Sunday, 21 November 2010
Three Chords and the Truth
Photos and words by Elisabeth Aarhus
This phrase, coined as it was by a country musician, and later appropriated by the punk-scene is anything but the equivalent of simplicity as many take it to mean. On the contrary, it requires hard work, the ability to improvise, historical knowledge, and a whole bunch of will-power. It just looks and sounds simple. -Like a good architect’s work.
If this was a piece of music, it wouldn’t have been recorded in a dingy basement. Our first impression is actually that this place is quite polished/refined. That is, refined in the same way a Nick Cave and the bad seeds record is, where dark, somber tones and a deep bassy voice floods a tight, industrial soundscape.
But this isn’t music. This is a summer-cabin. And at first glance one could almost mistake this place for any old summerhouse or basic cottage in Norway, built some time in the late sixties. But that’s at first glance. On closer inspection, when we notice that the plywood walls hve been lacquered and contrasts with the gritty, ‘real’ nature outside, and surfaces spray-painted black are cut through by welded....... and off-green kitchen fronts and floors, it’s plain to see that everything here is grounded in two artists applying their trade. Walking from cabin to cabin between the rock-formations, and from room to room,- it dawns on us that what the owners have created here isn’t just an updated version of the “summer-cabin”, but an alternate cabin-universe alltogether.
The couple, who both work for prestigious Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta as architetect and interior architect, live a typical urban life with visits to coffeeshops right around the corner, continually changing hair-colour, and a sweet-spot for the king himself, Elvis Presley whose image adorns their livingroom at home (this however is a different feature-article alltogether..)
The fact that they’ve decided to build a simple cabin then, out in the boondocks, an hours drive from the capital, could seem off to some. Heidi explains -In the summer of 2008 we were invited to our friends cabin, down south in Norway. We had a fortnight of stunning weather, warm evenings where the sun never seemed to set...and our two girls even learned to swim. We realised then and there that the summers both Andreas and I remembered from our own childhood, summers like the one just mentioned, was something we wanted to be able to give our children as well.
And so it went. Their brief was as follows:
-sober cabin for two adults and three children, with space enough for company
-the cabin has to sit well in the surrounding areas, and create useful outdoor spaces
-the cabin has to be made to fit the specific terrain of the property
A couple of important things came into play when making such a hasty decision as to the location of their summerhouse. For one, Heidi has spent most of her childhood summers in her grandfathers cabin, only a few hundred metres from where this place now is. Secondly, this area is one of the few relatively cheap places still available anywhere along the coast. Lastly, as an added bonus, it takes only about an hour door to door from the city of Oslo and out here. Not such a bad idea when there are three wee ones in the back-seat!
According to the couple, the final product is often best if every little detail isn’t necessarily drawn out beforehand, but seen as a collaboration between the designers and the workhands, allowing problems to be solved as they come up. This is probably the reason why they haven’t had to make any concessions as to the finished product- they were able to have their cake and eat it too.
There is no doubt that this collaboration has been thoroughly succesful. And, without any ironic undertones, they both agree that the best thing about this kind of summer-living is being outdoors, wandering around barefoot. To the question of what they’re most happy about, its the way the structures fit snugly into the terrain which in and of itself was quite a challenge. In addition, it makes no difference whether it is just the two of them there or ten guests, it works in any case. There are two buildings on the property, one making up the main house which sits where the original cabin once was, and the other, consisting of three bedrooms, sleeps nine tired vacationers..
As an afterthought, the only thing they would have changed if they could, is their proximity to the ocean..
Given their occupations, it goes without saying that they’ve put in more than a few hours on this project themselves. - We’ve drawn up everything down to the steel bedposts, sofa and all the built-in furniture. We’ve been on the phone with the contractor every day, and put in personal appearances every weekend. In order to make the work run just a bit more smoothly, we’ve cleared the property of scrap every weekend. Heidi’s father, more than willing to lend a helping hand driving supplies to and from the property, has been of great help. And now, they’ve filled the property up with gravel and soil in order to plant grass, and make room for flowerbeds and sitting areas.
Slightly embarrassed, but in earnest, we ask what a typical day looks like here?
-The sun comes up and heats up the concrete patio; enter us, coffee-cups in hand and croissants on a plate. Then the kids can continue working on their treehouse, go for a swim, and finally start nagging us about going for a boat-ride (which involves stopping at the local kiosk which serves two huge scoops of ice-cream). Then, more swimming, another boat-ride in our little 15 foot boat, spray-painted in the colours of a volvo-truck. We do our shopping, dinners consisting either of barbeque or wok, prepare and eat it outside, and hopefully add to it some goodies picked around the property!
If the weather allows, we have an evening swim, and when the kids crash around sunset, we put on an extra sweater, bring a bottle of Chablis, and take our seats on the white bench above the cabin and enjoy the view for a while. Heidi laughs.
_So.., what to do on a rainy day?
Heidi quickly replies,
-read books or play yatzee....the sun will shine tomorrow!
So what else can you do, after a visit to this unpretentious, simple yet incredibly generous summerhouse, but to conclude ....”come on admit it babe, it’s a wonderful life, if you can find it”. As Nick Cave leads us down a twisting path-.....