It’s springtime and the sun is shining down on an old 1936 luxury villa in the fashionable Marselisborg area in Aarhus, Denmark – home to artist, author and gallery owner Marlene Kjær and her family. The historic area is the oldest in the city and has always had a special place in her heart, so when the villa came on the market four years ago, she didn’t hesitate. This was going to be her family’s new home.
“I’ve always found the Marselisborg area magical. When you walk past the houses, you get a feeling of nostalgia and times gone by. It’s a beautiful place with houses full of soul and history, and I find that much more appealing than a new house. I fall in love with historic houses with high stucco ceilings and the marks of architectural craftsmanship that you just don’t see anymore,” says Marlene Kjær, owner of Galleri Marlene Kjær on M.P. Bruunsgade, Aarhus.
The house is a classic luxury villa with elegant details inside out. The large, round stained-glass window in the hall, the arch above the porch and the paned windows are classic details that reveal that his house was built for the higher circles of society. This is also evident from the plan arrangement.
When the family moved in, the kitchen was located in a small room off to the side reserved for the maid – away from the beautiful en-suite living rooms. However, this location wasn’t ideal for the family, who wanted the kitchen to be a more central part of the house.
“When we had guests over, there wasn’t enough room in the kitchen for people to hang out and chat, which would make you feel isolated. We wanted to have the kitchen better integrated in the house, but we weren’t sure how to achieve that without knocking down walls and ruining the ceilings,” says Kjær.
So when the family’s oldest daughter came up with the idea of placing the kitchen in the library that was connected en-suite to one of the two living rooms in the house, they were thrilled. “It would create a much better flow in the house, and we didn’t need to remove any walls. And we’d even be getting an office where the old kitchen was,” she says.
Marlene Kjær has been making oil paintings for 25 years, and she leaves nothing to chance. She also utilises her strong aesthetic sense of shape, lines, texture and colour when decorating the family home.
“I’m a very visual person and I think a lot about colours. I sometimes make changes to my art if the shade isn’t quite right, so colour combinations are important to me. And in terms of interior design, it comes naturally to me to choose furniture and decorations that match the textures of the other materials in the house.”
The style is bohemian luxury, and Marlene Kjær enjoys mixing and matching designer furniture with handpicked antiques found in Denmark, on journeys or when spending time in the family summer home in Nice, France. All around the house are little tableaus arranged with bric-à-brac, candles and books.
“I often go for classics that not a lot of people have – I love the old craftsmanship and tradition behind them. I love things that have a history and I buy them with my heart. And I like mixing it all up, adding a personal touch and something new,” she says.
The new kitchen needed to fit in with the history and style of the house and also the new location. Marlene Kjær found plenty of inspiration on Instagram, where a photo of an uno form Shaker kitchen with a specific detail caught her eye.
“In the picture, there was a ladder that was part of the kitchen.
I like spending time in libraries, where they often have a ladder for easy access to the books on the top shelves. To me, a ladder is a symbol of extravagance and luxury in life, and the ladder’s nostalgic look sends me back to a bygone time. I fell in love with the picture immediately, and it inspired me to create the look of my own kitchen,” she says, reminiscing.
The family received advice and guidance from uno form in Aarhus, who fulfilled their wish with a Kiesel grey-coloured Shaker kitchen. Both the workshop and the backsplash behind the gas cooker are quartzite, creating depth against the light surfaces with its beautiful veins. The Quooker faucet, the sink, the attachment for the oak ladder and the handles are all brass, a neat detail that makes the kitchen come together.
The dishwasher has been fitted with a custom door made to look like three drawers to preserve the symmetrical look of the kitchen island. The floor-to-ceiling cabinets disguise the fridge and freezer as well as providing plenty of storage space. The kitchen drawers are made of solid oak, a quality detail repeated in the pocket-door cabinet, which holds the coffee maker as well as some beautiful cups and jugs.
The kitchen now looks as if it was always there. The kitchen-dining room has become the heart of the house where the family gathers every day and guests eat when they visit.
“We think it’s a beautiful kitchen, and we’re thrilled with the result. It gets a lot of positive reactions from our guests, too.
You don’t end up feeling isolated in the kitchen, because now you can have conversations with guests while preparing the food in the kitchen, so you’re much more present. We also love the way it’s integrated into the dining room and how it makes the entire house come together in a much more harmonious way than before,” says Marlene Kjær.
The bookcase that was originally part of the library is now used as a display cabinet. Marlene Kjær has replaced the old handles with the same brass ones used in the rest of the kitchen. The brass handles have also been adorned with another careful detail in the form of cognac-coloured leather, tying in with the dining chairs in the same colour and material.
“My favourite spot is the kitchen island, where I like to stand in the evenings and watch the news on my iPad while I cook. Standing there cutting vegetables – it’s just so relaxing,” says Marlene Kjær.
Who lives here?
Marlene Kjær, artist, author of “Karen, Kjær & kunsten” and owner of Galleri Marlene Kjær in Aarhus.
Where is it?
300 square-metre luxury villa from 1936 in the fashionable Marselisborg area of Aarhus, Denmark.