For anyone following along the last several months, you may remember that Alex and I took a trip to Scandinavia last October. Our week spent in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark was an amazing experience because we were able to learn more about cultures and cuisine new to us, as well as take in the beauty of cities and towns established long before the United States was a country. 

To be perfectly honest, Scandinavia wasn't on our "bucket list of destinations we need to see," but this fact is simply due to the fact that we didn't know that much about it. In an odd twist of fate while researching a new car purchase, we learned about the Volvo Overseas Delivery program. We jumped at the chance to save money on a new (and responsible/safe/reliable) car while getting a pair of free round trip airline tickets to see a part of the world that was unknown to us. You know I love a good bargain, so our bags were packed!

Like most, we use vacations to get away from our day-to-day concerns of work and those things that typically stress us out. But for us, we also use the opportunity to take a step back and think strategically about our renovation plans (yes, we're house nerds like that). It seems that getting out of the work zone allows us to think differently about the projects we're working on, how we want to manage and execute future projects, and gives us ideas and inspiration to try out back home. Our trip to London in 2006 for example, was the driving force behind our paint selection for our new front doors. 

The bright blue doors at the Tower of London...

...and the shiny black paint at 10 Downing Street...

Photo Credit: Maapu

...ultimately helped guide us to the final look we chose for the front of our home. (Please ignore the Christmas decorations in this photo.)

Our trip to Scandinavia, just like our trip to London, was chock full of inspiration. 

Not only did we see a wide array of interior design styles and home decor that inspired us (as we discussed in this post), but we were wowed by the intricate details and history of the homes, buildings, architecture, and public spaces. Don't get me wrong. We recognize how fortunate we are to live in Old Town Alexandria, an old (by American standards) town full of historic significance that oozes warmth and charm. But stepping away from our country to see other parts of the world recharges our renovation batteries so to speak.

Today we want to take an opportunity share some of the things we saw on our trip that got our creative juices flowing. Who knows, maybe they'll give you a little inspiration too.

At the time, we were working on our vestibule project and were still debating what type of house numbers we were going to use. I know I had doors and house numbers on the brain because I couldn't stop snapping pictures of interesting doors with Alex's iPhone. (Yep, not camera, iPhone. Why don't you ask me who forgot to pack the memory card for our camera when it was one of the few things he was responsible for?? <sigh> I'm still not quite over that one.)

Alex here:... oops :-)

Sorry, back to what inspires us. Just look at this beautiful door in Copenhagen, complete with traditional gold transom window numbers. As you can see from our decision on the numbers for our house, this is a look that we grew fond of.

Here's a shot of a home in Copenhagen that was also sporting transom house numbers. Although more modest (and let's be honest, in need of a fresh coat of paint and a little reinforcement for above), I loved this door and found the look very inviting.

Transom numbers weren't everywhere though. Here's a stunning entry in Oslo that proudly displays it's numbers on the home itself. And seriously, how beautiful is the iron scrollwork behind the glass? 

I was also drawn to this quaint gate, marking one of the water side entrances to the historic and charming fortress of Old Town Fredrikstad, not far outside of Oslo. Maybe we love all things "Old Town," but the sweeping vine and simple but patina'd light seem to call out to those passing by to come on in. 

Don't worry, we weren't totally fixated on doors alone. In addition to doors, as beautiful as they were, I was also struck by the interesting ironwork throughout Scandinavia. Even the park benches are a work of art in Copenhagen!

Though the red phone booths from the UK are iconic, the British shouldn't get all the credit for making this otherwise mundane and utilitarian item quite interesting. Check out Stockholm's version of a phone booth. Its fish scale roof and feminine shape gives the red telephone box a run for its money in interest and visual coolness. 

Also beautiful was this iron fence in Copenhagen. How amazing could this look surrounding a quaint and peaceful garden?

How about this majestic gate, also in Copenhagen. I can just picture this as an amazing way to admit visitors to a secret garden, perhaps in my Napa Valley vineyard. A girl can dream, right? 

On the subject of gardens, Alex and I fell in love with this little courtyard we stumbled upon in Copenhagen. From the cobblestone pavers to the lovely harlequin door, it was just dripping with charm. We already have the ivy in our own yard, maybe we can pull some of these elements in when we give it a makeover in a few years? 

While in Fredrikstad, I snapped this photo of a weathered historic building. Not only do I love the brick and stonework, but I could see incorporating outdoor lighting such as this along the wall in our garden. How cute would that be? 

Good things come in small packages, and this little gem in Fredrikstad was no exception. Using it as an example I could see building a great little potting shed, studio, or playhouse. I found the chevron pattern of the wood door beautiful, and the patina on the roof added interest and texture. 

Fredrikstad seemed to have no shortage of alluring and beautiful old buildings. I found this courtyard to be particularly appealing. I loved the roof, the stone pavers, and the casement windows. Maybe some day, when we look at renovating our sun porch, we could think about infusing some character into the space with windows like these. 

Just as quaint was this home in Oslo. The textured roof reminded me of the building above in Fredrikstad, and the shape and size of the home was so welcoming.

House colors can be tricky, and typically when I think of rust and gold I think southwest design complete with turquoise and kokopelli. But these amazing buildings in the heart of historic Old Town (Gamla stan) Stockholm showcased how beautiful and versatile these colors can be. 

So there you have it. A quick roundup of some of the things from our trip that have given us design inspiration. I can't wait to begin implementing them in ways around our home. At least we already have the house numbers under our belt, and we love how they look. 

Where do you go to find inspiration? Pinterest perhaps? Decorating shows and magazines? Or maybe a trip to a new part of the world is what gets you excited to roll up your sleeves and dig in. 

Comments 4


threadbndr (Karla)
2/13/2012 at 11:58 AM
Oh my, I covet that ironwork dragon something fierce!

And the cobblestones! I hate the city govt in my town - they are rapidly asphalting over all the brick streets in the city except where neighborhoods have managed to get historic designations in place before they start. We are half brick, half asphalt with no plan in place for them to put our brick back, darn it.
Hi Karla. I know, isn't he just the coolest! Who knew park benches could be so awesome.

That is so very sad about the brick streets in your city. :-(
2/14/2012 at 8:00 PM
Hey, since I'm just *full* of random bits of knowledge, I know of a way you could easily recreate the weathered/mossy clay tiles on that little potting shed. Basically, you would use plain terracotta roof tiles, and then spray (or paint) them with a mixture of pureed moss (local *living* moss, not bagged craft store stuff) mixed with beer into a sort of runny sludge. Sounds pretty crazy and bizarre, but I saw this on a gardening show AGES ago as a trick to get moss to grow over garden rocks/retaining walls, etc.

Your photos remind me a lot of some of the beautiful buildings/doors/iron work that I see when I visit Ottawa. I have albums full of these kinds of photos. :)
Cool tip, thanks JC! Now I know what to do if we ever build a garden shed in our tiny back yard. :-)
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