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The Humble Perfectionist

As I enter Menu Space, I’m guided, by the elegant curtain gently dividing the café, showroom and office space, to the café in which I find Danielle already waiting for me.

The café was designed by Danielle herself and has just seen its last adjustments. As we sit down by one of the marble café tables that Danielle designed, she suggests that we pop by her studio in the center of Copenhagen after we’ve talked, and I nod excitedly as I ask her where her studio is located.

“It’s right by Sankt Annæs plads and Nyhavn, in a beautiful backyard. I live out on Holmen, so it’s right on the other side, making it convenient for late nights working at the studio – then I can swing by the apartment, have dinner and head back to the studio for a few more hours of work.”

Danielle Siggerud & Monica Grue Steffensen

Danielle is originally from Oslo but has been living in Copenhagen for the past 10 years. Her parents and sisters, whom she’s very close to, still live in the Norwegian capital, and although she misses them, she sounds confident as she refers to Copenhagen as her home.

Already from our email correspondence, Danielle strikes me as a kind and humble being, a notion that is confirmed after I’ve spoken to her for a minute, no less.

“I started at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts back in 2008. Back then I bought a little apartment on Christianshavn where I lived for 5 years. My next apartment was located on Holmen, and I stayed there for three years before moving in with my fiancée – also on Holmen, in a building sort of connected to the school of architecture.”

Menu Space – Danielle Siggerud – Norm Architects

I know you interned with the talented John Pawson in London. Tell me about that.

“Yes, I was in London for one year, interning and working with John Pawson. It was the toughest year of my life, but also the most educational. He’s an incredibly talented architect, and there’s no doubt he has helped shape me as an architect too; by his way of thinking, with his great attention to detail, to light, to materials. He constantly pushed me to always do better. When I was perfectly happy with my work, he would still come back to me and say: “it’s good, but it can get better” – and I’ve taken that critical approach with me in my own practice.”

In her work, Danielle focus on the user, and the amount of privilege she feels when people trust her to create their home is easy to spot.

“I feel so humbled and grateful when someone comes to me and asks me to do a project. Private clients especially. It’s such a major vote of confidence, and so I take that sense of privilege and gratitude – and do my very best to meet the needs of the client. It’s such an interesting process; from being a bystander to getting quite close to a family, in order to create the perfect home for them.”

MD Townhouse – Copenhagen Denmark. Residential

It’s been a year and a half since Danielle took the leap and started her own architecture and design studio, Danielle Siggerud Architects.

Was it hard to take that step?

“You can wait an eternity to feel ready, but you’re never going to be 100% prepared. And once you start out, you realize that you’re definitely not.”

We both laugh.

“But you learn as you go, and you grow tremendously with each job; each client. I think it’s important, too, to take the leap before you’re too molded by another architect or studio. And I think that I came out rather fresh; not too marked by or restricted from working in a different studio. I had countless ideas about architecture, and the idea of “the art of living” – I was driven by making these ideas come to life, designing for the present, in tune with our past, but tailored for the unknown future. And the curiosity! This was my biggest motivation to start the office.”

From there, we immediately go on to bond over our love for the freedom of freelancing; of being your own boss.

“Both my father and my fiancée are self-employed, and having them as my sounding board has helped me a lot in the process.”

So, what has been the greatest challenge so far? 

“I’ve had this long-term, full-scale refurbishment project – a house in Frederiksberg that used to be a commune with five families and couples, and now it’s just one family moving in, so I’ve had to completely rethink the house and floor plans, which has been a real architectural challenge, as both exterior and interior spaces had to be restored or transformed. A great deal of time was spent on the architectural part of the house, re-imaging circulations, connections between spaces and opening up the façade towards Frederiksberg Gardens, introducing natural daylight through floor-to-ceiling windows. Our goal was to create a timeless, serene and elegant house in tune with its past and the family’s need. Everything is made bespoke for the house. On the second floor, the interior was created as one large piece of furniture that evolves from being a tall cabinet to a bench to a sink to a shower – it’s like a living organism.”

MD Townhouse – Copenhagen Denmark. Residential

Being a self-employed creative, what is your workflow like? I’ve talked to many fellow creatives about that inability to sort of switch work on/off; there’s isn’t quite that time at the end of the day when you let it go completely. It stays with you all the time.

“Exactly, it’s not 9–5. I don’t go to work, play “architect”, and then go home at 5 to become “Danielle”. I’m an architect all day, every day; it’s part of who I am, and not only when I’m at the studio. My mind is always thinking and reflecting as an architect – when I go for walks in the city, or when I travel, I always look up at the buildings and find inspiration for current or future projects.”

Working on the café, did you identify with Menu’s and Norm’s approach to architecture and design?

“Absolutely. It isn’t hard to work with beautiful furniture. It was important for me to find and create the right settings for Menu’s furniture, so I made these heavy modules that you can sit around. They’re good against Menu’s very fine and delicate pieces.”

Menu Space – Danielle Siggerud – Norm Architects

According to brand and design director of Menu, Joachim Engell-Kornbek Hansen, Danielle helped bring out more feminine aesthetics in the combined showroom, café and workspace. And that especially shows in the marble with dusty red hues.

How would you describe yourself as an architect? Would you say you’re part of the minimalist movement?

“I can’t really define myself as an architect, but I’ll say that my approach to architecture is very much characterized by that sensitive timelessness that isn’t trend-driven, and then I stick to natural materials most of the time. I guess you could refer to my work as minimal, but in the end, I just work very intuitively, without being too marked by current trends. We live in a world of trends and collections. We constantly change, replace and buy new things, and furnish our homes according to trends, the same way we dress according to trends and fashion. I really try to avoid that in my work. For me, it’s about the house and the honesty in the design. As an architect, you have a major responsibility to deliver a sustainable piece of work – design wise and material wise. It should be able to stand the test of time. I want my work to be appreciated in 8 as well as 80 years, so, therefore, I find it very important to stay 100% true to the work that I do; true to the building that I’m working on.”

She might not be the next Zaha Hadid, but her work will mean something to people. Her sharp vision, sense of detail and remarkable sensitivity, will make for timeless and sustainable homes and spaces. And from my point of view, that’s a far more meaningful accomplishment.

Follow Danielle here
Read the conversation between Monica Grue Steffensen and design director of Menu, Joachim Engell-Kornbek Hansen here