norway house 1960s

This is the (reconstructed) living room of a typical middle-class Norwegian family, about 1967. It may look pretty mundane, but actually there’s quite a lot going on here, historically speaking. This room reflects a great deal about modern Norwegian history and the standard of living in Northern and Western Europe after World War II. Everything is very new and clean. The room has wall-to-wall carpet. The dining room table set is plastic and tubular steel, relatively cheap and mass-produced. You can’t see it as well but the couch has a chromed tubular steel frame as well. The hanging cone-shaped light fixture has a very modernist “mid-century” look. Note also the glass shelf unit in the corner. The décor is pretty Spartan, which is typical for Scandinavian interiors.

But there are also some old, traditional things in this room. Note the antique wooden desk and cabinet set in the background. The walls have wood paneling, suggesting an older style. You can’t see it in this particular photo but to the right of the frame there’s some more antique furniture, clashing somewhat with the modernist look. Also notice what’s not here: a television set. TV was pretty new to Norway in the 1960s and it didn’t catch on nearly as fast there as it did in the United States, where a family that lived like this would most likely have had a TV by 1955 at the latest.

This room is pictured at an interesting time in modern Norwegian history. The country embarked on an intensive period of rebuilding after the brutal Nazi occupation of World War II, and in the 1950s the Norwegian government invested heavily in infrastructure, education and financial restructuring. Then in the late 1960s Norway struck oil. Formerly one of the poorest countries in Europe, a massive increase in national wealth from petroleum quickly made Norwegians’ standard of living one of the highest in the world. This room and the type of family that would have lived here must have seen some pretty profound changes in their way of life in just a few decades. This kind of history is really cool when you can see it, even in a supposedly ordinary room like this one.

I took this picture at the Folkemuseum (Museum of Norwegian Culture) in 2009. The history of Norway is about a lot more than just Vikings!

The photo at the top of this article is copyright (C) 2009 by Sean Munger, all rights reserved.