Colour Concept and Interior Design: Private Residence in Bjørvika

Original text: Hedda Gray Laægreid
Photo: Margaret M. de Lange
Styling: Kirsten Visdal

-Just because it is new, doesn’t mean the apartments have to look generic and boring. By seing its potential, an ordinary apartment can be transformed into something completely different. It can gain distinctive character, which is where we come in.

Creative director in Koi Colour Studio, Dagny Thurmann-Moe points at the new buildings in Bjørvika. According to Thurmann-Moe, the white, grey, and beige blocks in steel, glass and aluminum don’t exactly reference the use of colour and materials in the rest of Norway’s capital. As the pandemic hit in March 2020, a couple begins to add colour to Bjørvika – from the inside. Thus, a small part of this urban area becomes a bit brighter, a bit more colourful – and with a lot more personality.


Photo: Margaret M. de Lange

A blanc canvas

-Don’t write that Bjørvika is boring, please, Naima Borge insists on the phone. She is at her home office in her apartment in Bjørvika, where she recently moved with her children and boyfriend Ståle Hellenes. -It really is a really great part of town to live, it is lively and pleasant. Live centrally, add some colour and wait until the restaurants open back up, it’s going to be great, says Borge.

Outside the apartment of Naima Borge and Ståle Hellenes the area is teeming with life. At the same time it feels private and calm. A combination that Borger points out as one of the main reasons why they moved here. The cultural scene lies like pearls on a string, Ekebergåsen, a green area, is only a stone’s throw away, and from the balcony they can see the Opera house glittering in the evening sun.

Photo: private

Earlier in their lives the couple lived in historical homes full of soul, with pristine green areas, colourful wooden houses, and villas galore. The apartment in Bjørvika was the opposite of what they were used to. It was white inside, white and grey outside. Borge has always cared deeply about colours, and has let her surroundings, nature, the sky and the sea inspire her to pick colours for her home.


-This was a blank canvas, I didn’t know how to approach this. Everything was so modern and square, both outside and in. How in the world was I supposed to add personality to this? We needed outside help, so we could collaborate on a satisfying result, Borge recounts.

Photo: Margaret M. de Lange

In the middle of the corona pandemic and the first lock-down of Oslo, they got in touch with  Koi Colour Studio. Colour designer and interior architect Sarah Leszinski got the process started by getting to know the client and their wishes and needs in different manner than in earlier projects. Everything was done by mail and phone. When Leszinski met the couple for the first time  in their apartment in Bjørvika, it was already painted and  furnished.

-Naima has a very bubbling personality, so it was easy to communicate with her. It made the process very uncomplicated, particularly taking the extraordinary circumstances into consideration. It was unlike anything we had done before, says Leszinski.

A forrest green dream

In the colourful apartment in Bjørvika, Koi has helped with everything from developing the colour palette, picking furniture and textiles. Everything is studied and applied into the smallest detail, even the curtain rods have their own colour code.

-It’s a complex task to be part of a process all the way, every step of the way, especially in a pandemic, so it was a bit more challenging. We had to do it little by little, but the result really shows the attention to detail. This is really essential for achieving such an outstanding result, Leszinski explains.

In the open kitchen/living room we have used many different shades of green, one of the colours Borge and Hellenes had high up on their wish list. Instead of going for just one or two main colours, this room is dressed in a rich palette of varied shades of green.

Foto: Margaret M. de Lange

A palette where the same colour is used over and over can appear corny and obvious. By using the same colour in a wide array of nuances, the overall result becomes much more comprehensive and pleasing to the eye. Humans can distinguish countless shades of every colour, and green is the one colour we can se most nuanced, as we have our roots in nature. We are mammals after all.

Next to the many shades of green, the cobalt blue cupboard by Montana is a true eye catcher, while the curtains in peach add warmth to the room. The different components complement each other, not unlike an exquisite dish made with from the freshest produce so fresh, that it almost jumps from the plate to your lap.

Photo: Margaret M. de Lange

And then there is the Tiki sofa. A piece of furniture that quickly became a Norwegian classic and can be seen in countless interior magazines. -It is very popular. This means we have to make an extra effort to make it unique, Leszinski says. Instead of going for the ubiquitous cognac leather version, Hellenes and Borge got an olive green dream of a three-seater. And it doesn’t stop there; the slender metal legs of the sofa got a shade of forest green referencing the kitchen fronts. – This is what colour can achieve – it adds character, Leszinski points out.

Variation and flow

Naima’s children got to choose which colours they wanted in their rooms. Her son went for red, while her daughter chose purple. “There you go, KOI”, Borge thought to herself. This is going to be exciting to see if they can make it work! Connecting the two children’s rooms, as well as bathroom, living room and kitchen, Sarah Leszinski  chose a soft, light shade of blue. According to Borge, Koi had mastered the task of choosing colour for all the adjacent rooms, but when she found out about the blue hallway, she was skeptic.

Photo: Margaret M. de Lange

If you chose a wide array of warm colours for your home, it can become a bit bland, and lead to a lack of variation and flow in the apartment as a whole, according to Leszinski. Variation is the key to create good flow, so we have to juxtapose warm colours with cooler nuances and vice-versa.

Foto: Margaret M. de Lange

-The blue hallway is essential, it makes all the surrounding warm rooms get the attention they deserve. In addition, this room doesn’t have the same amount of natural light as the rest of the apartment, which means we had to pick a colour that reflects a lot of light. In darker rooms this really helps, Leszinksi points out.

Borge and Hellenes are really satisfied with the light blue colour in the hallway, and the many different colours in the apartment.

-The sheer amount of colours creates surprisingly calm surroundings to live in. I have lived with lots of colours before, but it was new to me to paint the ceiling, as well as lists, windows and frames. There is nothing white left! It creates such a soothing atmosphere to live in a colourful environment, that has always been my conviction, and I still stand by that, Borge says.

Photo: Margaret M. de Lange

The recipe for a stimulating and beautiful life

Inside the home of Naima Borge and Ståle Hellenes the surroundings are colourful and calm, while a grey blue light rests on top of the capital city, the type of life that sneaks into every alley of the city-scape during  the winter months. Combined with the grey natural surroundings the light can almost appear gloomy. Why?

When we get up in the morning, we maybe make our bed with the grey satin sheets, chuck down some coffee to wake up, creep into our grey or black down jacket, before we leave our fashionably grey home to go to our job, where we sit down on our black office chairs, staring at the white walls of our cubicle.

Photo: Margaret M. de Lange

When the day is over, we go home, most of us in our grey cars, before we step out on the grey asphalt in the grey surroundings, before taking a final peek at the winter grey sky. The perfect surroundings if feeling down is the goal,  Sarah Leszinski laughs, and adds:

– The main task for us at KOI is always to create a rich, stimulating and sensual palette, that improves our client’s quality of life, creating joy and providing daily flashes of happiness.


How do we live with  nature?

Currently, Borge and Hellenes are waiting on a custom piece of art by Andreas Siqueland. The central motif in Siqueland’s work is the human relation to the landscape and nature. The question is how we can live surrounded by nature, with the changes that happen, that we are the driving force behind, and how that influences us. In the apartment the artis has gotten free reigns to develop a piece of art in dialogue with the surroundings outside. The work will be part of the kitchen, the apartment’s green oasis, where forest greens meets glowing warmth – and the sound of the sea right outside the window.

Photo: Margaret M. de Lange

Naima Borge and Ståle Hellenes count themselves lucky that they can just hang their ice skates over their shoulders and walk right across the street to hone their ice skating skills, or stuff their bathrobe into a bag for an evening bath in the late summer. There are less and less building sites around, and more green areas as times passes. When she goes for a run, she can spot colourful backyards that are full of life and colours – these small, beautiful gems no one else notices.

The potential is there. 

Read more about interior architecture and private homes.

This project has been printed in the magazine of Oslo Design Fair HERE

Customer Naima Borge og Ståle Hellenes
Year 2020