Traditionally houses are built with poky, little rooms, to keep in the warmth, and steep roofs to help the snow slide off. Windows are small (as glass lets out the heat) and there is always a fire place or wood oven in the centre of the house to warm up the rooms during the cold winters.
In the old days, it was common for Norwegian houses to grow grass on the roof. Cottage roofs were made out of tree bark and to keep it from curling up the old folk would put turf on top. The grass held the turf down, keeping it on the roof and during the Summers the grass (and weeds) would shoot and flower. As it turned out the turf on the roof was also good for insulation keeping the cottage warm during winter and cool during summer.
Houses are built with wood so they can move with the weather. It is rare to see a brick house (although the 70s did start a short trend) as they are prone to water damage and cracking in the Norwegian climate. (And as such they cost more to insure.) Norway is a producer of slate and so you’ll find that most houses use slate tiles on their roofs as it is strong against the elements and easy to replace. However, some owners are now opting for the cheaper corrugated iron style roofs.
Having a south-to-west facing house is the best as it catches the day and afternoon sun. It is common for houses to have a patio or balcony on the sun side with deck chairs and hanging pots on the railing.
Norwegians are very good at gardening. (They must have a planting schedule that runs all summer as they always seem to have flowers blooming in their gardens). Quite often the grass is left to grow wild especially on the outside of fences but it adds to the character of the neighbourhood.
However, not many houses have fences. If a house does have a fence it is no more than a metre tall and is always made of wood. Because of this you never see dogs hanging out in back yards. Some places have a very small dog pen outside but this isn’t common. Many people have dogs – big dogs – they all come out during summer so that must mean Norwegians keep their big dogs inside all winter – yikes!
All houses have external lights. In the winter it is mandatory to have the outside lights on constantly during the dark season for safety. After a big snow fall people shovel the snow out of their drives onto the road so the city plough trucks can push it into a safe pile at the end of the street.
To help with finances most houses have one or two granny flats underneath, or the attic is converted into a single apartment. Sometimes houses are split into levels and sold off separately as individual apartments.
People who live in apartments have community gardening days and activities. They also get together to build play grounds and sand pits for the neighbourhood children.
Old fishermen cottages have become very trendy to live in. They are close to the sea shore normally in a prime position in the sun. The houses are often joined together in strips and have a ‘miniature’ effect as if they were built for the seven dwarfs. As cities grow more and more people are living in ‘urban’ apartments – minimalist studios attract the business class.
In rural Norway many people still live in old farm houses miles away from civilisation. A lot of people live on islands and rely on barges to get to the mainland. I am often amazed at where some houses are built thinking ‘how did someone decided to build a house there?’ But Norwegians are very practical. You will sometimes see little fishermen cottages standing along on a small island or a small group of miner cottages in the mountains. These cottages aren’t their real homes – just a place to stay while they work the week.
One thing is for certain, Norwegians love being home and they put a lot of effort into making it sweet. There are many different types of wooden houses and I’m sure they all have their stories. If you are in Norway make sure you take a walk around the burbs, especially in the old towns. You are bound to see cute little cottages with pretty gardens and flower baskets which are definitely worthy of filling up your camera stick.