I learned of the German word "fernweh" last month on NPR. It translates as "farsickness" or "a longing for a place you've never been." Apparently, many folks have this feeling for a place that relates to their ancestry. I certainly do. For me, the place is Norway. One of my great grandmothers came to the U.S. from Norway, or was it my great-great grandmother? In any case, I grew up enjoying a tradition of Norwegian holiday baking. But I've never been to Norway or been told much about it.
Yet somehow I seem to be hardwired to design buildings with a hint of Norwegian influence. Take the little outbuilding in the photo above. You may recognize it from the KHS website, or (back in the day) from Cottage Living, or perhaps from my book The New Small House. Now that I'm more actively pursuing photos of Norwegian vernacular architecture on Instagram and such, I'm noticing that it almost looks as if I floated this little building over from Lofoten to Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Yet I only recently learned of Lofoten, more than ten years after designing the Manchester Garage/Garden Room.
And my taste for Norwegian and Scandinavian design doesn't stop at the vernacular, it includes the more modern, too. Just today I spotted this post from @Nordicwall on Instagram, and it momentarily took my breath away. So what is this about? Is the Norwegian/Scandinavian aesthetic in my DNA? Or am I subconsciously (and now consciously) absorbing Norwegian/Scandinavian influence to reinforce what I know of my heritage? It's one of the delightful mysteries of being human: why and how do we connect with the world, not just the world we know but the world we feel we know, if only in our imaginings.
by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast