Our first experience of renting in Copenhagen has been nothing but positive, thanks to the owners of the house we’re staying in and its design. They have gone travelling around Bali for two months and have kindly left everything for us to use. Rather than ramble on about how nice it looks, I thought I’d ask our landlords about the inspiration behind their beautiful home. Not only are they lovely people who agreed to help me with this post, they are also architects, so they know what they’re talking about.

Which Danish designers inspire you?

We are not inspired by any particular Danish designers, but more by a general Nordic architectural tradition based on concepts as light, minimalism and functionalism. We moved some walls and made a new kitchen in order to create one main living space with large windows towards south. We find the daylight important, especially during winter, when it is very sparse.

When the house is rather small, it is important to have one large open space, it makes the house seem bigger. Is does not matter to us if the secondary rooms are small as long as we have one large airy living space.

Have you got any typical Danish pieces in the house?

We do not own any real Danish classics. 🙂 It is a mixture of old, new, second hand, inherited and self made. As long as it has a certain quality to it, we do not care who made it.

The leather chair is an Argentinian classic called The Bat Chair. Our version is a Danish reinterpretation by OX Denmarq.

What three words would you use, to sum up Danish interior style?

Modernism, second hand and furniture classics.

We create intimate spaces within larger spaces with lighting and furnishing.

What is your favourite part of the house?

The large windows and the sunlight coming through it.

 

There are quite a few small lamps rather than one main light in the house. Is this a deliberate choice and is it part of a hygge lifestyle?

It is very deliberate. We use lamps for furnishing in order to create smaller spaces within a larger room. It makes the room seem bigger and more “hyggeligt”.

Did you create the desk space in the hallway?

Yes, I designed it and built it from bare sheets of birch and mdf. We wanted a small office space and it is the only place, you can close the door.

The same with the sliding doors and cabinet in the children’s room. It is made from sheets of birch, and the idea was to keep the room close to the living space, so the children feel comfortable, and don’t take all the toys into the living room. However, it is still possible to close it, when they have to sleep.

I made the kitchen as well, where the kitchen table is made from pieces of oak that goes all the way to the floor in one movement.

It is these details that have made living here so enjoyable. I love this art work, painted by the owner’s mother. The artistic eye runs in the family!

Thank you for having us to stay. It’s been the perfect launch pad into Danish living. We will be sad to leave at the end of the month!

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Happy pancake day everyone!

We have enjoyed our usual style of slightly shrivelled-looking homemade pancakes this evening, topped with a standard lemon and sugar coating.

But on Sunday we embraced the Danish version of pancake day celebrations, which is Fastelavn.

The Fastelavn leaflet through our mailbox

After getting a leaflet through our mailbox, I thought we’d been invited to someone’s birthday party. Google translate left me a little confused so I asked our neighbours if they’d been invited too and that’s when they explained Fastelavn to us. My Danish family then told me more and showed me this photo.

Taken by a family photographer friend Susanne Mertz in Christianshavn, circa 2000.

Fastelavn (pronounced Faste-a-loun) is celebrated in Denmark every year on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday. Some call it a Nordic Halloween. Children dress up, but unlike Halloween, they don’t have to be scary. In fact, there are no limits when it comes to costumes (a blessing or a curse to parents!). At our local event, the costumes varied from fairies, a bunch of grapes, to a loo, complete with a loo-roll holder arm.

Once they’re all gathered in their finery, the children form an orderly queue and take it in turns to hit a large barrel. It’s similar to piñata, but is called “slå katten af tønden,” which means “hit the cat out of the barrel.” Apparently, back in the day, a cat would be placed in the barrel and the barrel hit with a stick until the cat escaped. The cat was then chased out of the town, with the idea it was taking bad luck away with it. Cats are spared this ordeal nowadays, although I think I’d be the one more terrified at waiting for the stick-bashing moment the cat escaped, alarmed, angry and with claws at the ready. I’m so scared of cats, I once caused Rich to jump out of bed to my rescue, when he heard me scream outside our front door after a late shift. I’d seen a cat and it was staring at me.

So…luckily, no cats involved in Fastelavn anymore, except for a drawing on the barrel. Instead of a cat escaping, sweets fall out of the barrel, hurrah! The child who successfully frees the sweets, is named the Queen of Cats. The child who takes down the last piece of barrel, is named King of Cats. What’s left, is a bit of a mess on the floor. Lydia isn’t old enough to have a go at hitting the barrel, or eat sweets, so she toddled over to the aftermath and stared. Being an under-age Festalavn partaker also meant I got away without dressing her up. Next year may be different…Lyddie Loo?!

'Slå katten af tønden' leftovers.

After barrel hitting is complete, some children then go around their neighbours knocking on doors for sweets or money. In our area, they had a little community party instead.

Fastelavn also involves food. A typical Fastelavn treat is a sweet roll covered in icing and filled with cream. These are sold in shops in the run-up to the day. I’m not sure how I missed this but I did (sad face).

Lucky I had my shrivelled up pancake instead.

 

One of my favourite Copenhagen days so far has been our visit to Frederiksberg, where we discovered the gardens –  Frederiksberg Have. Snow was on the ground and the sun shining on our faces. Instead of waffling on about it, I thought I’d just make a little video instead.

Enjoy!

P.S. Lydia was fighting a nap for quite a lot of this, while I kept holding us up trying to be arty with my iphone, Sony Cybershot and freezing hands! I used imovie (for the first time), to edit.

(Grab a cup of tea…long post alert!)

“I hope you’re settling in.”

“Good luck settling in.”

“We’ll come and visit once you’ve settled in.”

I’m not quite sure how you define ‘settling in’ but I think there must be levels to it. I felt pretty settled from day one, mostly thanks to the lovely house we’re in and being married to Mr Laidback. But then you’ve got the ‘getting-about settled’, ‘making new-friends-settled’, ‘enjoying-work settled’, ‘finding-a-good-nursery settled’ and finally, ‘mastering-the-language settled.’ That’s a lot of levels of ‘settle’ and it will take a while to get there. So it’s important to take the settling-in wins when you get them.

Win number one: Acclimatising to the weather

Oh it’s cold. The house is lovely and warm but once you head outside, the cold wind hits you. As I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t pack brilliantly for our first two months here…in winter. All our clothes are hanging in our open-style wardrobe and I find myself looking at Lydia’s in envy. However, I have now found an outfit where I can just about zip up my coat and not lose the feeling in any part of my body. Win! The next mission is adjusting this Michelin-man look to a ready-for-work professional one. The Danes seem to carry this off very well and not look at all cold. Note to self – must research how to tap into this Danish gene of cold resistance.

Shivering aside, I feel like we’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather. It just looks stunning and there’s nothing more pleasant than walking on crunchy snow with the sun shining down on your face (as posted in this video I put on Instagram). It actually feels like we’re on a skiing holiday (minus my lack of ski wear, sob –and skiing) but I did actually bump into a lady carrying her skis in central Copenhagen. When I say bumped, I was feeling curious and asked her where she had been with said skis. I didn’t really understand but I gather it’s a nearby field.

The outfit that keeps out the cold. Seven layers on top, a tights/jeans plus two pairs of socks combo on the bottom and two pairs of gloves, large scarf/wrap, an ear warmer band thing plus a woolly hat.
Here I am wearing all those layers.
Coming back from a spot of skiing in the city.

Win number 2: We’ve unpacked

It’s taken ten days but we have finally unpacked the last suitcase! For us, the first few days of settling in meant catching up on sleep after a real whirlwind farewell to our house, friends and family. When you have an active little person around, you can’t sustain late nights and not enough sleep. Rich and I made it a priority to tag-team Lydia entertainment with hiding away for a snooze. And then we just couldn’t face anything remotely linked to a form of packing/unpacking. Good job I didn’t pack much then hey!

Win number 3: A fridge full of food

Denmark isn’t cheap. We knew that. But it didn’t stop us being shocked after our four-bags-of-essentials-from-Netto shop coming in at over £70. If that’s Scandinavian for value, we’re in for some baked beans on toast.

To do our ‘proper big food shop’ we decided to use Nemlig – an online supermarket service. The site is great but we needed Google translate to work out what on earth we were clicking on and whether it was worth the money. Three hours later and Rich had meticulously gone through every category via translation and filled the basket. At check-out, the system wouldn’t accept his card, or mine, or any card. A phone call to the helpline sounded promising but oh….no…..that…did….not….just….happen. Basket emptied. You know that monkey emoji with the hands over the eyes….this is what that face was made for. As the day-trip plans had been thrown out anyway, Rich persevered and realised the system only worked if you kept the site in Danish. If there’s ever an incentive to learn the language. After another two hours, our food shop was complete. We needed to get out the house so went on a wander. Where do we end up….yep…a supermarket. We needed to keep warm, it’s all we could see and we realised we didn’t actually have any food in for tea. Can a Saturday get any better?! Actually it can…the supermarket didn’t sell wine. We stopped off at the local off-license where the wine lived on the back of a top shelf looking warm and dusty. I decided against it and ended up having my evening meal with a can of cider. This is not me. So when the online food shop was delivered the next day, at the right time, to the right address, you bet it was a win.

