringing all of their furniture, the new house still felt ‘kind of empty’. Knowing exactly what she wanted (honest, natural materials were in, anything plastic or over-engineered was out), Maria set about designing many of the pieces herself, working in conjunction with carpenter Torkild Scherl from Copenhagen’s Møbelsnedkeri joinery: ‘A few of the things I came up with while in the workshop,’ she says. ‘I find that the best way of finding the right dimensions and details is by having the raw materials between your hands.’
The resulting oak kitchen units, four-metre-long dining table, slatted benches and marble-topped coffee table turned out exactly as she hoped: ‘I wanted to design pieces that have a story, that are solid, simple, beautiful and will age well.’ Maria now sells these creations through her company, My Friday Furniture, which she runs from here. And although she has a few more items on her wish list (a console for the hall, a set of drawers for the dining room) the couple have been mindful of not overfilling the rooms. ‘We like having the space around our furniture and space to live. We are a large family, so it’s great not to feel cramped.’
Accentuating this sense of space is a modest, almost monastic colour palette. Expanses of pristine white wall are interrupted only by works of art that the couple have collected or inherited over a lifetime. Even the windows remain free from decoration. It makes for a wonderfully serene interior, but has also proven a surprisingly practical choice for a home with four children. ‘I stuck to subdued tones because it makes the spaces more flexible and easier to use without becoming messy,’ Maria explains. ‘When the kids and I get out the papers, scissors, glue, pencils and paints, it explodes everywhere. I love having projects that fill up a room for a few days, before tidying it all back up again – it makes the house feel alive.’
So now that her dream family home is complete, what advice would Maria give to anyone thinking about taking on a similar project? ‘Don’t rush it, don’t accept shortcuts but do obsess over every detail,’ she says. ‘Walk through the house many times before you start the renovation. And try to stay true to its spirit – go into each room and ask yourself, “What feeling do I get from this space?”. Oh, and make sure you plan enough storage. And when you think you have enough, add some more.’ Wise words, from a lady that knows.
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