Synne Lindgren Helle lives in beautiful Askvoll, between fjord and mountains, and about as far west in Norway as you can get.
Last autumn, she saw an Instagram post showing a multi-level terrace in Texas, USA. This inspired her so much that, before she realised it, she had begun her own extensive terrace project.
– We have a property with a view over a fjord lagoon. And the garden has a ridge with a natural slope of around three metres, she explains.
The reason she was so inspired by the Texas garden was that it opened her eyes to what a terrace could actually be.
– It quite simply made me think differently. My husband and I began talking about how we could use the ridge as an advantage, rather than a hindrance, she says.
The project became more and more concrete and last autumn the first clod was turned.
But first we need to rewind a little.
A terrace isn’t just a terrace. It is, with a little poetic licence, an extension of the house. Anyone who has built, refurbished or renovated a house will know that the keyword is planning.
So how did you plan to get the most out of your terrace project?
Identify and prioritise, according to Synne LindgrenHelle.
– First, we had to find out what we had to work with. For us, this was scenic and reasonably isolated surroundings. We have no neighbours below the house, but on the other hand it’s teaming with wildlife. There is birdsong from morning to evening and we often see herds of deer come almost up to the house, she says.
After this, it’s about prioritising.
– I like to say that a terrace, or a garden for that matter, has to fulfil certain functions. It’s an area to be used, even if just for recreation. So we had to find out which functions it was most important for the terrace to fulfil.
Synne LindgrenHelle struggles with chronic and non-reversible health problems that make it difficult for her to make a full return to working life, so that an easily accessible terrace is important, as a place where she can enjoy peace and tranquillity.
– It was clear to us at an early stage that the terrace had to be easy to access, so that we could use it a lot. The idea behind the project was that it should be a place where we could live our lives in the best possible way, she explains.
The work then began to create the different zones. A zone is simply an area of the garden or terrace that has a specific function. Read the ultimate guide on how to create cozy zones in your garden or terrace
– We had long dreamed of both an outdoor kitchen and an outdoor shower, so for us, these were high on the list of priorities. We also used what we could afford to find nice things we could include in the project.
The ridge is fine for a zone where you can just sit and enjoy the view. Even the birch trees had a function.
– One birch tree became part of the outdoor shower. The whole area is designed like a snail shell, with the birch tree in the middle, Synne LindgrenHelle explains.
When the plan was ready, the actual work began, with winter just around the corner
– We carpentered and worked throughout the winter – in almost any weather conditions. There were times when the snowplough worked around the outside of the house while we hammered in the garden, she chuckles.
The original plan was for the terrace to be finished for summer 2021, although this was not a fixed deadline.
– For us, it’s also about having a project. Both my husband and I have been home a lot over the last year so it was extra important to have something for us both to do. And when the reason for doing so is to create somewhere for us to relax, it would be counter-productive to get all stressed about getting it finished.
Nothing is left to chance on the terrace, including the materials used. They were not only to mirror the rest of the property, but also be something the couple could recognise themselves in.
– The landscape we were to build on is rough rock. Both my husband and I are a little soft inside and rough on the outside, so we like these types of materials. We recognise ourselves in Norwegian nature, so it was natural for us to use Norwegian materials, she explains.
– The stone contrasts with the wood, yet they work really well together. It’s also been important for me to choose stone that matches the surroundings. Our terrace should be part of, and almost a tribute to, the local landscape, so stone from abroad would have been completely wrong, she explains.
The choice of light Oppdal slate is no coincidence, either.
– We laid crazy paving of Oppdal slate outside the house a few years ago, so for me it was natural to use the same stone on the terrace. There is no doubt that Oppdal slate is extremely beautiful. It’s the jewel of the terrace, she asserts.
The basic materials were not the only careful choices made by the couple.
– It’s been important to consider the environment in every phase of the project. We have therefore chosen to make some of the furniture ourselves, restore some old furniture and buy a few new items. In this way, we get furniture that will last and with which we have a different relationship, because we made it ourselves.
This way of thinking is reflected in every aspect of the terrace project.
– We’re going to use a lot of sheepskin and wool in the garden furniture. I’ve even knitted the cushions that are going on the outdoor sofa, so we don’t do things by halves here, she explains.
Now spring is just around the corner, and Synne LindgrenHelle is looking forward to the possibility of reaching the finishing line in time.
– We’re beginning to build the walls now and after that, there won’t be much left to do. So if we’re allowed to get people together again, we’ll have a garden party at the end of June, she concludes.
Stay tuned to see the finished result!
– The stone contrasts with the wood, yet they work really well together. It’s also been important for me to choose stone that matches the surroundings. Our terrace should be part of, and almost a tribute to, the local landscape, so stone from abroad would have been completely wrong.
Synne Lindgren Helle