Cold Little Feet in Villa Benjamin, Tina Moi


Art director Tina Moi used to live with her husband Henning Thoresen, wine importer and brewery entrepreneur in Villa Benjamin. The house was drawn and planned by the modernist architect Arne Korsmo in 1935.

-To live in Villa Benjamin, certainly was quite an experience.

The light, the rooms and the detailing. To inhabit a space where everything had been meticulously thought through. The privilege of it becomes clearer and clearer with each new house I see, or stay in.

What I miss most when I think about Villa Benjamin, is the sense of space, and the connection to the trees outside. How shafts of light would cut through the treetops and bounce off the warm floorboards of our livingroom, floorboards with the patina of several lives lived since the house was erected. Small dents from stiletto heels and broken glass, from a Mac that crashed to the floor once. These memories. The staircase and the very step I stood on when I told Henning we were having a child. The sounds of the girls returning from school.

But, to live in Villa Benjamin was such an all-encompassing aesthetic experience that more often than not, I would sit and gaze out at the trees rather than work.

 What I miss the least was that slamming the front door was next to impossible without cracks appearing all through the façade of the house. That the house was in a bend of a heavily trafficked road where statistically one car every other year would veer off its course and end its journey halfway through the fence to our garden. That the little path leading past our house became a thoroughfare for surly old neighbours and sometimes even former lovers.

 Come to think of it, I don’t miss the bathroom either, with Korsmo’s electrical heating anno 1936, the 14 degrees celcius our living room would keep in the dead of winter, our own fault really because we never could understand how the radiators worked. As Henning said; “We’re not built for living in a house. We should live in a hotel.”

And so, I am very grateful for having had the chance to live in Villa Benjamin, even though I’m a little bit glad that I don’t live there anymore.

 - Tina Moi

ARNE KORSMO designed the villa for his close friend Louis Benjamin in 1935, taking inspiration from Le Corbusier. The house is an iconic reference in architectural circles with distinctive and personal solutions suited to the original owner. Korsmo did some of the work in collaboration with the visual artist Gunnar S. Gundersen, with glass paintings and a shelving section with bar/drinks cabinet.

Korsmo was possibly Norway's foremost functionalistic-architect and built about 50 detached houses. Several are considered main works of Norwegian functionalism, including Villa Dammann and Villa Stenersen which used to house the Norwegian prime-minister. Villa Benjamin is one of three similar houses situated in Slemdalsveien, which Korsmo drew next to each other.

WORDS: Tina Moi & The Chromarty
PHOTOS: The Chromarty