Gustave Carlson, residential architect, artist and author of Pacific Modern, Hygge— the Danish concept of comfort—finds architecture and design expression in his multi-faceted portfolio of residential architectural designs. An East Coast transplant of Scandinavian heritage who moved to Northern California more than 20 years ago, Carlson interprets hygge for places where the weather is (relatively) milder, and blue skies abound, but wellness is still the ultimate goal. While his work is rooted in California Modern, he fluently layers themes of that influential architecture vocabulary across various styles—from Northern California cabin, and farmhouse, to classic, Craftsman, and contemporary.
“Hygge is about quality of life, and residential architecture sets the stage,” says Carlson, whose residential commissions span architectural styles from classic and mid-century modern, to Bay Area regional. “The experience of a home that is aligned with the individual generates a sense of joy, which is eventually carried beyond its walls.”
A snapshot of projects that exemplify Gustave Carlson Design’s unique nod toward California Hygge follows:
Carlson designed this farmhouse-inspired weekend getaway for his family in Sonoma. Located on a former walnut orchard, the 1,885 SF house—along with a 600 SF barn which functions as a studio for his artist wife—captures the experience of California camping. Like farm buildings in the area, the house sits humbly on the landscape. Carlson sited the house along an east-west axis to allow for natural light throughout, and all rooms in the house have access to the outdoors. An L-shaped wood deck connects the house and the barn, while a covered porch was sited to create a cool place where one can escape the heat of the summer afternoon sun.
Berkeley Hills Residence
Inspired by the homeowner’s desire for a white kitchen and a light-filled environment, Carlson opened up the spaces of this modestly-sized 1950s Ranch-style house, while using red as an accent. The homeowner’s personal art collection is showcased on walls and on the fireplace. Carlson and builder, Scott Harrison, share a love of cooking and gardening, which provided common ground for solving design problems. The homeowner — an engineer with a large San Francisco firm— is preparing for retirement in the light-filled house. An avid art collector, home cook, and gardener, she moved from her former dark wood-paneled Craftsman house to this home, where she can enjoy stunning views every single day.
Carter Acres Residence
Overlooking a prominent regional park, the Carter Acres Residence commands an overwhelming view of the surrounding parkland and wildlife. It was also designed to capture the distant views of Mount Diablo. Each of the main rooms faces a mountain view, making one feel transformed by the environment as the weather changes throughout the day. Throughout both the interior and exterior, the palette is defined by organic natural materials.
Point Reyes Residence
Located within walking distance of the town center of bucolic Point Reyes Station, this property features a 1930s cottage, a barn dating back to the turn of the 20th century, and minimal landscaping. In adherence to local design guidelines, Carlson blended the house’s exterior aesthetic with its natural surroundings, thus realizing the homeowners’ vision of an open-plan, modern interior through the reconfiguring and repurposing of spaces. While the owners desired a modern home, they wanted the house to fit into the neighborhood of small, brown-shingled cottages and clapboard homes. They also wanted to work with the existing house foundation and framing to appeal to their environmental concerns to not tear down the property.