Villa Terminus, Bergen, Norway

Posted in People, Projects on 6 September, 2017

Old to new – restoring and re-imagining historical buildings for modern functional hospitality use are acts of love inspired by art and history. Carol Kraal has spoken to Architecture & Interior Design Consultant Sara Graav from Norway about Villa Terminus in Bergen…

It pays to have a good heart as your legacy may live on forever. During the 1760’s, merchant and philanthropist Alexander Kaae bequeathed 16,000 rigsdaler for the construction of a building in the centre of Bergen, in Norway, to provide a restful retreat for people who had fallen on hard times.

Fast forward 250 years, and Kaae’s vision lives on in the protected-status building of Villa Terminus (, a small family-run hotel owned by local hotel group De Bergenske.

Freshly refurbished and sensitively rejuvenated by Swedish architecture and design firm Claesson Koivisto Rune (, Villa Terminus offers a finely balanced fusion of Bergen’s history, Norwegian culture, and iconic mid-century and modern-day design. The quaint hotel only has 18 bedrooms, each unique in size and design – one has a beautiful bathtub to luxuriate in.

Villa Terminus is an architectural jewel of Nordic classicism with elements characteristic of 18thcentury Norway.

A chat with architect Eero Koivisto of Claesson Koivisto Rune, a Swedish architectural and design partnership, on restoring an 18th century retreat to the elegant boutique hotel Villa Terminus.

We can see a mix of various styles from Baroque to Modern in Villa Terminus. What is the main story you want to tell with the architecture you created for the restoration project?

There are actually two- or maybe three – different ‘style periods’ in the interior. The building itself is Nordic classicism in a Norwegian way. Meaning that it’s a wood building with classicist detailing, typical of that era in Norway (about 250 years ago). The furniture we’ve used is either vintage Scandinavian design from the 1950’s and 1960’s, or contemporary design from ourselves and other designers working in, what loosely could be called, the modernist tradition. These periods work very well together. We also chose a grey colour scheme inspired by the paintings of the Danish artist Willem Hammershøi that suits the contemporary modernist style. Our idea was to make the hotel difficult to place in a specific time. Sort of timeless.

Was it important to have native Bergen/Norwegian elements and aesthetics in the project? What are some of these elements?

The building itself is very typical of the period and of the geographic area. We used materials like local slate and wood for floors and contemporary objects by Norwegian designers such as Andreas Engesvik and Daniel Rybakken. Please keep in mind that Scandinavia, even if it’s big in land area, is small in population. Also the languages are alike. Meaning that it’s quite difficult to tell if something is Norwegian, Swedish or Danish. There are more similarities than differences. Most people who have seen the hotel say it’s very Scandinavian, or Nordic.

How did art inspire your restoration work of this 18th century building?

When starting the project we saw a very nice exhibition of the Danish artist Willem Hammershøi at Scandinavia House in New York, and from that moment the project sort of fell into place. An interesting fact is that during the research stage of the restoration of the building, prior to the hotel project, workers found old colour samples under layers of old paints and debris. They were grey. More or less exactly the shades found in the Hammershøi paintings.

Was it important for you to preserve the grandeur of the exterior?

Yes. Actually the building is listed, as it’s one of the oldest standing buildings in Bergen. So it had to be preserved by law. We think the building is very beautiful.

How did you balance the fusion of Bergen’s history, Norwegian culture and iconic midcentury and modern-day design in the project, so that the overall design is seamless and flowing?

By giving it a unified colour scheme. There are no strong colours anywhere – all colours are slightly muted. Kind of ‘soft’.

Many beautiful handcrafted pieces are found in Villa Terminus. Do you think handcrafting is a dying art today – how can we keep these traditions alive?

On the contrary, I think that handicraft has gotten a strong resurgence. When everything in the world can be viewed on your handheld device, the materiality of the physical objects left becomes important. Among younger people – at least here in Scandinavia – the notion of personal investment in work, be it a design object, a piece of clothing, or food, is very strong right now. So we’re very hopeful for that development.

What are the three most important elements of Scandinavian Style in architecture and interior design?

Usefulness, practicality, beauty. Maybe with a small hint of timeless understatement and joyfulness…

Is there a special part of the architectural design that you want a future guest of the hotel to look out for?

Not really. We would like guests to just feel very well and ‘at home’ in the hotel. That’s the most difficult ambience to create.

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