I love reading blogs and have a few favorites that I frequent on a daily basis. Design Mom tops the list as there are always great links, thought provoking posts and my personal favorite: a feature called “Living With Kids.” Readers submit photos of their homes alongside a virtual interview by Design Mom herself; Gabrielle. I’m nosy by nature so getting to peek inside someone’s abode while learning about the reasons behind their decoration choices is pretty much the best, in my opinion. The styles and locations of the homes vary greatly so there’s always something new to discover.
While I was home visiting my parents, I thought it would be fun to document their house a la the Design Mom blog. My parents still live in my childhood home and over the past 30 years, have certainly made their mark on the place. I used to joke that I grew up in a museum and when you see the photos, I think you’ll agree that description is pretty accurate. All their design choices are very deliberate and for the most part, are either handmade or stem from the motherland. I actually think their place may be more Norwegian than Norway itself.
So without further ado, on to the grand tour!
Despite working full time and being in their 60’s, Mormor and PopPop (as Lena calls them) log a few hours a day tending to their beautiful yard. The hard work has definitely paid off as they have some of the most manicured landscaping in the entire neighborhood. One of the days we were visiting, we were even treated to a deer sighting as it took a leisurely walk through the grass and into the neighboring properties. The parental units are so detailed oriented, in fact, that even their tool shed has been decked out to match the house as well as the Scandinavian details echoed throughout the inside of their home.
As soon as you walk through the front door, you see this hand carved bench made by my Grandpa Robert and painted by my dad. The hardwood floors were installed while I was in high school though certainly not out of necessity. My mom is such a diligent housekeeper that she had managed to keep cream colored carpets stain free and looking like new for TWENTY YEARS. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Martha Stewart has nothing on my mom. The wooden couches have been appearing in family photos since my toddler days yet still look like new. All the hand painted furniture was done by my dad in his free time (read: when he wasn’t managing his own chiropractic clinic, going to art school, or spending time with his family). Everywhere you look, there are small details just waiting to be discovered from little trolls hanging down the clock to vintage wooden containers found at thrift stores and antique shops.
The living room and dining room share an open space and here is where you might notice that my mom has an addiction to dishware. Every holiday or special occasion is celebrated with her blue and white Porsgrund pieces lovingly collected over many years. For the record, Mama, I call dibs on this in my inheritance package ;) There is no shortage of Iittala glass, copper teapots and pewter flower vases. And that’s just what’s on display. The treasures behind the rosemaled doors are endless. During my childhood, the dining room table was usually covered in violins, bows and Suzuki books as the sounds of Norwegian fiddle music floated through the air.
From the entryway, you’re greeted by your reflection and a rooster perched atop the pantry as you make your way into the kitchen. Lena is constantly narrating her day so we had a great time saying hello to the various animals adorning the walls while staying with the grandparents. Rather than seeing a sometimes moody teenager like I used to, I noticed hints of my mom when I looked in that faithful old mirror. The kitchen appliances, backsplash and countertops have all been updated since I was a legal resident of the household but the kitchen table where I spent many hours doing homework is still in it’s place. I remember staring out the window dreaming about the day I’d leave and now I wait patiently to spot hummingbirds at the feeder much to the delight of my animal-loving toddler. Not ones to let a surface go unstyled, my parents have utilized all the space on top of their cabinets as well. The wooden candle holders are another PopPop creation; hand cut and painted by him to showcase the traditional Norwegian costume worn by his side of the family.
Turning around, you’ll find the staircase where my brother tried to push me to my death at one point. We managed to break several of the closet doors in the house from our regular wrestling matches though the doors have long since been replaced. My parent’s room is probably the least decorated of the whole house yet is the most tranquil. Minimal decor with white on white bedding. My mom was gracious enough to let Lena and I sleep here during our visit home and I really wish there was some way I could have packed the entire bed set into my suitcase. The master bath has a skylight which provides beautiful natural light during the day. As a kid, I always imagined someone was peeking in on me taking a shower and would sometimes leave all the lights off so they couldn’t see me.
