Norwegian Residential Environments from 1879 to 2002

In 1999, the apartment building of Wessel Street no 15 downtown Oslo was demolished and rebuilt in its entirety at the Norwegian Folk Museum at Bygdøy, just outside Oslo. It was offered by OBOS – Oslo Cooperative Housing Cooperation.

Between 2001 and 2005 the building was renovated and decorated through the museum’s own vision: Reconstructed apartments from previous residents since 1879.

That is how the apartments ‘A Doll’s House – 1879’, ‘Modern Living – 1935’, ‘The Cleaning Lady’s Home – 1950’ and ‘The Student’s Bedsitter – 1982’ was born. All in all, the building includes eight apartments and one studio, each one representing a specific era since 1879. Some apartments are reconstructions of homes that actually existed, while others are constructed from descriptions based on the era.

The purpose of the building is to show living customs and home ideals in Oslo through more than a century. The original building was built in 1865 and is incorporated in the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage.

Overview of apartments:
• ‘A Doll’s House – 1879’ – designed after stage directions in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’.
• ‘A Norwegian home in a New Age – 1905’ – home to a teacher couple, originally from the countryside, supporters of the Liberal Party (Norwegian: Venstre) and the dissolution between Norway and Sweden of 1905 with modern home decor.
• ‘Modern Living – 1935’ – modern residence with functional furnishings.
• ‘The Cleaning Lady’s Home – 1950’ – the actual cleaning lady Gunda Eriksen’s complete residential from 1957.
• ‘Teak, TV and teenagers – 1965’ – postwar home illustrating increasing prosperity, new technical devices and a strong youth culture.
• ‘The Architect’s Home – 1979″ – reconstruction of an architect couple’s home as it was presented in the Norwegian interior journal ‘Bonytt’ in 1979.
• ‘The Student’s Bedsitter – 1982’ – a simple student’s living quarters decorated from the memory of the student.
• “A Pakistani home in Norway – 2002” – an apartment decorated with the help of a Norwegian-Pakistani family.

Throughout the autumn, ThorNews will introduce each apartment with photos and stories.

In this article we will look into the apartment ‘A Doll’s House’ decorated after the 1870’s fashions and ideals in Oslo and Henrik Ibsen’s stage directions from the play. Both photos are taken in this apartment.

The Norwegian Folk Museum describes ‘A Doll’s House’ as following:

“A room furnished comfortably and tastefully, but not extravagantly. At the back, a door to the right leads to the entrance-hall, another to the left leads to Helmer’s study. Between the doors stands a piano. In the middle of the left-hand wall is a door, and beyond it a window. Near the window are a round table, arm-chairs and a small sofa. In the right-hand wall, at the farther end, another door; and on the same side, nearer the footlights, a stove, two easy chairs and a rocking-chair; between the stove and the door, a small table. Engravings on the walls; a cabinet with china and other small objects; a small book-case with well-bound books. The floors are carpeted, and a fire burns in the stove.” From Henrik Ibsens Play.

The Doll’s House – 1879 is based on Henrik Ibsens play, published that year. Ibsen described Nora and Torvald Helmer’s home as “furnished comfortably and tastefully, but not extravagantly”. But even though the narrative is Ibsen’s play, we have a different purpose in displaying this home. We will present the late 19th century bourgeois home as a female sphere in a male world, with the front stage where the master and the mistress entertained guests and the back stage where the servants worked and the children usually were hidden way. We also want to show that the privacy and intimacy of the bourgeois home is an important part of the development of a modern home.


Text by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews

Source: Norsk Folkemuseum

Photos from the top: Norsk Folkemuseum, Digitalt museum

Categories: Culture, History

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