In­spired by Aus­tralia, the Nor­we­gian in­te­rior de­signer turned her west Lon­don house into a vi­brant, light-filled fam­ily home.

VOGUE Living Australia - - Contents - By Fiona McCarthy Pho­tographed by Kate Martin

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 — 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 bod­il­b­; 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.

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