A lot of discussions about living with kids, especially during the early years when you’re just starting to get the hang of it, includes a fair share of IKEA talk. Do you IKEA, or don’t you? I’m always surprised about the strong opinions in the comments section of home tours that feature their furniture! But, as Marianne explains below, it’s a great place to source sleek Scandinavian design and still be able to feed your children! All five of them. And it doesn’t hurt that she and her family actually live in Scandinavia. Oslo, Norway to be precise. Which makes IKEA the natural choice, don’t you think? You’re going to love this peek into Marianne’s Oslo home, so let’s get to it!
Q: Tell us who lives in this Oslo home!
A: Welcome to my home. This is a typical Norwegian house from the 1970s, with an upstairs living room and kitchen, and bedrooms both upstairs and downstairs. I live here with my husband Morten, who runs a company that develops apps and websites, and our four boys: August (13), Markus (almost seven), the twins Peder and Magnus (four) and our daughter Alva (two). The house is rather large by Norwegian standards; we bought it for that very reason four years ago when the twins arrived as we needed all the space! At the moment the youngest ones share rooms next to our bedroom, but when they grow older they will move into the downstairs bedrooms. It will be kind of a teenage area. I’m already not looking forward to cleaning those rooms!
The house was built in 1972, and we actually bought it from the old man who built it. Nothing had been changed for almost 40 years, but it was in really good condition so we have not started any major renovation yet. We have done smaller alterations like painting the walls and changing the carpet downstairs which used to be a sad green color, but the kitchen and bathrooms are as they have always been. When the kids get a bit older we will hopefully have the energy to start such large projects! When we do, we will definitely try to stay true to the style of the house’s architecture.
Q: What’s awesome about Norway?
A: Norway is definitely a great place to raise kids. Our welfare system makes it possible to stay at home from work for one year after the birth of your baby and still get paid. It is mainly the mothers who do this, but the system allows for parents to divide the time between themselves. More and more men use this opportunity to take a break from work in order to take care of their babies. Another thing I really appreciate is that all children are guaranteed a place in kindergarten from the age of one, although you sometimes have to wait a bit longer. This makes it easier for women to combine family and work than in many other countries.
The thing I really like about my home and my neighborhood is the closeness to nature. We live only 25 minutes away from the center of Oslo by tram (ten minutes by car), yet we still have deer and other wild animals passing through our street. We regularly spot squirrels running up and down the trees in the area. We live in a cul-de-sac, and at the end of the street there is a small forest to roam around in, and next to it there’s an open field where the children play soccer in the summer and ice-skate when it is cold. And I love that I can enjoy my morning coffee or tea at the kitchen table while looking out on the Oslofjord.
Q: How would you describe your style? Has your aesthetic changed since you’ve added kids to the mix?
A: Well, I guess my style is closest to modern. I have been exposed to so much great new design in my work as a design journalist, and I suppose that influences my taste. However, I think my style is also influenced by the kind of house I live in. If I lived in an older house, say late 1800s, I would probably mix old and modern more than I do now.
I like colors and patterns, and I especially love the textiles from IKEA, Åhléns, and of course the Josef Frank ones from Swedish store Svenskt Tenn. I adore books, ceramics, and wooden bowls from flea markets, green plants, and fresh flowers. I can’t really say that I have an overall strategy when it comes to the interior of my house, but I’m a great believer in following my gut feeling.
I don’t really think that having kids has changed my style. The only thing that has changed is that our most precious glass objects are stored away from the children until they get a bit older.
Q: What is your favorite room in your home? What makes it perfect, and how do you spend your time in it? Alone or with kids?
A: There are two places in particular where I spend a lot of time. One is the kitchen, both because I like to cook and because it’s nice to sit by the small table and look out through the window. The kids are often helping out as best they can with the food preparation, which makes the time spent in there even sweeter.
