Colour Concept Interior and Exterior: Award-winning Greenhouse in Buskerud

Text Hedda Gray Lægreid/Translation Jason Heppenstall
Photo Nadia Norskott
Styling Maria Vestre


Boundless Freedom

There’s a place in the middle of a forest where the sky is reflected in huge glass surfaces. Inside it’s bustling with life. Lush plants grow wild alongside sweet apricots, fleshy figs and an abundance of nectarines in a carefully coloured environment that’s perfect for children and adults alike.


It was a little over two years ago when architect Margit-Kristine Solibakke Klev started designing her first housing project intended for herself and her own family of four. Inheriting a large forest plot meant many possibilities and great freedom.



And what do you do when you’re passionate about growing fruit and vegetables? You build your residential house inside a greenhouse, of course.



Living like this gives us the freedom to do everything we want. Here, there’s room for all our hobbies!


When KOI contacts her for an interview, the architect is on her way home from her job in Oslo where she works as a partner and general manager at the architectural studio Nils Tveit.


At home, small feet run across a pink concrete floor amidst tropical trees and plants – the children are looking for ripe blackberries or other home-grown sweets.


-The main focus has been to create a good family home where our children can be free and thrive all year round, says Klev.



For the creative director of Koi Colour Studio, Dagny Thurmann-Moe, this home has been a dream project.


– It’s been very inspiring to work with Margit-Kristine. She has great vision and a dream of growing fruit and vegetables outside the traditional growing season for Norway, while living close to nature inside her own home. She has basically made the impossible possible, says Dagny.


Between outside and inside

Margit-Kristine grew up on a farm and so is used to living close to nature. The inspiration for the home project came from Sweden when she read an article in an architecture magazine and saw Upgrenna Naturhus, a large greenhouse with a residential property inside it.


She fell for the concept at once, in particular the way the design would give her the opportunity to create a kind of space that was somewhere between inside and outside.



– We have quite a cold climate in Norway, and the warm season can be considerably extended by living inside a glass house. I’ve always been interesting in gardening and cultivating plants and dreamed of a place where I could do this regardless of the climate. At the same time, we get to use rooms inside and out equally.


As for its size, this greenhouse home for the family of four is eleven and a half metres high and has floorspace amounting to 380 square metres.


From chaos to tranquility

Before, the family had previously lived in Oslo in colourless homes with white walls – and as a consequence, according to Margit-Kristine herself, there was lots of clutter. When the architects sat down with the floor plans for her new home, she soon discovered that she wanted some colour as well as help with a colour scheme.


– I wanted more colours, patterns and materiality than I usually use in my own practice as an architect, and so I contacted Dagny. Fortunately, she said yes right away.


Margit-Kristine gave the colour designer free reign on one condition: the result should be a home characterised by nature and sustainable materials.


The first thing that came into place was the pink microcement that covers the entire floor surface inside and out. It’s a colour that – perhaps surprisingly enough – many find natural to have on a floor.

I wanted a maintenance-free floor where we could move around with flowerpots, soil and everything without being afraid of damaging it. Now the kids can throw things on the floor and mess around as much as they want. I’ve also had people who’ve gone inside with spikes on and it was fine, the architect says.


The pink microcement reflects the immediate surroundings, including the trees, the soil and the reddish pine trunks that surround the home of the little family of four. The colour also goes well with the green and other colourful plants that crawl up the walls and roofs. Each room has its own colour palette, as well as its own unique atmosphere. The blue kitchen on the ground floor has fittings from IKEA, and fronts from Noremax in a clear blue colour.


– The blue kitchen is absolutely wonderful! It all started with a desire to create a rather complex colour palette, says the architect excitedly.



The main attraction in the kitchen is an island that harmonises with the warm tones of the pine walls and the pink microcement floor – so seductive and eye-catching it’s reminiscent of a scenography for the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring by the Dutch artist Vermeer. The royal blue colour can make even the most tired person feel rejuvenated at the breakfast table.


Inside, walls, ceilings and stairs clad in pine are treated with a hard wax oil to create warm hues in the wood, along with painted and wallpapered surfaces. The façade has an ordinary spruce cladding, painted in a deep red that’s a nod to historical shades.

-The hard wax oil has a golden hue and we worked purposely to find this. It should imbue a particularly warm atmosphere along with a patina that usually takes years to achieve, explains Dagny.


-Some ask me if I don’t get tired living with so many colours. On the contrary I retort, it feels much calmer for both the eye and the body to be in a room with such a rich colour palette, says Margit-Kristine.

Which room is your favorite?

– The bathroom, the architect answers without hesitating. I love the jungle wallpaper and the bath – I bathe there every single day!

The bathroom is another room with a complex colour palette, and Dagny wanted to use patterns and wallpaper to create a lush and relaxing oasis.


– The colours might be considered unnatural for a bathroom, but when you come in here you get a feeling of wellbeing and a flush in your cheeks. It leaves a lasting impression – this should be a bathroom for life, says Dagny.




Margit-Kristine’s two daughters, Velaug and Herborg, got to choose their own wallpaper for their rooms, and this set the foundation for the colour palette for the rest of the room. And three years after they chose their patterned wallpaper, they’re still thriving in their green oasis which they themselves helped design.


-They’ve each created their own universe, and they dress accordingly. They love leopard print leggings, stripes and clothes in happy, crisp colours, says their mother.


In the children’s rooms it was especially important to pick wallpaper and patterns that aren’t defined by a particular age, adds Dagny.

-We rarely work with typical wallpapers for children’s rooms, but instead use more sophisticated patterns and colour combinations that are just as idyllic to the kids when they’ve grown up and come home to visit. What’s more, the colours have to be particularly good for sleep and tranquillity as the children have a large play area in and around the house.



A fruitful partnership

The collaboration with KOI has made Margit-Kristine think differently, both at home and in her own practice.

– Dagny’s assistance and expertise has given the project many more dimensions than I originally imagined, and it’s been one of the best investments I’ve made. I’ve become less pretentious, and less afraid to try new things. It’s become easier to be bold with colours than not to, says the architect.

Many of the lessons she’s learned she has taken back to her own practice.

– The collaboration with KOI has led to me being more fearless in my recent projects, and I think more architects could benefit from it. I’ve worked a lot on a project in Oslo now, the rehabilitation of an old industrial building that will be a private school. There, we’ve decided there should be colour on the walls, and it’s been very good.


A frame for life

The greenhouse in the forest is like a frame to the family’s life – it’s a space in which they can play, create, and grow their own food. And the house provides lots of light, colours and possibilities.


– Here I find peace. It’s a gift to immerse yourself in such colourful surroundings.

The bookshelf along the wall by the dining room is almost five metres tall and extends along the wall and up to the ceiling.


– It’s to make room for all our books!


Margit-Kristine is looking forward to gathering friends and family around the long table on the roof terrace, serving up home-grown vegetables and enjoying conversation late into the night until the stars come out and twinkle above them.

– This is a house that reflects the whole family. They have made a home for themselves, not for the next owner. It’s so clear that they love living here, and they’ve done it exactly the way they wanted to, says Dagny.

– It’s incredibly inspiring and refreshing!

Customer Margit Solbakke Klev
Year 2019