Inside Copenhagen’s Höst, a gem from Norm Architects

You step in off the street in Copenhagen and are immediately transported to a farmhouse in the Danish countryside. Or are you? The expanses of reclaimed wood used for tables, shelves and ceiling surfaces suggest rustic cottage. But whitewashed brick and industrial light fixtures speak urban warehouse. A little bit country, a little bit city.

New Norm Dinnerware was the cornerstone of inspiration for Höst restaurant.

Welcome to Höst, a restaurant designed top to bottom by architects and partners Kasper Rønn and Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen of Norm Architects, also based in Copenhagen. Höst recently won best restaurant design awards in two categories, European and International, from Restaurant & Bar Design, an independent organization based in London.

The accolades are especially significant because Norm designed not only the structural space, as architects do, but also the shelving, tables, light fixtures, curtains, dinnerware and glassware. “The only things we didn’t design were chairs and cutlery,” says Bjerre-Poulsen.

Design achievements such as Höst have thrust Norm into the European spotlight over the last few years, and now the firm is stepping onto center stage on this side of the Atlantic, as well.

The Odin Extension Table by Norm Architects, new and exclusive at DWR.

Last March, we introduced Norm’s exclusive Finn Collection of outdoor furniture, which won rave reviews from customers and the press. And earlier this month, we introduced their Odin Collection of heirloom-quality extension tables, each made of solid wood and featuring a clever mechanism that stores the leaf right inside the table.

In designing Höst, Norm Architects applied the same ideas that guided their work on Odin and other projects: simplicity, gracefulness, craftsmanship and timelessness, the “norms” of Scandinavian design, which inspired the company name. The structure, furnishings and accessories come together at Höst to form a lean profile punctuated with spare but powerful contrasts, with a frame derived largely from salvaged or repurposed materials.

A massive table and old cutting boards lend rustic contrasts to refined seating and large industrial light fixtures.

Carefully chosen chairs bring refined accent to the rough-hewn surfaces with their subtle variations of form, smoothly turned legs and spindle backs and neutral finishes in white, grey and black.

Beefy shelving and a large, muscular bar are constructed of reclaimed timbers, which are thickly cut and left with sawn surfaces unfinished, providing a pleasing juxtaposition of weathered and freshly exposed surfaces.

Bjerre-Poulsen and Rønn are deeply interested in texture and use striking contrasts to emphasize it. “Tactility is, together with all the other senses, extremely important for how we perceive the world,” Bjerre-Poulsen says. “Tactility may be perceived through our skin and organs – but the expectation of how something will feel is something we constantly judge when seeing. Therefore tactility is also an important part of aesthetics.”

Reclaimed wood was used to cover ceilings and to make tables, shelves and the bar. White walls are a motif through nearly all of Norm’s architectural work.

Surfaces everywhere at Höst demand to be touched, like ripe vegetables at the farmers market, enticing eyes and hands with their own distinct ridges and imperfections.

One of the aims of the restaurant design was to coordinate all the parts, even the dinnerware, into a unified composition. Porcelain plates and bowls in white and three shades of blue-green are substantially weighted but simple in form. Round platters of slate, in their dark, flat starkness, provide a rustic foil to the other pieces just as the reclaimed wood’s natural grain sets off white walls and ceilings. And the collection as a whole stands out boldly from its surroundings.

Höst’s evolution actually grew out of the dinnerware’s development, which was driven by Copenhagen’s “New Nordic” cuisine, says Bjerre-Poulsen, adding that chefs are embracing the terroir, or “sense of place,” of the ingredients by serving meals on wood, stone, stoneware and even textiles as a way to symbolically reflect their origins.

The design of Höst grew from the simple philosophy of the plates. “To match the dinnerware,” says Bjerre-Poulsen, “we came up with the idea of making an urban farmyard restaurant. We talked about how good food tastes out in the open, the simple rural life, finding a low-key restaurant in the mountains on vacations to southern Europe or eating at a countryside inn in Denmark – and we took all those elements and interpreted them in a contemporary urban context and took it all indoors – but trying to create the same atmosphere.”

Norm’s vision for the space plays out with large multipane windows that were salvaged from an old hospital but still manage to evoke the Danish farmhouse overtones that were sought after from the start.

Windows at Höst were salvaged from an old hospital. Restaurant photos by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen.