Australian-raised Mariann Paulsen is the co-founder of Paulsen & Nilsen, an Oslo-based interior architectural business that provides services for residential, commercial and hospitality projects. With an Australian mother and Norwegian father, Mariann has spent a considerable amount of time living in both countries – she’s currently based in Norway where she lives with her Norwegian partner and gorgeous daughter, Ella. I chatted with Mariann about founding a company, her design style and maintaining balance as a mother and business owner.
You’ve spent a significant amount of time living in both Australia and Norway, where is home?
You’ve started with the hardest question! I’ve always felt somewhat torn between Norway and Australia. Most of my family live in Sydney and so while I’ll always feel at home in Australia, I would have to say that Norway now, is home.
What do you love most about being an interior architect?
Solving space. Making difficult spaces work for our clients. ‘Tidying up’, straightening out, clarifying and improving the way we live. It’s rewarding when our clients understand and embrace our vision.
What inspires your design style?
There is a long list of creative people that inspire me, however I would have to say that it is my mother who has influenced me the most. She has always made an effort to make the space around her beautiful and her involvement with Australian contemporary art has enriched our lives. Oh, and her Christmas tables are like no other!
In 2009 you started Paulsen & Nilsen, which is based out of Oslo. How did you come to found the company?
I was working on a large project for my previous employer and happened to meet a project manager who introduced me to an architect named Anders Hokholt. Anders is well known in the industry and owns a beautiful old townhouse in the center of Oslo. A number of creative companies have set up shop in Josefines Gate 29. I was invited to the annual summer party and by the end of the evening Anders had suggested I take the ‘library’ – they needed an Interior Architect in the house. It was very exciting. A week later I resigned.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
No two days are the same but a typical day in the office is generally pretty hectic. I usually have a plan but by 8am the phone starts ringing and it’s not always easy to stay on track. Together with ‘Nilsen’ (Kristine, my wonderful business partner) we brief the team. There is usually at least one on-site meeting with builders or a client presentation. If there are no meetings booked, then I’m at the computer drawing or liaising with suppliers. I take it in turns with my partner Jørund to pick up my daughter Ella from daycare. When it’s my turn, it’s always a mad rush out the door.
What are some of the challenges that come with owning a business?
There are the obvious ones, such as securing enough work, managing growth and keeping on top of ever changing rules and regulations.
I think it’s easy to get set in your ways after a few years of flying solo, but I always try to stay critical in order to keep the company current. Lastly, you have to teach yourself to be content with earning the bread and butter whilst constantly aiming for the cream.
How do you balance work and being a mumma?
Before Ella, I used to sit in the office until 11pm some nights. It’s a cliché but she’s given me perspective. Now one of the highlights of my day is picking her up from daycare. Kristine and I are hard workers but we are really trying to maintain a work / life balance, both for ourselves and our employees. That said, I owe a lot to my partner Jørund. He is a fantastic father and carries more that half the load.
Can you share any exciting collaborations or projects you have coming up this year?
We’ve just signed a contract to refurbish a big hotel on the west coast of Norway. It’s a special project because of it’s location. The hotel is right on the fjord with steep mountains either side. The landscape is amazing. Scary though – our client just sent me a link to a newspaper article – part of the road we drove on to get to the hotel just last week is now under water due to a landslide!
If you gave someone a one-day itinerary for Oslo, what would it look like?
It depends on the weather. One of the things I love about Oslo is that we have 4 very distinct seasons. Right now, the weather is just incredible. It’s spring and the whole city is coming alive. Seriously, just walking outside is enough to make you feel good. But, to answer your question I’d say;
Spend a day in Grünerløkka – it’s an edgy part of town and has a cool indie vibe. Start with a coffee at Tim Wendelbø, stroll on over to Kollekted By – a space curated by well-known Italian / Norwegian interior stylists Kråkvik & D´Orazio. Then head up to contemporary art gallery Standard (Oslo) and check out the latest exhibition. I’d have a pizza at Villa Paradiso and later, a glass of wine at Territoriet.
How do you relate to the word ‘adrift’?
It makes me think of my Dad and being out on the water with him. He is a boating man and not just any kind of boating man. He dreams and breaths boats. He says he likes to be ‘on the water not in it’.
There is nothing like being adrift with Dad in his wooden ‘snekke’ on a magical Norwegian midsummer night.