Living With Kids: Marianne Johnsgård

April 30, 2013

By Gabrielle.

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.

Livingroom_flowers

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!

P.S. — Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. And if you’d like to share your own home with us, just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 susan April 30, 2013 at 11:24 am

Love the house tour. And now about how I feel about IKEA. When I go there it makes me smile with all the bright colors and wonderful textiles and furniture. Quality? I have a book case that is at least 20 years old from Ikea and it looks fine. The sofas and mattresses come with a 10 year guarantee. Ikea? Yes, let me give all my furniture away and replace it with the light, modern furniture from there.
One year off after your baby is born……wonderful idea. What a special time that first year is.

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2 Nicole M. April 30, 2013 at 11:24 am

What a lovely home! So bright and cheery and welcoming. We’re moving our 3-year old out of his converted crib and into his big boy bed now, so all of the kiddie images were really great to see. As to your question on leave, I live in the States but was lucky enough to have 6 months maternity leave, practically unheard of here. I know lots of people who were home for 6 weeks(!) and it makes me really sad. It’s such an important — and fleeting — time. And what type of message does it send?

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3 Lucy Mitchell April 30, 2013 at 11:37 am

this is why we all love scandanavian stuff. Whether its toys or drawers or light shades(where is that one from?), the design is clean and bright and pretty. When I saw that this home was in Norway, I was interested, and it did not disappoint. In Ireland we get three months paid maternity leave and one month unpaid. (although with the recession that could have changed, Im not sure being a SAHM now.)

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4 Claire M May 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Hi Lucy
I don’t normally comment on blogs but feel I have to correct you as it is one positive thing we have here. In Ireland maternity leave is 6 months (26 weeks) with up to 16 weeks unpaid.
See http://www.citizensinformation.ie for full details

Love this series, great to see a Scandinavian house featured.

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5 Ivonne April 30, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Love this tour house, Gabrielle! It is interesting to see how design can be a reflection of the culture of a region. I love Scandinavian design.

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6 Nora April 30, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Hi, Love the home. I agree with the balance of IKEA and other furniture. I can’t remember not having an IKEA around so it is the go to store for candles, napkins, book shelves and tv stands. Still thinking about kitchens and appliances….hmm.
As for mat leave, I lived in Canada when I had my kids and enjoyed the total of 6 months off, combo leave with my husband. This was only partially covered by unemployment insurance, not full pay. I believe leave is now up to a year off. Your job is held for you and benefits continue as well. It’s great, but is difficult for small companies. However, people specialize in filling in for mat leavers…..Bye.

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7 Amber April 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Thank you for another lovely tour!

After I had our first baby in late ’07, I got 6 weeks paid leave and then returned at half-time though got to keep my benefits. I worked for a small structural engineering firm (almost all men) and when I told my boss I was pregnant he congratulated me then said, “Well, I guess we better get a maternity leave policy in the books.” I was the first employee in the company to have a baby.

About IKEA: Of course not everyone is going to like IKEA’s particular style. What makes me feel “judgey”, though, is the feeling that some people are rolling their eyes at it because of it’s affordability and ubiquity. Good design does not have to be an elitist concept.

I live in the Kansas City metro area and in order to visit an IKEA you have to put in an eight hour drive to either Denver, Minneapolis, or Chicago. After visiting family in Chicago a few years ago, we filled up a trailer with all kinds of IKEA goods and drove it back to the house we were renovating. We get compliments all the time about those items. Next year, IKEA will be opening a store just a few miles from our home.

When all of our friends have the same prints/dishes/furniture/bookcases/cabinet pulls that we have, I’ll probably take back my “judgey” comments about design and ubiquity!

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8 nagehan April 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I always wonder about the homes of parents in other countries. Great photos! xo

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9 Ann April 30, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Love! :)

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10 Sunshine April 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Love the clean fresh feeling and the happy bright colors! I love your comment that “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” – that’s the perfect balance!

Thank you for sharing your fun home!

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11 Sharon @ Discovering Blog April 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Love this series, and I love how, when reading these interviews, I wish I was friends with the lovely women you feature. It’s so nice of them to let us in to their homes and nose around, isn’t it?

When I was home with my first, I was lucky to have a fully-paid 13 weeks off, but was so mad that many women have to go back after 6 weeks! Your head isn’t screwed back on after 6 weeks, and you’re supposed to go back to work?? Very jealous of Norway, and I’ve heard all of Scandanavia is much more family-friendly than the US. Let’s not even start talking about socialized medicine, or I’ll have to get cranky about people who can’t afford to get sick. grumble grumble

Thank you, Marianne, for letting us into your gorgeous home.

