Several years ago, Modernism Magazine…one of my favs that, sadly, is no longer published….had an article about a house in Copenhagen that is completely built in the round. The house was originally built by Carl Frederilk Nielsen, who
lived in the house with his family for over 50 years.
Nielsen was a bit of a genius and what we would call today a true Renaissance man. In addition to numerous musical talents and several inventions to his credit, as well as an exceptional knowledge of chemicals and their properties, he undertook the task to teach himself architectural design and construction and then went on to build this round house with only the help of his seven-year-old son, Curt.
The original house was constructed out of recycled bricks from old houses in the neighborhood. Nielsen had great difficulty getting building permits because the house did not meet the building standards. Fortunately, he persevered with the powers that be, claiming, successfully, that a house with out corners would use less materials to build, and would be more resilient to the extremes of the weather.
After Nielsen and his wife died, the son, Curt, took over the house, converting it into a swinging bachelor’s pad with a veritable man-cave, disco ball and expensive sound system included. After he died in 2007, the house went up for sale and was eventually sold to Jacob Holm and Pia Milwertz, former neighbors of the Nielsens. With the help of Kant Architects and their contractors they immediately undertook a massive renovation of the house.
The renovation included covering the exposed bricks, inside and outside, with plaster, 58 new windows, a geo-thermal heating system, up to date insulation, drainage and electrical systems, new landscaping and a total renovation of the bathrooms and the kitchen.The dank, low ceiling of the half basement was converted into two bedrooms , a laundry room, wine cellar and living room.
The first floor now houses a master bedroom, office, kitchen and living and dining areas. The top floor of the house is occupied solely by an oh-so-very cool yellow bathroom, with a large round tub placed in the center. One spiral staircase pierces from the lower level of the house all the way through the small tower at the top where the cool yellow bathroom is housed. Additional windows have been strategically placed to send sunlight into the circular space of the staircase.
The architects suggested the inclusion of bright colors in contrast to the highly reflective white walls and convinced Holm and Miewirtz to paint vivid colors throughout. So as you walk around the house…no pun intended…you will find intense colors like red, green, yellow and pink on the walls and then juxtaposed against brown, grey, pink and blue linoleum floors. The strong colors and the round walls create an unusual natural lighting effect which, according to Holm and Miewirtz, occurs in gradations as it curves around the walls with the white walls reflecting shades of the brighter colors.
The interiors are chock-a-full of Danish furniture from the 1940’s through the 1970’s, with a good dollop of flea market thrown in to mix it up a bit. One can find pieces from Finn Juhl, Verner Panton, Hans Wegner and the like filling up the interiors of the rooms. Frequently Holm and Milwertz find strangers knocking on the door asking for a tour. Plus, they have this secret vision for the future of making their home available for weddings…it does resemble a wedding cake, don’t you think?…or even renting it to people who want to have the experience of living for a short period of time in a round house.
Life in the round doesn’t seem all that bad!
Ciao, ciao “til next time!