My son-in-law has recently been on a fishing trip to Norway and (possibly because he’s a geologist) he wondered why most houses are built from wood and not stone.
There seem to be three main reasons: building in stone takes a lot of manpower and Norway has in the past been sparsely populated with small, isolated, rural communities; secondly, they had a great deal of carpentry skill, associated with boat building; and lastly, wood is so much warmer a material and is flexible so can move with the weather.
Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that these wooden homes sit very comfortably in the environment – either, as here, in natural hues with a turf roof for extra authenticity,
or, in strong contrast, brightly coloured, with a slate roof. In groups, these colours make for an even more spectacular sight – very cheering in a cold, dark, northern winter.
There’s a whole range of fabulous colours used today but traditionally Norwegian houses were painted in one of just three colours: a strong red, yellow, or white.
Red: The red colour was the cheapest to produce. It was created by mixing ochre with cod liver oil (or other vegetable oils or animal oils). As a result, many buildings in farming lands or fishing areas where incomes were lower than average were mostly paint in red. This is why so many barns in the country side were traditionally painted red.
Yellow: The yellow colour was a little more expensive than red and was also created by mixing ochre with cod liver oil.
White: White was the most luxurious of colours since it was the most expensive. In the old days the mineral zinc was needed to create white paint which was very expensive. As a result, if one painted their house white they were showing their neighbours that they were wealthy. Some wealthier farmers would paint their family home in white but their surrounding barns or sheds in the colour red. There are stories of some families by the sea, who were so concerned about their image that they painted the ocean facing wall of their homes in white and used red for the less important walls.
Contemporary architects continue this tradition today. – isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood?