A charming timber cottage in Denmark offers the joys of a simple life for a busy London-based couple.


Who lives here: Caroline van Luthje, owner of Wild Swans, a pair of London boutiques specialising in Scandinavian homewares, fashion and beauty products; her husband, Stewart Starkin, an architect, and their dog Maya, a Coton de Tuléar.

Style of home: A traditional timber cottage in Tisvilde, a town on the north coast of Zealand, in Denmark. It dates back to 1951, and the couple has been restoring and renovating it since buying the house in 2012.

During a visit to see friends in Tisvilde, Denmark, Caroline van Luthje (pictured above) decided that it was the perfect spot for a second home. “I thought it was time we had our own place, instead of staying with friends all the time,” she says. “I also longed to be the one to invite friends over for dinner and Tisvilde is where I spent my summer holidays as a child.”

Living in London, Caroline arranged viewings over email with local real-estate agents, and visited in March 2012 to inspect 25 houses. At that time of year, a good dose of foresight is required, as the area is quiet and the gardens bare in winter. “This house was the last one I saw, and I bought it on the spot,” she says. “The price was good, the location great, and the house had plenty of potential.” Caroline was also attracted by the 1500 square-metre garden, not that she could see much of it. “I had no idea what it would look like in the summer because it was covered in thick snow,” she says.

The next job was winning over her husband Stewart, who had no experience of the Danish summer-house culture and didn’t understand the attraction of a small and simple black timber house. The couple started work straightaway, adding insulation to the entire 127-square-metre space, replacing the bathroom, adding an extension with a new room and laying pine floors. These days, the cottage has the original charm that Caroline fell in love with, but also a level of modern comfort that allows the couple to use it as a true second home. Each summer, she and Stewart drive from London to Tisvilde, bikes and dog in tow, and spend several blissful months here. Caroline is able to work sourcing products for Wild Swans, her Scandinavian homewares and fashion boutiques in London, and the couple take turns commuting back to London.

Inside the home, the open-plan living and dining area features a mix of new and old pieces with a modern Gervasoni ‘Ghost’ sofa layered with cushions and throws in pale neutral tones, facing an old sofa bed covered with a cosy blanket. Large IKEA pendant lights above the seating area and the expansive dining table allow for cosy conversations, and the living area flows out through double doors to a paved terrace complete with sunny-yellow outdoor furniture. A second terrace outside the kitchen, set up with a dining setting, means Caroline and Stewart can find a sunny spot at any time of day.

The home’s details, including white-painted timber lining boards in the bedroom and kitchen, are a reminder of its original simplicity, with a stainless-steel and timber kitchen and white-tiled bathroom bringing the space up to date. Textures are kept natural and neutral, with several pieces of weathered timber and wicker furniture adding to the relaxed feel.

The couple now feels just as at home in Tisvilde as they do in London: Stewart can indulge his passion for cycling on the bike friendly Danish roads and Caroline can spend time with friends and family without having to stay with them for long periods. The location of the house was part of the reason Caroline fell in love with it; getting to the town centre is just a short bike ride away, with a flea market on every Saturday, and sandy beaches just 500 metres away, accessed by a private staircase. The cottage isn’t just a holiday home but a place where the pair can live and work. Coming from busy London, the couple has a home with everything they want, and more.

For more information on Wild Swans, visit wild-swans.com.