Maria Helgstrand

September 2, 2011

I just discovered the work of stylist and interior designer Maria Helgstrand and have become an instant fan. Put simply, her work is stunning – funky, minimal, sleek, spirited, unexpected, clean, warm and witty – (all the things I long to be). These striking photographs are of the designer’s own home in the center of Copenhagen, which she shares with her husband, Peter, and their two sons. (All the photos were shot and styled by the very talented team of Pernille Kaalund and Louise Riising.)

When the family moved into the flat several years ago they changed, as Maria puts it, “EVERYTHING,” to suit the tastes, experiences and needs of their growing family. They moved the kitchen to a bigger room, knocked down walls and put up new ones. They redid the bathroom. For the decor Maria drew on her heritage as well as her travels and experiences living abroad. In every room Maria also applied her “signature” use of color: pristine whites injected with strong blacks and/or shocks of bright, almost neon, hues that add a sense of drama and intrigue. The results are a highly personalized space that is both functional and lovely, serene and fun, full of character and life, but never cluttered nor chaotic.

A detail of the living room with a vintage Danish modern serving tray and candle holder. Maria’s vast collection of design magazines, for which she writes, and from which she garners inspiration are stacked high here and elsewhere around the apartment. The “A” stands for her elder son, Albert.

Another corner of the living room featuring a couch by Eilersen. I love the use of gradated plywood planks above the sofa. It’s unexpected, adds texture and warmth, and is certainly an economical way to cover a larger expanse of wall. The coffee table is an old sugar box which Maria filched from her grandmother’s summerhouse. The lamps are by Bestlite. Clever to use two right next to each other instead of just one.

Another living room corner with two antique chairs which Maria inherited from her grandmother and re-apholstered in Liberty fabric. The picture above is of Maria while pregnant with her first son. It was painted by her friend Signe Filskov. (For contact info, please email Maria.) The wild green wall paper is by Cole and Son.

I love the whimsical mixture of masculine and feminine elements in Maria’s bedroom. Instead of trying to find a neutral common ground between the two, she used details that are either blatantly girly  – a hot pink lamp, polka dot pendant and flamingo wallpaper – or decidedly manly – a rough, wool blanket and dark gray hues. The effect is so much more interesting than some watered down compromise. The pink lamp by Jielde is from a trip to Paris and the pendant light is by Normann Copenhagen. The wallpaper is from Cole and Son.

Another bedroom detail with an antique print passed down from Maria’s grandmother. It was a gift for Maria’s great grandmother from her husband, who bought it in Italy shortly after Maria’s grandmother was born.

The dining/kitchen area is a stunning example of Maria’s ability to use black and white to maximum effect. I love the black Smeg fridge! The table is by Philippe Starck. Grownup chairs by Gubi; kid seating by Stokke.

Another view of the kitchen/dining area. The sleek aluminum kitchen is by Driade.

More Gubi chairs around the apartment. The painting of chromatic squares on the kitchen wall is by Danish artist Trine Herman. (For contact info, please email Maria.)

The story behind Maria’s WC is quite touching. When I first saw it, it reminded me of all those classic New York subway tile bathrooms that I had in Manhattan. And that’s exactly what inspired it! In July 2001, Maria and Peter visited New York for two weeks and fell in love with the bathroom in their 105th St. apartment. During that trip Peter proposed to Maria at the World Trade Center (this would have been a few months before the towers fell). So the bathroom stands not only as a souvenir of their magical trip, but also as a mini-homage to New York City. The tiles are all hand-made by Made A Mano. Maria chose the vibrant yellow Vipp trash because it reminded her of New York taxis.

In Maria’s work-at-home office we again see her use of neutrals accented by bold brights. Hot, orange, wallpaper and a Kartell orb above the desk look like the sun shining rays of inspiration down on the space. Meanwhile, both functional and practical, an Ikea desk and cabinets provide a cool and minimal counterpoint to these creative flames.

Finally, inspiring a different kind of creativity, the boys’ room is full of playful vintage and modern elements and, of course, lively boyish hues.

For more information on Maria and her work, visit her blog Wallnut or her facebook page.

All photos copyright Pernille Kaalund.

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