The other favorite is the area with the grey sofa, which is the quieter part of the living room, but still not isolated from the rest of the family while they watch television in the other part of the room. I often read or doze off here in the evenings.
Q: You’re a blogger! What are your goals with your spot in the internet, and how do you divide your time between it and your family life?
A: I’ve blogged for several years, but recently I started a really simple one where I just collect interiors that I love. My sister and I have always read interior design magazines together – sitting next to each other with cups of tea and commenting on the homes in the magazines – but she moved to a different part of Norway some years ago, and the blog is a way of showing her interiors that inspire me. My previous blogs have been more word based, and this one is mainly about the images.
For some reason, maybe because I write for a living, my blog texts are less spontaneous and free than I want them to be, so I’m kind of on a break from serious blogging right now.
I usually sit at my desk in the living room while I work on my blog, and I always blog when the kids have gone to bed; to me, blogging should be fun and relaxing. Not stressful.
Q: You mentioned that IKEA plays a big part in your furnishings. People have such different views on IKEA! What has been your experience with their design options and quality and price, and why do you love it so?
A: In Norway, or Scandinavia for that matter, almost everyone has something or other from IKEA, if only the cheap white paper napkins or candles. I like IKEA furniture when the design is good, the same way as I do with other brands. I guess the fresh, Nordic design appeals to me. It can’t be all IKEA, though, and you definitely have to combine it with items bought elsewhere.
What I do not like is when the quality is poor, but I haven’t experienced that a lot. I try to have the same respect for my IKEA furniture as for the more expensive things we have in our home. For economical and environmental reasons, I don’t like to buy new stuff all the time.
Q: Do you put a lot of thought into how the decor in each room dictates the conversations and activities that happen in the rooms?
A: I have tried to limit the amount of large objects in the rooms. With seven people in a family, it is important to have plenty of space to move and run freely.
We use the living room all the time. It’s basically where you’ll find us. The children move from one area to another while playing, spreading the toys evenly around the room, having their own space while sharing it, too. We spend a lot of time around the dining table: drawing, doing homework, and of course eating together.
A large sofa is important; there is enough space in the red Polder sofa for all of us. At the same time, we try to be practical. In the living room, for example, a pair of fragile rattan Poul Kjærholm lounge chairs were replaced by more sturdy IKEA chairs that the kids wouldn’t be able to destroy.
Q: What do you hope your decor choices are teaching your kids about life and your family?
A: Both my husband and I love modern design objects and have through the years bought furniture that we want to last many, many years. We try to create a balance where the kids respect the objects in a room at the same time as they feel welcome to spend time there. In other words, it is completely unnecessary to carve into the dining table with a knife, but it’s fine if the table is used for playing with toys.
Q: What has been your absolute favorite part about living with kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mom? And what do you already miss?
A: It still amazes me that I’m the mother of these wonderful small humans! They make me look at life from a different angle, they make me laugh, and they teach me so much about myself.
As a mother, I feel both fragile and strong; whatever happens to them affects me profoundly, and I’ve started to realize that this doesn’t change much when they get older! I try not to miss things that are in the past, but for some strange reason I was really surprised when I realized that my 13-year old was well on his way to becoming an adult. I love to see him develop, but I wish that I had appreciated even more the years when he was younger.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: …that life at (almost) forty would be so much fun!
“As a mother, I feel both fragile and strong.” Oh, how I relate to this, Marianne. How we all must relate to this! I would run through a burning building to save my kids. Lift a car. Swim them to shore. But when they come through the door with crushed confidence after a particularly hard day at school, there’s a split second when I want to melt in a puddle right along with them! Thank you for your thoughts today, Marianne. And good to know about 40 being so much fun!
Friends, what do you think about Norway’s welfare system? A paid divided maternity/paternity leave! Genius, isn’t it? Did you take advantage of a leave when you had kids? Did your spouse? For those of you who returned to work, how difficult was it to leave your baby? I learn so much from stories like this!