At Villa Lofoten you can live in a historical farm and in listed harbour buildings. In earlier times these buildings were vital in allowing those who lived here to use local resources in a sustainable way. Since time immemorial people in Lofoten have survived through a combination of fishing and farming.
Villa Lofoten is founded on culture and nature. Through restoring old buildings and putting them to new use we conserve and communicate Lofoten's unique history. New life in old buildings is better than depopulation and decay. Values created by previous generations are given meaning in new contexts. Our goal is to offer unforgettable experiences for our guests. Here you can relax. We emphasise authenticity and frugality, focusing on nature and the environment.
We also run Villa Lofoten Artist in Residence, a residency program for artists around the world.
In addition, we produce and sell films, and conduct workshops and other events through Villa Lofoten Film.
The Lofoten Fishery
Archaeologists affirm that people have been living in Lofoten for at least 6000 years, not least due to its rich fish populations. The Lofoten Fishery is one of the world's largest fisheries. During the period, from mid-January to mid-April, it is mainly the skrei, the Norwegian-Arctic codfish strain that is being caught. The skrei is a migrating Atlantic-Ocean cod that comes down from the Barents Sea to spawn along the Norwegian coast. At most - around 1910 - there were about 90 000 visitors in the area during The Lofoten Fishery. A variety of people were attracted to Lofoten. Not only fish buyers and fishermen but also tailors, photographers, cabinetmakers and bakers. People had money and the trade was lively.
The largest total catch of skrei during The Lofoten Fishery was in 1947 when 145 000 tonnes were caught. During The Lofoten Fishery in 2015 65.500 tonnes were caught. In 2017, The Lofoten Fishery achieved a total initial value of around 1 billion NOK. In 1933 around 32 000 men participated in The Lofoten Fishery, in 1958 the number had dropped to 12 000 and since the 1970s, numbers have varied between 2 500 to 5 000.
The drying of fish is one of the oldest preservation methods known. Everything indicates that dried skrei was already being exported during The Migration Period. Until modern times, fish was the country’s biggest export article. The Italian trader Querini, who stranded on Røst in Lofoten in 1431, described the drying process as follows: They dry the stockfish in the wind and the sun without salt, since this fish does not contain much moisture or fat, it become dry as wood. When eated, it is beaten with the axe hammer, whereby its become stringy as tendons. Thereupon butter and spices are added to give it taste.
The history of the settlement at Kvalnes
There have been registered ancient artefacts at Kvalnes that dates back to the 7th century BC. In a census from 1567 the first named persons on the site were registered. They were living on a farm. The land register from 1626 refers to the place as "Church property, vicarage and allodial estate". In 1723 it was written that the farm Kvalnes had little birch forest, no pasture, no mills, but was conveniently located for fishing. At that time the farm owed two horses, 15 cows, six young cattle, 24 sheep, and 15 goats. According to the census of 1801, 27 people in four families lived at Kvalnes. The pay-off of the silver tax, a forced deposit that was made mandatory in 1816 to obtain a foundation fund for the newly created Norges Bank, shows that the settlers at Kvalnes were reasonably wealthy. In the period 1832 to 1885, five crofters (i.e. people who did not own the farm themselves) became owners of their own farm. At the census of 1865, 61 people lived in 10 households at Kvalnes. The first tradesman arrived in 1887. At the census in 1900, 100 people were distributed on 13 families, and the land was divided into 12 farms. In the 1920s, the school, now the assembly house of the village, was build and in 1932 a youth house was established, but that building is now gone.
The Harbour at Kvalnes
The old harbour was open to the sea and shallow. Therefore, to get the boats in and out, one had to pay close attention to the tides. After the motors came into use, the harbour became unusable. A new port was built at the other end of the village in the 1920s.
Many moved their fishermen cabins from the old to the new harbour. In 1917, after an application from the population at Kvalnes
(54 signatures), demands were made for the following harbour work in the new fishing community:
A pier of 100 meters, bending towards land and two harbour walls of 30 meters each. The requirement was renewed in 1918. The Port Authority examined the conditions and stated that a pier of 300 meters was needed. There had to be room for 20 motorboats in the harbour due to the grooving population in the fishing village. The work on the pier continued for many years. From 1933 an increasing proportion of the work was financed by so-called "emergency grants", government grants granted to limit unemployment. In 1938 the water supply plant for the new harbour was completed. In 1939 the modern harbour facility was completed, and during the 1930s the old harbour was discontinued.
Anton Kristoffersen (1857-1929) was a farmer as well as craftsman and fisherman in Kvalnes. He married Kaia Magdalene Leohnardsdatter (1861-1930) and they had six children. He founded a fish production plant in the new harbour, subsequently passed on to their sons Edvard and Sigurd. The company produced salted fish and roe, stockfish and cod liver oil. These activities took place in the following buildings in the middle of the harbour: a saltery and a steamery for the extraction of cod liver oil and a fisherman’s cabin. Villa Lofoten owns the quay with these buildings, which have now been restored for new usage.
"The cultural heritage plan for Lofoten", approved in 2007 by the Nordland county council, stated that the harbour at Kvalnes is worthy for preservation as a recent cultural heritage site: The fishing village setting includes the pier, the quay facilities and the fish-landing site, foundations for a fish flake, storage, office, steamery, saltery and the fisherman's cabin, the brewhouse and the shop. All the buildings date from the early 1900s up to the 1970s, and is of great experiential value in relation to the study of the more recent history of fishery.
