Inside Villa Stenersen, Oslo’s Under-the-Radar Gem of Modernist Architecture

Even the most dilettantish of architecture buffs will nod knowingly at any of mention of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye outside of Paris, or of Mies van der Rohe’s Villa Tugendhat in the Czech Republic. But mention Arne Korsmo’s Villa Stenersen in Oslo, and you’re likely to elicit nothing but head scratching. Like those other modernist residences, Villa Stenersen is a white, flat-roofed, functionalist structure built from reinforced concrete at the behest of a rich client in the early part of the last century. But Villa Stenersen doesn’t have the international acclaim or immediate recognizability of those others — something we’re doing our small part to remedy today. For our money, Villa Stenersen is warmer, more interesting, more fun, and — dare we say? — more Sight Unseen than those other two icons of modern architecture.

We first came across Villa Stenersen on a trip to Norway in 2016 — pretty sure we plugged “iconic houses Oslo” into Google, and it was the first thing that popped up — and immediately fell in love with the corrugated wall, the glass bricks, the bright blue facade, the free-standing columnal fireplace, and, of course, the colors. Our visit there was so magical that when we heard one of our favorite photographers, Tekla Severin, was visiting Oslo, we implored her to photograph the house for us in all its waiting-to-be-refurbished glory. Read on to find out more about this under-the-radar Scandinavian gem.