It was a wonderful experience running Maries Gjestehus, and exactly 10 years ago (2004) we bought the old congregation house on Sandøya. It was was in dire need of restoration, and after much hard work, my family, with the aid of a local architect and efficient carpenters, transformed it into Maries Gjestehus. Added features were a brick Tuscany-inspired tower, housing the romantic Vetle Lid Larssen room with a four poster bed and the Arne Næss room with windows in all directions of the sky. We hosted a seminar where he, the late eco philsopher shared his thoughts. I remember sitting next to him in awe, eating homemade bread and feeling happy and privileged.
We also built with a terrace overlooking the lake for the guests to sit and enjoy the sun and good food. The roof, some flooring and all windows were changed, and we solely used environmentally sound paints and oils in the restoration process.
Below you can see the tree house, built by English friends of mine, a great place for watching bevers in the sunset!
We had a 'Solskinnscafé' o the terrace, serving the islanders and guests homemade soups, cakes and organic tea and coffee. During the weekdays we also had a café based on trust; we made a cake and coffee corner on the terrace, where we put out freshly made cake and coffee, and the guests could serve themselves and put money in a tin.
Maries Gjestehus: seng, brød og bøker, was our foundation, meaning bed, bread and books.
We wanted to inspire people by giving them AUTHENTIC nature experiences, serving homemade bread and fresh and healthy vegetarian food, providing a harmonious living space, sharing literature (we had approximately 400 books located around the house and in the author-named rooms), and naturally by letting them explore the unspoilt island nature.
Our green concept fortunately attracted a lot of national press, and we were featured in Dagbladet, Allers, Lev Landlig, KK, Det Gode Liv, Nationen to mention to but a few, as well as coverage on green travel websites in Britain.
The photos below were taken by Lisbeth Michelsen when she
photographed us and the guest house for the Norwegian lifestyle magazine
KK. Our daugther Malou Severine, appr. 1,5 yrs old here, my partner Cri
and myself outside the outdoor toilet, pimped up with bright paints and
The interior had a mix of fleamarket finds, redesigned interior and my mother being a rampant collector.., naturally a lot of antique furniture. The old and somewhat uncomfortable benches left behind, were given a lick of paint and some soft cushions. They still do the trick. (The benches were in fact deliberately designed to be uncomfortable, so that you wouldn't fall asleep during service).
Maries Gjestehus housed weddings, workshops, seminars, birthday parties, family holidays and attracted tourists wanting an active or a peaceful holiday. Looking after guests from Bolgona to Bergen, from Phildelphia to Potsdam, we met so many interesting people, and as we lived there ourselves, the experience was so intimate and personal.
Described as a hidden eco treasure, guests were left leaving feeling calm and inspired. We were blessed in the sense as the guests came and wanted peace, the had actively seeked out a place like ours. It therefore was a true pleasure- we were surrounded by grateful people.
It is easy to imagine this as the worlds' best job and it was! However it was also filled with immensly hard work. We worked from early morning to late evening, shopping, cooking, serving, cleaning, picking up and looking after guests, answering emails and phonecalls, admin work, graphic design, marketing... You get the picture.
When you do something you LOVE, it doesn't matter. But after becoming a mother, I started realising I had to take a big step forward developing the place and extend the summer season with courses and other events, or to withdraw...
As we now have two daughters; the youngest, Liva 1. 5 yrs and Malou now 5.5 yrs, the decision was easy. Family first.
Good, homemade food was vital in our concept, and the hope was to enlighten and inspire people to eat more vegetarian food earthy. Photos here are from a ReDesign workshop we did in collaboration with Fretex Redesign, and lunch served was a lentil stew, risotto and italian bread.
The old conregation house at its beginnings, shown in the very last photo here. It was built in 1904 and has also been used for gatherings, christmas festivities, a painters ateliér, amongst manier things. We wrote another chapter, and transformed the grand old lady into a beautiful guest house. One year ago we sold Maries Gjestehus, and now Erik and Nina have started their journey, and given her a new name: La Locanda di Marie. Generous and creative people they are. I wish them luck and look forward to see their adventures!
Most of these photos were taken by myself. Also thanks to Janne Read, Torstein Øen, Siri Rasmussen og Lisbeth Michelsen and Anette Tårneby for their photos of Maries Gjestehus