• Strategic window placement along the home's two intersecting volumes creates a plan that catches precious sunlight throughout the day.

    Credit: Jiri Havran

    Strategic window placement along the home's two intersecting volumes creates a plan that catches precious sunlight throughout the day.
The architect of this 3,000-square-foot house in southeastern Norway, Einar Dahle, isn't one for hyperbole. Dahle, of the Oslo-based firm Dahle/Dahle/ Breitenstein, succinctly describes the project as “two cigar boxes stacked on top of one another.” His modest metaphor belies the difficult task the house accomplishes: In the midst of a shady, heavily forested site, it captures and channels natural light throughout its interiors.

Dahle's clients, a pair of professional engineers, first fantasized about a chalet-style residence. But after seeing their site, the architect convinced them that the last thing they wanted was to block the sun's rays with deep roof overhangs. “I told them they needed to lift themselves up to the light,” he says. “They realized it then—they just hadn't thought of it that way before.” So he designed a simple, wood-framed rectangular volume to contain the main public spaces, elevating it several feet off the ground on poured concrete supports. A box of bedrooms slipped under and perpendicular to the raised volume forms a central cross which serves as the home's main entry point.

Planks of Norwegian spruce clad the exterior, softening the Modern building's severity. The contractor followed the local tradition of staining the siding several shades darker than its natural color. Generously sized windows line up along each side of both volumes, ensuring natural light's admission at every time of day. Dahle included a west-facing roof deck atop the bedroom wing for a prime view of Norway's famous late-night summer skies. “The sun sets about 10:30 p.m., and rises at 3 a.m.,” he says. “The sky never gets completely dark, and in the north it turns a beautiful blue color. From the roof you can sit and watch west and north.”

The roof may be a pleasure zone during summer, but it works hard in the region's chilly winters. Reinforcing plates of corrugated steel gird it against a heavy snow burden. Inside the house, American oak floors and painted drywall continue the clean, unadorned aesthetic, highlighting a massive poured-concrete fireplace in the central living area. An exposed brick chimney retains the fire's warmth for hours, supplementing the home's central, water-based heating system. Off-the-shelf kitchen cabinets are topped with a stainless steel counter, and Portuguese limestone tiles cover the bathroom walls. Dahle and his clients chose to leave the living space's steel cross-braces exposed, as well as the glue-laminated beams that trim some of the windows and doors. “We wanted to use them and show them but not make a decorative thing out of it,” says Dahle. “They are exactly as they are, nothing more.”

  • Outdoor spaces receive as much attention as the interiors do. A glass-inlaid overhang shields the front door from the elements, and an exterior stair leads to a second-floor terrace.

    Credit: Jiri Havran

    Outdoor spaces receive as much attention as the interiors do. A glass-inlaid overhang shields the front door from the elements, and an exterior stair leads to a second-floor terrace.

project:
Private residence, Asker, Norway

architect:
Dahle/Dahle/Breitenstein, Oslo

contractors:
Gultvedt AS, Ås, Norway; Rino Borgersen AS, Solbergelva, Norway (concrete); Espen Thorvaldsen, Skui, Norway (wood);

engineer:
Dr.Techn. Kristoffer Apeland AS, Oslo

project size:
3,228 square feet

site size:
0.3 acre

construction cost:
$111 per square foot

photographer:
Jiri Havran


A palette of light-hued materials, such as creamy Portugese limestone bath tile, provides ammunition against gloomy Norwegian winters.

A palette of light-hued materials, such as creamy Portugese limestone bath tile, provides ammunition against gloomy Norwegian winters.

Credit: Jiri Havran

In keeping with the home's straightforward design, the architects left its steel cross-bracing and glue-laminated-beam window and door trim exposed.

In keeping with the home's straightforward design, the architects left its steel cross-bracing and glue-laminated-beam window and door trim exposed.

Credit: Jiri Havran