Win number 4: The house

The family letting it out to us have two young boys and have left everything for us to use, including bikes, car, cot and so many wonderful toys for Lydia to play with. We are so grateful to them as it has made our transition not just seamless but joyful. I am going to dedicate a whole post to the house later because it’s divine and so perfectly Danish.

Win number 5: I don’t have to rock Lydia to sleep for every nap and bedtime

Lydia has never been great at going to sleep but for the first week here, she has snuggled tightly into me for comfort in order to drift off. This hasn’t happened since breastfeeding days and I felt a heart-wrenching guilt. But now she is managing to self-settle, a hit-and-miss routine of leaving the room/coming back in/lying next to the cot/singing/back-rubbing/giving in and rocking/pleading – what self-settle really means. As this is her norm, and she’s sleeping through (big win), I have lost the ‘I have traumatised my baby’ guilt. I’m saving that for when she starts Danish nursery. We’ll cross that bridge another time…

Win number 6: We’re happy

I was expecting to get that slightly sick, nervous, what-on-earth-have-we-done feeling in my stomach but it hasn’t happened yet. Rich feels the same. Lydia is in her element, in her new open-plan play area with lots of lovely new toys. There are hurdles to overcome, we know that. But right now, we’re taking our wins. I’ll drink my Danish can of cider to that. Skål!

Lydia stepping out in snow
Frederiskberg Gardens
Østerbro
Østerbro

It’s been just over a week since we boarded our one-way flight to Copenhagen. Here’s a little post about the journey.

We packed enough to get us through our first short-term rent of two months. After this, we will probably ship the rest of our stuff out, which is currently stored in every inch of spare space at our parents’ houses. The house we’re staying in is fully furnished, so we thought we didn’t need much. Oh how wrong we were! Once you take a 16-month old into account, there isn’t much space left for you. I also wanted to make sure Lydia had all her clothes and lots of familiar toys and books to help her settle.

We filled three large suitcases and three hand luggage bags and Lydia’s changing bag. When travelling with a little one, you usually get two free items to check-in, so we went with a travel cot and pushchair, which we put in a protective case. This turned into a life-saver, as it had space in it to pack extra clothes and coats. Perfect when winter packing takes up so much room, you find yourself turning up at the airport wearing three jumpers, two coats and a handbag inside a handbag. I still actually did this but somehow managed to pack some ridiculously Spring-inspired items, including one brogue. Yes one brogue. I think you can tell our bedroom was the last room we packed up. Time was running out and in a frenzied panic we were throwing stuff in the charity bag left right and centre, while working out what we needed now, what we needed by month three and what we needed longer-term. What I wasn’t thinking was minus temperatures.

They're not all mine they're Lydia's...

After getting dropped off at Manchester airport by Richie’s Dad, we checked in and headed straight for the children’s play area. Having a toddler in tow makes it very easy to strike up conversations – usually started with the phrase ‘how old is yours? Or ‘sorry, he/she’s not usually like this!’ This time, Lydia kept finding the snacks bag and making her loud food noises whenever she couldn’t get in there, while Rich was finding some lunch for us to eat in the glamour of the play area. So I started chatting to Danielle, who was travelling solo with her two boys, both under the age of four. (This is a massive achievement in the mum diaries.) It turns out she had moved from Bath to Copenhagen seven years ago with her British husband and they’ve never looked back. It’s like someone planted her there for us! We swapped numbers to meet up once we’ve settled in.

Lydia being entertained by a plane and plastic bottle
Goodbye England

The flight itself could not have gone any smoother. Lydia munched on carrot sticks during take-off, then fell asleep in my arms as it was her usual nap time, and only woke once we landed. This is the stuff that dreams are made of in parentland. We were so happy we fell asleep ourselves.

A child-friendly welcome at Copenhagen Airport.

All our luggage was easy to collect at Copenhagen Airport and I even found a handy buggy to push Lydia around in. My cousin’s husband was there to meet us on arrival and he drove Lyds and I to the house while Rich was relegated to a taxi with the extra luggage. We were in our new home, feeling hygge and eating tea by 6pm! Bedtime was more of a struggle but hey, you can’t have it all.