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Villa Terminus bedroom, photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
29th March 2017

Big in Bergen: introducing Villa Terminus

What do you get when you cross a Norwegian hotelier, a Swedish architect and a Danish painter?

Turns out no one had the faintest idea until Villa Terminus opened its doors. Now it’s clear that the answer is ‘a time-travelling boutique hotel in Bergen that could easily be a design museum if only they took the beds out and stopped trying to give everyone breakfast’.

And why is Zetteler talking about it?

Long story. Short version: we tend to be in Bergen a fair bit (thanks to it being one of Norway’s biggest designer-producing cities, Bergen Academy); we work extensively with Norwegian designers; founder Sabine has a past life in boutique hotel PR (Mr & Mrs Smith) and we’re mates with Max Fraser. So, when Max happened to mention he was writing a series of books exploring the history, architecture and design attributes of five fascinating Bergenser hotels (De Bergenske hotel group), we raised an intrigued eyebrow.

As a result of that eyebrow, we’re very, very, very excited to announce that we’re working with De Bergenske to help them launch their rejuvenated quintet of Bergen hotels (how many other hotel chains have all their properties within walking distance of each other?), each offering an entirely different experience, but all dyed-in-the-wool havens of design.

Villa Terminus is the first. It’s an 18-bedroom baroque villa in the centre of the city (right next to its big sister, Grand Hotel Terminus) that spent the last two centuries or so as a care home, until Swedish super-architects and designers Claesson Koivisto Rune were dialled in to transform it into a boutique retreat that did justice to Bergen’s ample design credentials. 

Villa Terminus, photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
And where does the Danish painter come in? 

That would be Vilhelm Hammershøi, the 19th-century artist known for a) his tendency to paint the back of his wife’s head, and b) the utterly mesmerising way he portrayed light. Claesson Koivisto Rune took Hammershøi’s subdued, haunting treatment of sunlit interiors as their starting point for the Villa Terminus redesign, inspired by what Marten Claesson calls an ‘air of tranquillity and clear soft light that was quintessentially Scandinavian’.

All very well in a painting, but how does that look in a building?

The result is a genuinely remarkable hotel with an atmosphere that calms you the second you step through its antique doors (possibly pausing to admire the pair of Arne Jacobsen light fittings affixed either side). This warren of chalk-toned walls and beamed ceilings seems to belong in another age – but it’s impossible to pinpoint where, given the competing claims of the hand-crafted mid-century modern furniture dotted around each bedroom and the litany of contemporary design pieces spread throughout. With works by the luminary likes of David Chipperfield, Antonio Citterio, Ilse Crawford, Andreas Engesvik, Josef Frank, Sir Kenneth Grange, Konstantin Grcic, Jasper Morrison, Russell Pinch, Samuel Wilkinson and (pause for breath) Terence Woodgate, Villa Terminus is effectively a compact walking tour of the most influential designers of the 21st century. 

So it’s an 18th-century villa inspired by a 19th-century artist, furnished by 20th and 21st-century designers?

Precisely. In the hands of anyone else, it could have been a confusion of muddled timelines and period clashes, but Claesson Koivisto Rune have pulled off the impossible and created somewhere coherent, timeless and, to use a technical term, absolutely frickin' awesome.

What about the other four hotels?
Watch this space…

Original nineteenth century photograph of Villa Terminus
The dining room, photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
The hallways, photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
The library, photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
The kitchen, photography by Åke E:son Lindman.
The library, photography by Åke E:son Lindman.

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