Going to sleep under the Northern Lights is a beautiful and spectacular sight. The Hjertefolgers family are sure this was where they want to call home.
Located near the Arctic Circle in Norway’s Sandhornoya Island, they built their ideal home from cob; a mixture of the natural materials clay, water and straw. The cob house is built within the protective barrier of a solar dome greenhouse that shelters the family from high winds, cold temperatures and allows them to live in a comfortable temperature all year round.
Swedish eco-architect Bengt Warne provides the inspiration for the solar dome house. He conceived the idea of building a house inside a greenhouse, machinating his first such home in the 1970s. Called the Nature House, it had its own recycling water system, a place to compost garden waste, with heat and warmth provided and insulated by the glass surroundings.
They sourced the aluminum frame and glass panels of the greenhouse covering from Solardome, a UK-based company who make geodesic domes. At 25 feet high (7.5 meters), the dome is tall enough to cover their three-story five-bedroom home inside, as well as provide a garden area for the family to grow fruit and vegetables all year round.
Once they found a location, they were quite free to build what they wanted to build. They mixed the cob with a great deal of team effort, combining the materials with their feet. Eventually it becomes solid enough to turn into bricks placed into walls and “lasts forever if you keep it dry”.
After years of planning and two years of building, the Hjertefolgers love to relax on the roof. From the top floor they enjoy the view, and take pleasure in seeing how it all came together.
Here’s a quick tour of the house. The dining room and kitchen area have plenty of space for the family and guests.
The interior is built using wood, giving an organic and natural feel to the place. The children love spending time here, as well as exploring the forest and nearby beach.
Many items and fabrics are made from leftover building materials or other projects. It means there’s a focus on environmental mindfulness and sustainability with every action.
The Hjertefolgers sculpted the floors and walls during construction, they were really pleased with the final outcome.
The bathroom is designed so that all waste is collected in tanks under the house. Heavier waste is processed, eventually disintegrating. The gray water from sinks and showers all makes its way out to the garden irrigation system, filtered through LECA sand into the soil.
The garden is tucked within the greenhouse dome, but next to the house. Given the ecosystem, the family is able to sustain a longer growing season with warmer temperatures.
There is a varied collection of fruits and vegetables that they grow including apples, cherries, plums, apricots, kale, kiwis, grapes, cucumbers, herbs, beetroot, and plenty of tomatoes!
It’s interesting to see how the house is still green inside despite the snow and different seasons. You can see the patterns in the wall shaped during the building process.
This year they decorated the house for Christmas, with fairy lights and baubles on the trees.
Ingrid Hjertefolger: We have strong traditions around Christmas. We bake the same cakes every December, go get our Christmas tree in the woods together, play Christmas music and eat yummy healthy vegan food. The kids are crazy about this season.
The house inside the dome is designed with a flat roof, so it can also be used as a space for family activities. Parents Indrid and Benjamin are also avid yoga practitioners, a lifelong hobby that they share with their four children.
Ingrid Hjertefolger told me that their favorite part of the house is “when the fruit trees are in bloom and the smell of flowers surround us, with snow still on the ground outside. The kids love playing on the roof terrace.”
It’s a fantastic space to live, with stunning views of the surroundings.
The family name, Hjertefolger, means Heart Follower, and they changed their name to reflect their dream of following their hearts towards living a meaningful life.
Living with their eco-home they feel blessed and happy with their beautiful space, as it’s a place where they can spend time together with the family and continue to live as a Heart Follower.