Architecture + Home Décor

Ditte Isager's Contemporary Take on a Classic Danish Country Cottage

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“…Our hope is to portray as honestly as possible the intentions our subjects had when building their homes—to convey that specificity, that point of view—and to examine the idea of home as an expression of character.”


The above sets the tone for The Inspired Home, Nests of Creatives. Published in March 2014, it captures the habitats of 17 creative forces—musicians, decorators and writers among them—from the Baltic Sea to the Hollywood Hills. One cottage in particular drew us in with its simplicity and warmth—its hygge, to use an untranslatable word for that welcoming, cozy quality that is at the heart of Danish decor. Situated on the outskirts of Copenhagen, that cottage is the “nest” of the book’s photographer, Ditte Isager, and her husband, Christian Vang.

One of the best in her field, Isager has the unusual ability to give photographic expression to the intent behind a particular decor. (It’s no secret that we love Isager’s work; we tapped her talent for our book, Horisont, celebrating the Skagen brand. What, we wondered, is her method?) How, getting back to that cottage, does one pair Nordic design and flea-market finds for a look that is at once unstudied and contemporary? Isager agreed to break it down for us.

Skagen: Can you give us some background on the house?
Ditte Isager: We built the house five years ago. We did all the drawings ourselves, and basically wanted a little box that you could open up. The house is modern but the garden is wild; often we let the grass grow high with lots of flowers, trees, bushes. I love the mix of the clean architecture and the wild nature.

The image above the bed feels like an open window. Can you tell us about it?
The frame above the bed is the cover of the very first Noma book; it is the Baltic Sea shot from the Swedish island Gotland. I think it is quintessential Nordic: the soft blue tones, the sea. So peaceful and a perfect view.

That bathtub, it must have a story.
The house is one big room, so the tub is by the end of the bed. I love that it is standing on the wooden floor in the middle of the room. I found the tub at genbyg.dk, who sells old building materials. I have spent hours cleaning layers of paint off. I think the old raw tub together with the wooden ladder from Andrea Brugi gives a nice contrast and warmth to the white walls, as does the old window near the toilet.

What about this room speaks to Danish design?
The bed is from [custom Copenhagen furniture company] LLLP and is very minimal. I like the mix with that and the old Italian chandelier. I think mixing in a touch of color and old things is very important if you like Danish classic design.

What is it that makes the dining room so welcoming?
The wooden table and bench made by my friend Andrea Brugi is a very good contrast to the modern Børge Mogensen chairs. I love wood; it gives the place a nice warmth. One of the doors in the kitchen is used as a collage with images, cards and things I like [that] give it a nice personal touch. The wall behind the table is a garage door. It opens up completely and is one of my favorite features in the house. We use the poles from the door to hang kitchen stuff on.

The house is not large, but because it opens up it feels much bigger. It is a summer house but we come all year ’round, and even lived there for eight months with a newborn while we were restoring our primary house. In the summer we open everything up, listen to music from the turntable, have friends or family for barbecue. In winter we make a bonfire in the garden, cook a stew on the wood-fired oven, and enjoy the silence, as there is hardly anyone there.