BODIL BJERKVIK BLAIN
Inspired by Australia, the Norwegian interior designer turned her west London house into a vibrant, light-filled family home.
The Norwegian interior designer turned her house into a light-filled family home
When Bodil Bjerkvik Blain transformed her early Victorian semidetached house in west London, she drew on Australia for inspiration. Wanting to replicate the way Australians embrace natural light was integral to her plan for converting what had been four rundown, dingy flats into an upbeat family home with generous proportions and multi-angle views of the trees and greenery outside. ››
‹‹ The Norwegian-born former model and art graduate lovingly remembers the year she spent living in Sydney in the 1990s, modelling for the likes of Country Road, after following her then boyfriend from the US to Hunters Hill. “There’s a great synergy between Norway and Australia,” says Bjerkvik Blain, “and I’ve always made the best friends there.”
A decade or so later, now fully ensconced in London life as a budding interior designer who also juggles motherhood with running the ethical, organic coffee brand Cru Kafe (which she co-founded in 2013), that sunshine spirit lives on. “I call myself a modern Viking,” she laughs, “determined but with an enthusiasm and zest for life and fun.”
From the outside, there’s no hint of the Tardis-like proportions of the house she shares with her two young children. “My friends joke it’s like a pyramid,” Bjerkvik Blain says of its ‘normal’ proportions at the top (where the higher you go, the smaller and more intimate the spaces become). But down below lies a new 110-square-metre extension that runs the length of the house and all the way to the back of the garden — entirely underground.
Light floods in through floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights and the Crittall glazed glass light well, which extends all the way from the raised ground floor living room down to the lower ground kitchen and then opens out into a sunken garden below. “I wanted this house to be all about light, space and air,” she says.
Formerly married to the renowned art dealer Harry Blain, showcasing the contemporary art collection the couple had built up over many years was important, too — but without making it feel like she was living in an art gallery. “I like a house to feel lived in,” she says, “and modern art brings a deeper meaning and narrative to a space.” Some of the pieces are tranquil — the haunting seascapes by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto remind her of growing up by the sea in Norway’s coastal town of Molde — and some, such as the large murals and neon hearts, are just fun. Others, like the chandelier floating over the formal living room made from recycled reading glass lenses, bring a touch of lightness, humour and surprise. ››
“I like a house to feel lived in, and modern art brings a deeper meaning to a space”
‹‹ Working with architect Guy Stansfeld, Bjerkvik Blain started with the kitchen. “It’s where we all spend most of our time,” she says. Lime-washed oak cabinetry and backlit, glass-fronted shelving allow the eye a depth of field. “I wanted to avoid the cold, flat planes that usually come with banks of kitchen cupboards,” she says. Elsewhere, Bjerkvik Blain has happily mixed shabby-chic flea-market finds with serious art pieces (editions of the Jeroen Verhoeven for Demakersvan Cinderella table also sit in the V&A and MoMA permanent collections). The designer — who created a chair named after her for Made.com — believes everyday pieces like sofas need to be timeless “or they’ll just drive you crazy”, but opts for mixing different eras and styles together otherwise. “Every room needs at least two antique pieces to stop it looking like a hotel,” she declares.
With unexpected hits of colour, such as the deep burgundy framing the living room bar and the bright yellow in one of the family room nooks, the house feels bold and vibrant, but there’s softness, too. Bountiful, verdant indoor plants bring the outside in, and a warm, brassy glow comes from lighting built into cabinet door trims. Milky-glass wardrobe doors in the bedroom lend elegance and African fabric prints bring energy. A slim, sculptural staircase, designed by Stansfeld, undulates like a sleek, curling white ribbon, connecting every floor.
The house really comes into its own at ‘happy hour’. Not to be confused with evening cocktail time, this is what Bjerkvik Blain calls the massive play dates she loves to throw for both young and old. “Every day I make sure there’s time to play. The kids can run around, dance and have pillow fights, and I gather together all kinds of friends, just like I do my furniture,” she says. “There’s never any theme — just as long as they’re all interesting.”
Visit bodilbjerkvik.com; 318.studio
In interior designer Bodil Bjerkvik Blain’s west London house, vintage 1960s Danish bench; Fucking Beautiful neon artwork by Sue Webster andTim Noble. Details, last pages.
In the kitchen by Bjerkvik Blain and architect Guy Stansfeld, Paul Evans table; vintage Hans Wegner CH33T dining chairs;Poul Kjaeholm PK22 chairs for Republic of Fritz Hansen (in background); pendant lights by Bjerkvik Blain; vintage rug from Larusi; photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto.
RIGHT in the dining nook, Eero Saarinen Tulip table; vintage Hans Wegner CH33T dining chairs; painting by Keith Tyson. CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE Bodil Bjerkvik Blain beside Jeroen Verhoeven for Demakersvan Cinderella table; mural by Lawrence Weiner. In one of the living rooms, Roche Bobois sofa upholstered in African fabrics; bookshelves by Stansfeld. In the nook off the kitchen, daybed and foot stool by Bjerkvik Blain; Potence light by Jean Prouvé for Vitra; photograph by Adam Fuss. Details, last pages.