Photos by Nana Hagel.
“I don’t like things that match too much,” says Nanna Friis, who lives in Copenhagen. “There are houses entirely full of Danish design pieces, but I think you need to break up the uniform and add touches of crooked things.” Friis designs and imports handmade rugs via her shop Kusiner. Now that her children are grown, she’s living on her own. Here, she talks about the evolution of the space, chilly swims, and ignoring rules about rugs…
Sofa: Ikea, similar. Chairs: Olsson Møbler. Table: Carl Hansen & Son. Wall-mounted light: And Light. Floor lamp: Fritz Hansen. Yellow lamp: “an old glass lamp from my mother.” Small paintings: “one from my grandmother and one from my artist friend, Malene Bach.” Politiken poster: vintage. Rugs: Kusiner, “it’s assembled from leftover pieces.”
On finding the apartment: My father was born in the building next door, and I grew up in this area, just a few streets away. I lived abroad a lot, but look at me now: I’ve ended up in my old neighborhood. My cousin lived in the apartment downstairs, which is how I found out this one was for sale. An older lady lived here before me, and the place was dark and dusty with doors blocked off, but the potential was there. It just needed some light and paint, and the floors needed to be sanded.
On living alone: Back when I bought the apartment, my two kids each got a bedroom, and I slept in the living room. It was cozy and full of Ikea furniture. It had to accommodate many more needs, and I had fewer means then. My children, Gustav and Nora, are 27 and 23. Now that my kids have moved out, I’ve learned to love living alone, but I also feel lucky that I have friends and family just around the corner.
Silver candlesticks and porcelain dish: “inherited from grandparents.” Modern candlestick: Luxo Living.
On hand-me-downs: These antique silver candlesticks came from my grandmother. My father gave them for me after my grandmother died, and he always said that I could sell them if I needed the cash. He was half joking, half serious. As a child, every Wednesday, I would bike from school to my grandmother’s house in Hellerup, the same neighborhood that I live in now. I would arrive around 1 p.m. – she would have just woken up – and we’d have tea and toast. She would tell me stories about all the small pieces around her house. Nowadays I light the candles every day in the winter. It’s a typical Danish hygge thing.
On surrounding yourself with books: I attend a book club with my girlfriends, so I read a lot. I mostly listen to the audio books, but I will buy a physical copy of the book if it’s really good. I have a masters in English, so my bookshelf has a lot of classics from when I studied. I have actually written a few books myself, so they’re on the shelves, too. I also did three cookbooks with friends — one developed the recipes, another took the photos, and I did all the writing. I still cook from them, as does my 86-year-old mother.
Rug: Kusiner, “from an earlier collection of Berber tufted carpets from Marrakech,” similar. Photograph above the bed: Kristian Granquist. Sheets: Studio Feder. Bedside table: vintage, similar. Bedside lamp: vintage, similar. Caftan: Britt Sisseck, similar.
On starting a new venture midlife: I’d read about the Bedouin women in the Negev Desert who weave carpets and went there to visit. The Bedouins were traditionally nomads, but now they cannot wander anymore due to politics and borders. I started working with them — I was 51 and ready for a change — but I was also a total amateur. I hardly knew how to calculate square meters. It worked out because of hard work and determination, but mostly because of heart. By weaving and selling their work, these women make a living and become independent. To me, this cooperation is very fulfilling. I go there usually every four months, because these relationships are so important. I never imagined that this would be my business, but now I dream only of carpets and my weavers and wool and dyes.
On Danish heirlooms: Twentieth century pieces from Danish architects are part of the Danish DNA. You see them everywhere, like in the dentist waiting room and in the library. They still feel very modern, even though some are from the 1930s. They don’t scream ‘I am a design object!’ They blend naturally into any kind of setting, like the table lamp by Arne Jacobson on my grandparents’ dresser. It’s a friendly and unassuming design. I sometimes manage to find secondhand pieces by 20th century architects, and I’ll eventually pass them on to my kids.
On chilly swims: I use all these totes! Some are for storage (scarfs, hats and gloves), some I use for shopping, and some I bring my towel and flip flops in when I go to the sea. I have been swimming in the winter for 20 years. Winter swimming is a big thing here and I can’t live without it. Most people do it with a sauna, but where I swim, we have only a bridge with a small changing facility. My friend and I jump in (no swimsuits), then sit and chat afterwards with coffee and bread. At this point, we know everybody there.
On kitchen renovations: Before, this kitchen was small and dark with cabinets from floor to ceiling. They blocked almost all the light from the kitchen window. I opened things up to make it feel bigger, and I added brass handles to Ikea cabinets.
On ritual: Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon. I don’t cook every day for myself, but when I do I’ll make something easy and light, like an omelet and a salad.
Rugs: Kusiner. Table: “vintage teak from the fifties,” similar. Chairs: Thonet and Arne Jacobsen. Overhead light: Le Klint. Art: “vintage or from my grandmother, plus a rust lithograph by Catherine Raben.”
On playing musical chairs…with rugs: Okay, rugs! Now we are talking. These are patchwork rugs that I assemble from leftover pieces. Instead of a solid rug that takes up the whole space, the unevenness and patched look fits well with my smaller apartment. I move my rugs around all the time. Most of the orders we get are for very large rugs, but I think people are too hung up on size. If the rug is beautiful with traces of the hands that made it, you will find a place for it. And you can make small islands of woolen fluffiness that add a lot of character to a room. Or mix many small rugs for a chic, messy look.
Table: “vintage teak from the fifties,” similar. Chairs: Thonet and Arne Jacobsen. Overhead light: Le Klint. Art: “all vintage or from my grandmother, plus a rust lithograph by Catherine Raben and a Matisse print from Fondation Maeght in France.” Lamp on dresser: Barbara Bendix Becker, similar. Dresser: vintage, similar.
On Sunday dinners: We still have Sunday dinners with my kids, their partners, my ex-husband, and the kids’ granny. I also have friends over for dinner. I like to make a lot of small dishes, like salads, lots of veggies, cheeses, and desserts. Of course, I also use my cookbooks.
On posters: I bought this poster at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. when I traveled to the States in 1986. I love exhibition posters.
On evolving family structures: My ex-husband and I are very good friends and have actually just bought a shared summer house for the family to gather. My son is expecting a baby girl in August, so it will be a place for young and old. My daughter lives in Barcelona, so we have long chats on the phone. Both my kids are very independent and always have been, but they call me regularly. Ideally, to be a parent of a young adult is to be like the edge of the pool. The ‘kid’ will swim towards the edge, then push with their legs against the edge and swim back out again.
On getting the most out of a small balcony: It’s just off the dining room, and I love keeping the doors open all summer long. I grow fresh herbs, small strawberries, figs, and a few climbing flowers. It’s amazing what can grow in small pots, survive through winter, and come back in the spring.
Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful apartment, Nanna.
P.S. Many more house tours, including a colorful farmhouse and the family home with an epic board game collection.
(Photos by Nana Hagel.)