Great white: Villa Riise is a Norwegian home designed as a nod to the sea

house exterior view
Villa Riise is a crisp white home in Norway's Haugesund, designed by Canada-born, Bergen-based architect Todd Saunders
(Image credit: Bent René Synnevåg)

Subtly standing out, sat on the harbour of Haugesund, a seaside municipality in Norway's south coast, Villa Riise's white form takes its cue from its context. 

Its creator, Canada-born, Bergen-based architect Todd Saunders, drew inspiration from the sea and the water's proximity. It was clear, right from the start that this building had to relate to the ocean, he explains.

blueprint of a house

(Image credit: TBC)

Take an interactive tour of Villa Riise

The client, a professional diver, has a strong relationship to the sea and asked for a home that protects him and his family from the elements - the area is known for its harsh weather and especially strong winds – but also allows them to seamlessly connect with the outdoors.

This happens in the form of a couple of terraces on different levels of the house, formed through the house's U-shaped footprint, where children can play and adults can enjoy the sunshine. Large openings link indoors and outdoors – also allowing the parents to oversee the play outside while doing housework. 

A sauna is situated on the ground floor, facing the sea. After their daily morning swim, the owner jumps in for a steam session, followed by a stint in the house's gym room. 

More public functions are placed on the ground level, while bedrooms, bathrooms and guest rooms (a generous four of them) are upstairs. The pitched roof is angled inwards, drawing attention to the central courtyard at the heart of the house. 

Orientated to look out to the harbour, which is steadily busy with ships heading for the nearby docks, Villa Riise also draws inspiration from the area's traditional white timber builds. Saunders chose the colour and shape of the house, so that this new build sits in harmony with its built environment as well.

house near the sea

The architect draw inspiration from the sea when designing this home, which belongs to a professional diver

(Image credit: Bent René Synnevåg)

villa exterior view

Villa Riise is orientated towards the water, looking out to the harbour, which is steadily busy with ships heading for the nearby docks

(Image credit: Bent René Synnevåg)

house exterior view

The structue's colour references the area's traditional white builds

(Image credit: Bent René Synnevåg)

Terrace View

A couple of terraces provide the residents with plenty of outdoor space

(Image credit: Bent René Synnevåg)

kitchen view

The open plan living room features large windows; this way, the parents can keep an eye on the children, while they play outside

(Image credit: Bent René Synnevåg)

room with stairs and mirror

The more public functions - living, dinning and kitchen areas - are placed on the ground level

(Image credit: Bent René Synnevåg)

Sauna View

A sauna is placed right next to the shore, so the owner can jump straight in after their daily morning swim

(Image credit: Bent René Synnevåg)

office view

Bedrooms, bathrooms and four guest rooms are upstairs

(Image credit: Bent René Synnevåg)


For more information on Todd Saunders visit the website

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).