Helene Sandberg at home in London

Helene Sandberg is one of our photographers, highly regarded in her field.  Her home mixes her undeniable talent for interior design with many of her own artworks.  Lumitrix caught up with her at her home in Barons Court, West London to discuss her career, her flair for interiors and what it is like to live with such a keen sense of aesthetics.

Originally from Denmark Helene has created a home that is super cosy, or hygge as the Danish would say, but also calm and uncluttered.  She says "I think the Danish have a natural awareness and sense of design in our blood, whether it is for lighting, candles or an appreciation of a beautiful piece of furniture.  It seems to be there, to some extent, in everyone's homes.

As well as having that Danish thing going on, Helene's lineage is littered with creative relatives.  Her great great-grandfather was the famous Norwegian landscape painter, Fritz Thaulow, who was mentor to Edward Munch (to whom she is also distantly related).  Both her grandfather and her father were film producers, and their love of directing and putting a shoot together has passed through the Sandberg genes and is evident in Helene's work.

Your photography spans many genres: editorial, advertising, travel… how has your career evolved and what do you still wish to achieve?

In all my work I try to keep pushing myself creatively and experimenting.  The end goal is always to try and create beautiful, interesting and unique works.

My main work is in fashion, both advertising and editorial.  When time and budget allows I love to follow my passion for adventure and travel projects, such as The Pushkar series.  I love to shoot on my Pentax 6x7 film camera.  Shooting on an old analogue camera allows a more organic, slower approach to these types of projects and is a great anecdote to the fast world of fashion.

I’m currently researching events and festivals that may not be around for the next generation as I think it’s important to capture dying traditions and societies for the future.

Your home marries your photography with a very distinctive flair for interior design.  How you go putting a room together?

I don’t actually find interior design easy to do at all!  I’m a perfectionist and it can be frustrating and time consuming to find the right handle, cushion or picture frame and I have definitely made mistakes that can be expensive to rectify.

For me, it’s all about creating a feeling of balance and harmony in colour, texture and design, with cosy side lighting playing a huge role.  It can take me months of experimenting to find the right look and feel so I’m finally happy down to the last detail of finding the exact colour of a fabric.

I tend to start with one thing and build the room up around it.  I don’t normally see the end look at the beginning, but add one piece at a time.  For instance, in the living room it began with a new sofa and my grandmother’s mirror, or in the bedroom I started with a calming grey from Farrow and Ball and a rug I had bought in Istanbul.

I would say my style is a bit eclectic, some old English, vintage and mid-century mixed in.  I find something comforting in being surrounded by old things rather than new.

 

Something that makes your home standout is that it is clearly full of stories.  Would you share one with us?

The drawing of the dancing girls is by a Danish artist from the Sixties called Maggie.  My father commissioned it for the corridors in his cinemas.  He wanted lots of fun pictures based on the can-can girls in Paris to liven up the gloomy walkway.  He has some huge canvases.  This is only a very small version.

A little birdie tells us the colour of the floorboards in your sitting room and bedroom were named after you.  How do you go about getting a paint colour named after yourself?

When I redesigned my flat a year ago we were choosing new floorboards but the shop I went to didn't quite have the exact tone I wanted.  After many visits they offered to try and mix one up.  The result is the colour I have now a lovely warm honeycomb tone that I love. They called it Sandberg after me and apparently it's been selling well which makes me happy!

 

Do you have a favourite object in the house?  Can you tell us more about it?

One of my favourite pieces is the sculpture of the horse above the fireplace by the artist Tanya Brett. The horse represents grace, beauty and strength, which are many of the things that I love. It also happens to be made by my super-talented best friend.

The way you display your art is visually arresting.  Do you have any advice for those of us wishing to perk our walls up a touch?  Where do you buy all of your beautiful art?

Most of my art is work I have taken myself with a few oddities picked up on my travels. I like having a wall of pictures together and mixing with them a calm wall with a stand-alone image. I also think it's good to have themes such as the polo pictures that dominate my hallway, and Burning Man pictures in the spare room, so that each room gives a different mood.

 

Blow the budget.  Is there anyone’s work you would love to own?

Probably a Nic Fidian green sculpture.

 

Which is your favourite Lumitrix image? 

I love Fes 1 and Fes 2 by Ritty Tacsum.  If I had the room I would definitely get these!

What advice would you give people who love art and design, but might not have the budget to accompany their passion?

I think with art, it’s becoming more and more accessible in terms of budget. There are now quite a number of limited editions that have low price points, as well as the Love Art Scheme where you can pay in instalments.

 

Blow the budget.  What artist’s work would you love to own?

We have a big soft spot for Harland Miller’s work, and it would be pretty cool to own a Damien Hirst piece one day!

 

Which is your favourite Lumitrix image? 

I love Fes 1 and Fes 2 by Ritty Tacsum.  If I had the room I would definitely get these!

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