Living for the city
Designer Tone Kroken used pared-back furnishings, well-travelled finds and serene shades to bring an air of rural calm to her Oslo apartment
tone kroken’s dreamy oslo apartment blends pastel hues and textured surfaces
We’ve all read about those stressed-out urbanites who quit the city, forsaking flat whites
and 24/7 sushi for the open vistas and star-scattered, velvety nights of country living. But Tone Kroken, an interior architect and designer, flipped the familiar on its head when she decided to sell her farmhouse, with its picture-window views of waves and fields on the Norwegian island of Brønnøya, to move to an apartment in the heart of Oslo.
There were practical reasons behind her decision. Her two children had moved out to go to art school and Tone, recently divorced, craved some urban sociability. So, in pursuit of the ‘best of both rural and city living,’ it was, she says, ‘love in an instant,’ when she found her apartment in a handsome turn-ofthe-century building in Oslo. The views of the nearby park and church, the faint tang of ocean air (the sea is five minutes away) appealed to Tone, who had spent 20 years on her island with pigs and chickens and no cars, where her children would crosscountry ski to school in the winter. ‘As soon I saw this place, I told the owner “this is mine.” It has it all. I can walk to the sea, there are great restaurants on my doorstep; it’s urban without feeling built up,’ says Tone.
The scale of the apartment, where ceilings soar to three metres high, adds to the sense of privacy. Spanning 170sq m, the space was also large enough to turn into two separate flats, one for Tone and one for her two children. The rest of the apartment, however, was less appealing. ‘The decoration looked terrible,’ she says, laughing. ‘Every room was a different, awful colour: blue, yellow, red. It was all very Seventies.’
A business-school graduate, Tone spent 10 years working as a project manager before she changed tack and found her calling as an interior designer. The shift from corporate life to creativity was easy. ‘Before we moved to the island we lived in a house that I designed and built from scratch myself – design has always come very naturally to me,’ she says. Her work now takes her across the world, with recent projects including P’tit Habibi, a chic riad hotel in Marrakech. In Sweden, she collaborates with leading architect Johan Israelson. ‘His architectural style is eco-friendly, minimalist; my role is to fill the interiors with pieces that make the houses feel like homes, that’s what I really love about my job,’ explains Tone.
Her own style feels similarly instinctive. ‘It’s so important for me to not have any rules,’ she says.
Starting from scratch, she remodelled her flat so that there is now a spare bedroom and bathroom for friends. The kitchen – once a living room – was decided in an instant. ‘It’s the heart of my home so I chose the room with the best view,’ says Tone. ‘It’s where I spend the most time, being with friends, cooking.’ The six-metrelong island is by Bulthaup. ‘I had one in my last home and after 18 years, it still looked modern. So the day after I found this flat, I went to the showroom and, luckily, this one was for sale, so I bought it,’ explains Tone. To make the space feel less functional and more social, she added the antique daybed for ‘reading the newspapers, having a morning coffee or chatting to friends’.
In contrast, she chose to set the living room in the smallest room. This is where you find Tone’s favourite, slouchy Gervasoni sofa flanked by the shelves she designed as a backdrop for objects and books. ‘When I was a child, I lived in the library and since then, I’ve never stopped collecting books, but I like to mix them up with sculptures and unusual finds to bring depth to a room,’ she says. Like most of the flat, the walls and floors are painted in white as a backdrop for her collection of artwork, including a tranquil landscape by Christopher Rådlund, which brings a gust of forest air to the urban setting. ‘A home without art feels lifeless,’ she muses.
For Tone, design has always been ‘about the mix’. Not just that old-and-new pairing, but confident juxtapositions – the antique gilded console below a modern, overscaled mirror, or a plant pot swathed in paper ‘to soften its size’ – which give this home its laid-back individuality. The antique lanterns, muted rugs and sculptures peppered around the apartment travelled back in suitcases from far-flung places and still have a life of their own. ‘I move everything – cushions, ceramics – around the apartment, small changes can give a room a different feel,’ explains Tone. She has a fluid approach to colour, using contrasting tones to evoke different moods. From the Nordic cool of the living room, you step in to the warmth of the bedroom, where swirly aubergine walls are as cocooning as a quiet country night. Through the bedroom window the view is of a dense canopy of treetops. ‘When I look out, all I see is green, it feels totally private, a bit like living in the country again.’
Find out more about Tone’s work at lazydays.no and on Instagram @tonekrok and @lazydays.no
‘Being a designer came very easily to me. It’s instinctive – ideas just flow. I think that if you are too organised it can stifle your creativity’