New Beginnings

Once a white-washed Scandinavian home, this Copenhagen apartment was re-born in a riot of colour – like its owner, as Antonia af Petersens finds in her new book, New Nordic Colour.

A spacious and serene villa in the peaceful Copenhagen suburb of Gentofte is home to Danish art collector and gallerist Sara Lysgaard. Once decorated in a fashionably pale and pared-down Scandinavian palette, her recently redecorated home boldly embraces colour and pattern. A break-up a few years ago proved a turning point both personally and stylistically, and gave Sara the opportunity to develop her own vision. The result is a glamorous yet playful interior full of art and colour that gives her energy and inspiration.

Once a popular summer retreat for Copenhagen’s wealthy bourgeoisie, Gentofte is now a leafy, pleasant suburb located just 10 minutes away from the city centre. The house where Sara lives was originally a large family home complete with gardens and stables, but it has been converted into separate units that now house six families. Her portion of the house is split over two floors and has its own lovely garden. Sara moved in seven years ago, along with her boyfriend. Their newly renovated house was a clean white shell with white walls, white curtains and bleached wooden floors. Simple and stylish, the pared-down, typically Scandinavian interior suited the couple perfectly at the time.

But times change, and when Sara’s relationship came to an end, she decided that she wanted to remain in the house but to make a fresh start and create a new home to suit her new life. Sara began the process by putting all of her furniture, art and other possessions into storage, leaving her with a blank canvas.

Realising that she had a new appetite for bold colour, she turned to Jannik Martensen- Larsen — a friend who also happens to be the owner of celebrated Danish design company Tapet-Café, which was founded in 1974 and is located in an old house close by in Gentofte. Sara asked Jannik to realise her vision of a home filled with timeless yet bold colours and richly patterned textiles in matching hues. With Jannik’s encouragement and collaboration, Sara was able to commit to her vision of a colourful home.

The results are breathtaking. A palette of petrol blue, peppermint, powder pink, grass green and citrus yellow is combined with attention-grabbing artworks, patterned rugs and eclectic furnishings. Sara does not miss her all-white interior, saying that, while it suited her at the time, in retrospect it was bland and didn’t make enough of a statement.

Her attitude towards colour has undergone a complete change during the past few years, and Sara describes herself as something of a colour addict now, automatically opting for rich, vibrant shades when it comes to clothing, furniture and art. She explains that the transformation of her home has allowed her to be true to herself and her own personal tastes.

Sara grew up in a home that was filled with art. At the tender age of 18, she asked her father to withdraw all the funds from her childhood savings account so that she could buy her first piece. Today, as well as an art collector, Sara is owner of a holding company that makes various investments, and, until recently, was a partner in a gallery in Mallorca.

As part of her job, Sara travels to art fairs around the world and cities such as Venice, New York and Paris, among others, and says she feels privileged to be able to visit some of the world’s most beautiful cities on a regular basis.

However, despite the globe-trotting to glamorous destinations, Sara says that landing at Copenhagen airport is her favourite feeling. During her travels she leads a very busy and sociable existence, so her home is a place to retreat, rest and recharge the batteries.

Sara’s art collection is eclectic and diverse, encompassing paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures and more. Each and every piece has a story behind it and was chosen with thought, love and care. When it comes to buying, Sara looks for works that she has an immediate connection with and which speak to her in some way.

It used to be believed that white walls provided the best backdrop for contemporary art, but in recent years, they have started to look slightly outdated and most galleries have embraced softer hues. The strong, saturated wall colours in Sara’s home perfectly showcase her collection, although Sara declares that neither the colour palette nor the furnishings were deliberately chosen to match the art.

Friends and acquaintances have often sought her advice on buying artworks to match a decorative scheme, but Sara says art should be chosen because it sparks an emotional connection, not purely to match an interior decorator’s mood board.

When she talks about her home, Sara compares it to life in general: always changing, constantly evolving. The original decor — white, cool and pared-down — has developed into something colourful, confident and bold, and for the first time in a long while, Sara feels that her surroundings are completely in tune with her personality.

Extract taken from New Nordic Colour: Decorating with a Vibrant Modern Palette by Antonia af Petersens, published by Ryland, Peters & Small Ltd, RRP £19.99

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