My old bedroom has been converted to a guest room and when we arrived, my mom had set up my old American Girl doll (it was Kirsten, of course, because she’s Swedish) for Lena to play with. You can just make her out in the corner wearing a hand knit sweater by my Grandma Eva and sitting in a bed carved by my Grandpa Robert. For one birthday, my mom had even made some custom clothing for her complete with tiny buttons and lace all of which she had washed and pressed in anticipation of our arrival. On the dresser is my mom’s very first doll which was purchased in Norway. My grandma traveled back to see her family with my my mom, her twin and their older sister in tow – all by herself. Grandma Eva was also cloth diapering at the time and would have traveled for over 24 hours just to get home. It made my solo trip with Lena while pregnant look like a walk in the park. Though it is somewhat fun to think that I’m following in my grandma’s footsteps from the opposite direction – living in Europe and traveling home with my kiddos to meet their family. Inside the cabinet are more family treasures and staples of my childhood. Aside from carving beautiful furniture, my grandpa also loved creating characters out of wood – you can see everything from trolls to farmers and I used to love watching him create these pieces in his woodshop as a kid.
My brother’s room has now become part office, part guest room and definitely has the coolest bed in the house. My dad created this Viking ship bed for him when he was little and I was insanely jealous of it though I never would have admitted it to him. I was a really, really weird kid at times and used to put my boogers in the dragon’s nose. Sorry Stein. Jealousy is an ugly beast. This room boasts the second out of three grandfather clocks my mom has at her house and I’m looking forward to the day when I get to display one of them in my house. My grandpa made one clock for each of his eight grandkids though all our moms seem to be hoarding them from us. I somehow lucked out with artists on both sides of the family as evidenced by this intricate cross stitch made by my paternal grandma, Beatrice. It was a birthday gift for my dad and I can’t even begin to imagine how many hours it took her to complete it. She was an amazing artist and if you were lucky enough to get your hands on a piece of her art, you would be hard pressed to tell which side of the cross stitch was the front. She definitely passed that meticulous eye for detail down to my dad.
Down the stairs and past the kitchen is the last main room of the house which we always called the rec room. This used to be where we’d watch TV and play as kids. There were many slumber parties, wrestling matches and even an incident involving an attempted fart lighting which resulted in a burnt pair of pants that happened in this room. It’s now a small sitting area and my mom’s weaving studio. We grew up playing under this loom and helping my mom thread the warp. Lena played on it a bit and maybe as she gets older, she will want to learn to work the loom like Mormor.
Out the back door is the “hytte” or Olaf’s house, as Lena has affectionately named it. My parents are pretty smart and figured out that if they stayed under a certain square footage, it wouldn’t require the permits needed for a full-blown structure. They wouldn’t be able to run electricity to it but they could run an underground extension cord from the house in order to plug in a CD player and electric stove. The exterior looks like a mini version of the main house with beautiful landscaping and details all around. Inside, there are bunk beds, a rocking chair and a small table for enjoying coffee or hosting a tea party with scones and clotted cream (specially made for a certain granddaughter visiting from England). As usual, my parents went above and beyond in decorating the interior and here you’ll find the third of three grandfather clocks, as I mentioned. It smells like Christmas in the hytte year round thanks to the pine covered interior. I foresee some special nights in here as the grandkids grow up and enjoy their very own playhouse at Mormor and PopPop’s place. And if you look closely, you’ll see one of the only American decorations in this entire collection – the snowman by the door. My parents were part of a home tour at Christmastime so all their rooms were dressed to the nines with holiday decor. My dad found this snowman at a local thrift store and they dressed him in my little brother’s old Norwegian hat and sweater. Knowing Lena’s love and affection for the movie Frozen, my mom thought she might enjoy pretending it was her very own Olaf. She guessed correctly and I imagine Lena will forever associate this snowy friend with her grandparent’s house.
So there you have it! A little peek into my childhood home which perhaps provides some insight as to why I identify so much with my Norwegian heritage. While I was embarrassed from time to time in my childhood by our diehard pride of all things Scandinavian, I have to say it’s pretty amazing to know that my kids will grow up seeing this and learning about where they come from in such authentic surroundings. And as my mom likes to remind me, my brother and I will get to decide how to divide all of this up once she’s gone (morbid, yes). Though she’s quick to point out that we won’t be getting it until that day comes! Ever the Norwegian realist.