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12 Mary April 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I really love this series. The pictures and the interviews. This home seems happy, bright, cheerful, simple, and clean. Love it!

Regarding IKEA, I love the idea of it, and I love it in other people’s homes, but it’s not for me. I am completely overwhelmed by giant stores and my blood pressure rises just at the thought of visiting one. I’ve only gone a couple times (when my sister dragged me!), and it’s not an experience I want to have again.

Also jealous of the family leave policies of Norway, along with everyone else here in the US. :-)

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13 Tove April 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm

For et kjempe fint hus!!! I was so excited to see a home tour from Norway. My grandparents immigrated from Norway after WWII and instilled in us a tremendous pride of all things Norwegian. I can’t say enough good things about the social programs in Norway and the maternity/paternity leave in particular.

What a beautiful home and great representation of the way Scandinavian design mixes clean lines with refreshing patterns and colors. I have to say the photo of your beautiful, blue Porsgrund dishes was my favorite. Thank you so much for sharing!

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14 coucoumadame April 30, 2013 at 2:43 pm

absolutely lovely! thanks for sharing :)

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15 Kace April 30, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I had never lived near an IKEA until we moved to Sacramento 7 yrs ago and now I can’t imagine where else to buy paper napkins, cheap candles, door pulls, etc. But, we don’t have much furniture from IKEA aside from a shelving system in a seldom-used guest room.

I am curious about the window covering in Norway. I know from visiting my husband’s family in Germany that everyone there uses rollis on the outside of their windows to block out the sun in the summer. It looks like Marianne’s house also has something, but I couldn’t tell from the photos what it is. Can anyone describe it to me? I asked a Swedish friend once what they do at Midsommar with so much sunlight and her reply was that they enjoy it and don’t bother with drawing curtains. Curious if the Norwegians are the same??

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16 Marianne May 2, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Hi Kace, in our house we have ordinary awnings (hope that’s the correct word) over our windows. They’ve been there since the house was built, we simply changed the fabric when we moved in. I understand what you’re describing though, a lot of new houses and public buildings have them.
About the sunlight during the summer – yes, we love it in Norway too! It feels like a reward after the long winter months. It can be really difficult to get the children to bed – they keep insisting it’s still daytime…

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17 meta April 30, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Umh, I just went to IKEA earlier today :)
Love it, never hate it, although I also don’t want to have an all IKEA house :)
I think most Europeans like IKEA, and we’ll be lost without it (I’m Asian but have been living in Germany and now Switzerland for almost 12 years). I have to say the same regarding another Swedish giant retail H&M, especially their children’s dept.
Nordic countries are the best countries for moms, I heard. Yay for that!

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18 meta April 30, 2013 at 2:53 pm

And I forgot to say… lovely home! Always love Scandinavian design, but it’s a HUGE plus when children are involved!

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19 Carol April 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I love reading your blog. The email arrives around 4am so it is always there for me to read while having breakfast.

IKEA is fabulous – great design for not much money and usually well made. Even if I am not looking to buy, I can usually get great ideas after walking through the store.

Thanks again for your blog – your family is gorgeous!!

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20 Aimee April 30, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Such a lovely series – I am a fan of IKEA but I try to keep a balance between classic older items and IKEA furniture, on a 2 to 1 ratio. I can also appreciate that while many households may have the same piece of IKEA furniture it always looks different.

On the maternity leave equation, in Canada either parent is entitled to a full year leave which is essentially collecting Employment Insurance (55% of your salary) and parents may split the time to their liking. However many employers opt to “top up” the EI so that you collect your regular salary for 6 months or greater (depending on your company’s policy). In addition to receiving your regular health/dental benefits. It’s not the best set of benefits out there but it does give you some flexibility as to staying home with your little one that first precious year.

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21 April @ Coastside Properties April 30, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I absolutely love your house and the interior of your home. It’s one of the coziest homes I’ve ever seen. I like the relaxing mood you have in your living room, the red couch and the fireplace gives it the right touch. The children’s bedroom looks pretty organized, I love the huge baskets where you placed their toys and how you pasted their artwork on the wall too. You just gave me a brilliant idea! The baskets look much nicer to look at as compared to the big black boxes I bought, so I’m going with that. Last but not the least I think your kitchen looks adorable. I love the wall tile designs and it sure does entice one to cook and smile at the same time. What a lovely house and I hope to visit Norway someday soon! A big family is always a huge blessing, thanks for sharing, I love the tour!

