My Mother-In-Law always find fascinating things to do in London, and a few weeks ago she mentioned that she’d booked a couple of events for the Heritage Open Days. I clicked around the website and saw so many places I wanted to visit, but one immediately jumped out at me – a National Trust tour of the Danish embassy in Sloane Square.
The Arne Jacobsen designed modernist building was built in the 1970s, and really doesn’t match anything in the area. Concrete, aluminium, and big boxy shapes look completely out of place, but I love it – it’s so iconic. I can imagine how everyone would have hated it back in the 70s though. The National Trust tour took us round the offices and into the residences of the ambassador at the top. And made me insanely envious.
Our visit started with a mini-lecture on modernism and brutalism which was right up my alley. One of the first slides was of the Royal Festival Hall so I knew I was in the right place. We were given a brief history of the building and of Arne Jacobsen’s designs before being split into two groups for the tour. Weirdly, Husband and I noticed that one of our National Trust guides was Eleanor who had taken us round the Southbank Centre last year – even weirder after speaking with her and finding out that she hadn’t run any tours for a year. I felt I had to assure her we weren’t stalking her.
We then went to the parking garage where Husband and I geeked out over all the concrete. From there, we made our way upstairs in the world’s tiniest lifts and were taken into the Ambassador’s office. Within seconds, we’d spotted:
- a Maersk logo (Husband’s former employer)
- a framed Radio Times cover featuring Sidse Babett Knudsen
- A Bang and Olufson TV
I’m sad there wasn’t any smørrebrød on the table to complete the scene.
The Ambassador has a beautiful office, with stunning pieces of art and amazing furniture, including the obligatory Swan chair. The other two offices we visited were just as impressive – the offices of the press officer and the cultural attaché. It made me desperately want to be the Danish cultural attaché – she has some beautiful Montana units full of books and ceramics, fabulous chairs, a great desk. In the corridor were posters of Mads Mikkelsen and Pilou Asbæk. Why can’t this be my workplace?!
After I had finished making my interior design shopping list (the tour should really had come with a catalogue), we crossed back over the courtyard to visit the ambassador’s residence. We were only allowed into the “public” area of the residence – it would have been a bit unfair for us to traipse through their house, so the floor we saw was where they entertain visitors and host events. I loved all the Danish ornaments dotted around the place – dala horses, Normann Copenhagen bowls, wooden soldiers, even “The Little Book of Hygge” on the piano.
They had some pretty amazing furniture and art on this floor as well – pieces painted by the Queen of Denmark and the Ambassador’s wife, Susanne Fournais Grube. I really loved her paintings – she paints maritime scenes which almost look pop arty.
And then our tour was over after almost an hour and a half and we said farewell to this extraordinary building. On the walk back to Waterloo, Husband and I tried to figure out a way of getting a job there, but I suspect you have to be Danish. So now we just need to be Danish. I’m sure that’ll be easy.