A Home is a Home. -Kling studio
-So listen, would you mind if I moved in for a few days? Just so that I can put my feet up and have a nap in front of the fire? Don’t worry about the kids making noise, or you guys having other guests. Don’t mind me, I won’t be any trouble at all…
If there was such a thing as a home-stalker, I could fit the profile. Or, well, perhaps only when it comes to Kaja Klingenberg’s house. There’s the worn Gervasoni sofa that seats at least 4 people, covered in soft washed linen and balanced by the kelim cushions, just sitting there in the middle of their living room, big, lush and inviting. I hear them call my name. On the table is a large bowl of seashells, conches, memories for the taking. A whole wall covered in custom shelving filled to the brim with books supplying the family with pictures to look at, histories to learn from and poetry to share. Close to the fireplace is a desk, so that even when one of the boys is gaming, he’s still included in the social landscape. On one wall hangs one of Olav Christopher Jensen’s monumental paintings whilst on another, the work of Alexander Westberg is propped up by books and slabs of concrete and flanked by two big old windows filtering the daylight and welcoming you home.
And this is only the sitting room.
I’d be fine just staying for tea by the way!
Or dine by your wonky old wooden kitchen table, which come to think of it is more like a mid century design dining table I guess. On each side hangs Tom Sandbergs iconic black and white photographs, their ephemeral beauty reminding us that everything one day turns to ashes and smoke, but every once in a while we get a glimpse of glory, as if we were floating weightless up there, amongst the clouds.
Kaja Klingenberg works as an interior architect in Kling Studio, founded by herself. She is educated at the Academy of Arts in Oslo, and works with different kinds of interior projects, both domestic and commercial, but is also a real home-maker, of ‘kos’ as they say in London these days.
The Chromarty knocked on Kaja’s door just before Christmas, the day after they’d had a big party at their house. Luckily, she opened the door and invited us in for a warming cup of tea. Anyways, our car was stuck in the driveway outside, covered as it was in ice whereas their old muddy and worn Land Rover from the 90’s was parked behind me, unable to escape.
Kaja lives with artist Alexander Westberg and their two boys. They live in a white washed brick house that I’d seen numerous times from my window seat on the city tram in Oslo. The house was drawn up by Henrik Nissen in 1920, and is of specific interest to those familiar with the artists and crowd surrounding Christian and Oda Krohg, the original Christiania Bohemians. The villa was commissioned by Alexandra Thaulow, herself an artist, the widow of artist Fritz Thaulow and Oda Krohg’s sister.
This is not one of those houses, where designers and architects feel the need to start all over again to make it their own, but rather move in with their boho-chic tails behind them. As the bones of the house were good they only did more or less ‘invisible’ improvements to it. Such as mending and laying a new roof, include two rather small but elegant bathrooms, build seamless wardrobes, shelves and custom beds for the boys. All improvements were made to look like the house was intended to look just so…
– It’s a lovely building. More than good enough. She smiles, and continues. –We just moved in. We had fallen in love with the house. I believe that it had been snapped up by a developer before we even had the chance to make an offer. Luckily for us and the existing neighbours, no planning permission was given, and the house went back onto the market. So, the garden is still here to enjoy come summer AND winter. And the house is now really our home.
Kaja is passionate about her work, and a bit of a perfectionist. Her careful planning, her elegance, chic, and simple soberness all adds up to a cool signature. You cannot fault her good taste even though it is seemingly casual, and laid back.
In our documentation of Kaja’s house, we have been so blunt as to ignore the interior architecture as a framework. Suffice it to say, it is simply there. Instead we opted to give space to the details, the decoration, the mess, the objects, the art, all the traces of life, the wonky lamp shade, the photo of Erle Kyllingmark not yet hung on the wall, and all that comes together in making the big O, the home. The Object of desire, Alex’ own artworks, their accumulated collection of contemporary, artisan arts and crafts, the books, the atmosphere, the memories, all that creates a warm and sheltered home for a family.
-In general, I believe art is something unique, someone’s personal expression made manifest on paper or in some other physical form, that we’re fortunate enough to be able to share. Whether it be a child’s drawing or something more advanced from a gallery, it is the specific personality unique to each work of art that excites us. Art either speaks to you, or it doesn’t, and here, at home, some of the works speak directly to me, whilst others are more obtuse, but by having them around, it feels like we’re among friends.
Even though a personal space is a sum of these elements, we shouldn’t forget how vital are the sight lines, the floor-plan and custom fitting to an interior architect. And yet, it is the essence of the house we’re most interested in, the little bits and pieces that we have picked up, looked at and focused on, it is the sum of these that make a portrait of a home. Their stuff and the light that shines on them, the stories told by the inherited furniture, the heirlooms brought back from Alex’ time in Africa, the soft furnishings and vintage goods, or artworks picked up from friends exhibitions and other collectibles. In sum, all these things that greets the family when they enter their house after a holiday away.
Overall, I like the feeling of returning home after a vacation, however relaxing it has been. I come back inspired by the places I’ve visited and people I’ve met and more often than not there’s an itch, to do a little tidying, to give room to new impressions; those in my head and the more concrete objects that we brought home. It can be something as simple as a subtle shell from a beach or a stone found on a mountainside.
At home they become mnemonic devices, like a familiar smell they remind us of a certain trip or moment we shared. They might seem cheezy to others, but for me, they keep the memories alive for a long time afterwards.
Kaja, with her newly established Kling Studio, has always had an active and engaged relationship with art. Her great grandmother even studied as a pupil of the above mentioned Christian Krohg, although the early twentieth century was not the time for her, a woman to be a working artist…born to soon, or simply not meant to be.. it was as we know, hard for women to be allowed in, or even allowed at the time to pick up the brush as anything more than a pastime activity. Kaja, her great granddaughter, uses both decorative and contemporary arts in her projects, whether it be a private home or a public space.
-From an interior architect’s point of view, I am of the opinion that art makes a space a better place to be, whether it be private or commercial. Personally I think it works best when pictures or objects are given room to live and breathe autonomously, not necessarily having to fit perfectly; often times it becomes a bit too tame, and illustrative. It is when we allow the specificity or quirkiness of an artwork to speak, that the rooms they inhabit become more exciting, and whether they blend in or stand in contrast to the space, they nevertheless create a dialogue with their surroundings.
WORDS & PHOTOS: The Chromarty