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22 Cheltz April 30, 2013 at 7:34 pm

“As a mother I feel both fragile and strong.” Isn’t that the truth? One minute I feel like a grand matriarch, the next, I’m shaking in my boots at the thought that one of my kids might experience unrequited love …

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23 Cheltz April 30, 2013 at 7:35 pm

P.S. That house seems like quite the find, Marianne! I love the era, style and location!

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24 Vera May 1, 2013 at 2:56 am

I love IKEA, it is versatile, clever, clean. The key, as Marianne says is to mix it up with other pieces. My choice is antique and vintage.

In Hungary, we get two years of maternity leave and either of the parents can choose to stay at home, if they worked for at least two years before having the child. The money that comes with it is a bit more than the Hungarian minimum wage — which is very-very low, so a family cannot live on that alone. Still, it is a big help, as it makes it possible for many of us to stay at home. Plus the company you work for is obliged to keep your position for you.

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25 julia [lifeonchurchill] May 1, 2013 at 6:47 am

What a beautiful home! I especially enjoyed seeing the children’s rooms. We have a good bit of IKEA furniture and mix it with other pieces (mostly vintage). Maternity leave in Norway sounds fascinating. I have a good friend from Germany and it sounds like its easier to work part-time (in roles like teaching) than in the US too

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26 Melissa Yoder May 1, 2013 at 9:46 am

The row of Fisher Price little people brought a big smile to my face this morning! Beautiful home. Love the textiles hung on the wall.

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27 annie May 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Love this home tour!

I also love the lighting over the dining table. Could you share the source for that? I’d love to have one….just what I’ve been looking for.

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28 Marianne May 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Guess what, Annie, the lighting over the dining table is… from IKEA! :)
It is just a paper shade (Väte) matched with a red cord – you can find similar ones here: http://www.nudcollection.com/products/cord.

Good luck with your lighting project!

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29 carole May 1, 2013 at 8:04 pm

IKEA is such an inspiration to me whenever I visit one of their stores. GOod design is always an inspiration. I have been shopping at IKEA for over twenty years, when there were only two or three stores in the whole United States. SOMETHING from IKEA can be incorporated in just about any design scheme. I credit IKEA with the advent of so much great affordable design, especially in homegoods, that suddenly appeared [and appealed] to the public at large in the 1990s.

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30 Eryn May 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Lovely home! Where oh where is that gray sofa from? I love it!

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31 Marianne May 2, 2013 at 1:58 pm

The sofa is a Smala sofa bed by Ligne Roset. Not sure if it is still in production, but if it is, I can definitely recommend it. So nice to relax in!

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32 Marianne May 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Thank you all for your lovely comments. You are so nice, and make me look at my home with fresh eyes!

Love,
Marianne

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33 bea May 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I just love this house. It’s such a great blend of clean, modern style and whimsy. One question – I love the kids room and particularly the light fixture in that room. Can you share the source?

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34 Marianne May 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Hi Bea, thank you for your very kind words!

The paper lantern (I love it too!) is from Djeco, a great French brand. Take a look at their website http://www.djeco.com for more information.

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35 Kirby May 4, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I am a resident, working 80 hours/week. When I had my baby 13 months ago I was given 6 weeks off, one week included my accumulated vacation time. Returning to work was beyond difficult. I spent my first few days delivering other babies while missing mine at home. I yearn for a more flexible system that allows us to be better doctors and mothers. The rigidity of the system is so limiting that we struggle to be both.

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36 Oana June 30, 2013 at 4:21 am

Hi,
I live in Romania in our country we are allowed to either 1 year full paid maternity stay home , or 2 years with minimum pay. You have to choose which one from the beginning.
As about Ikea I love them, I have a lot of furniture from there, it really works here because we leave in a flat appartment, like almost everybody else. and the practic, compact organized ikea pieces really are amazing. And olso the furniture is cheap and I like to change them a lot. I also like I can combine them in multiple ways, from different collections to different colours.
Great blog, and great idea with ” living with kids tours”

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37 Amy February 14, 2014 at 12:05 am

Where did you get that beautiful yellow floral bed spread?

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