The old saltery, steamery and fisherman’s cabin in the middle of the harbour all belong to Villa Lofoten. The National Heritage Board writes the following about the site: The buildings are an important part of our cultural heritage. Old houses are a witness of past social conditions, life and routines, but also of good craftsmanship and empirical material knowledge. They are among the most valuable cultural monuments we have, since most of them have been used continuously and will continue to be used in the future. They represent a living and unbroken tradition. Understandably, most owners are clearly proud of their houses and take pride in looking after them. In the restoration and reconstruction of older buildings, one must often prioritize which values one wants to take care of. At Kvalnes, it is important that the external building site and its volumes are protected to the greatest possible extent. Also, it is considered important, that the original constructions are kept to the greatest possible extend. In the rebuilding process, the emphasis should be the proper documentation of the process before, as well as during and after the change.
In conservation and restoration there are always choices to be considered
We have preserved the setting and the original volume of the buildings. External timbering has been exchanged with spruce from local woods and manufactured on the farm sawmill belonging to Øystein Lyngmo in Laukvik in Lofoten.
The Fisherman's cabin and the Steamery were originally coloured with red paint based on fish liver oil, but they lost their colour and over the last fifty years acquired different shades of grey. We have therefore chosen to leave the spruce timbering untreated on all buildings. The cladding will grey naturally and get patina from the wind and weather. Before 1980 there was a turf roof on the Fisherman's cabin, but since that time, it has had a corrugated iron roof, just as the other two buildings. The choice has therefore been to retain corrugated iron roofs on all buildings.
The original windows had to be replaced in all buildings. The old windows were copied and manufactured in core pinewood by Lofotsnekkeri and Woie Snekkerifabrikk in Lofoten. New windows and doors are produced by Vipo Windows in Denmark. Outside, they are treated with linseed oil and with time they will fade to grey like the cladding. The former doors were all labank doors, which are simple wooden doors. These are replaced with new isolated wooden doors, but will be cladded with labank doors, thus maintaining the original façade. When the houses are empty, the exterior and the setting will appear as it did until around 1980.
New use requires reinforcements to support insulated ceilings and walls. The task is solved differently in each building.
The original load-bearing structure is preserved and reinforced in all the buildings.
The restoration is supported by Kulturminnefondet and Innovation Norway, and with contributions from the UNI Foundation, SMIL - County Governor in Nordland, National Trust of Norway / The Savings Bank Foundation DNB, Nordland County Council and Vestvågøy Municipality.
Under direction of Eystein Greibrokk the quay facility has been restored and repaired in collaboration with bricklayer
Anders Lyche Oppegaard.
The Fisherman's cabin
In order to recreate the most authentic site, the Fisherman's cabin is extended by its original volume as it stood before the owners tore them down in the early 1980s. They were torn down to prevent decomposition of the original timber log construction, which was moved from the old harbour in Kvalnes. It is estimated that the Fisherman's cabin was built in the mid-1800s. In the recreated extensions there are now modern facilities, but with surfaces chosen according to materials that were used in the buildings in previous times. In the timber log part of the cabin, the interior is authentic and the two fire stoves restored. Due to today’s regulations, two insulated pipes have been constructed to operate these fire stoves. There are moulded floors in the basement room under the old part of the Fisherman's cabin, and the concrete wall and ceiling are insulated and clad with panels.
Carpenter Ruben Sandberg has restored the original part of the Fisherman's cabin, while carpenter Jann Waade has built the extension towards east and that on the western side has been constructed by the artisans Vegard Johannessen and Daniel Mabin. Leszek Stredzinski has taken part in the entire restauration of the cabin.
The ground under the floor of the Saltery has been dug out in order to give a higher ceiling on the first floor. The work was done by students attending building classes at Vest-Lofoten high school. The original floors in this room were made of concrete and wood. The new concrete floor has got heating cables installed. Since the sea may flood the building during extreme weather, the floor has now been sloped and 30 cm of concrete has been added to the lower part of the wooden eastern wall. The three interior walls are kept as they were. The support structure in the floor has been reinforced and a staircase put in place. Previously, only ladders were used in the Saltery. The chimney is still where it used to, but the wood burning stove is placed on the ground floor instead of on the first. Due to fire regulations, an insulated chimney has been installed. Further, the ground floor has been equipped with a bathroom and a kitchen.
Previously, there was a room on the first floor where people lived during fishery. This room was clad with plywood. Otherwise, the Saltery was a shell construction. Therefore, we have chosen to use birch plywood as interior cladding on the first and second floors. The room on the first floor has been divided into two to provide more bedrooms.
The second floor was previously only for storing materials and equipment. Now there are two new bedrooms and a loft. Henriksen Bygg has restored the exterior of the Saltery and the interior was done by Daniel Mabin, Dillan Bcockie, and Leszek Stredzinski.
First of all, the walls had to be jacked up into place and the foundation of the annex had to be replaced on the southern side. The Steamery is built on poles in the sea. These were all replaced due to their very poor condition. To climatize the building, roofs and walls are insulated externally. The building is now about ten centimetres higher and wider on both sides.
In the Steamery itself the floors could not be walked on. Now a concrete floor with heating cables has been constructed where possible, and new wooden and vinyl floors in the remaining part. The traditional craftsman Eystein Greibrokk has rebuilt the chimney and the round fire stove. The walls inside have been repaired as gently as possible so that the traces after the oil extraction are still visible. In the roof are parts of the original sheathing. The construction is preferably preserved and supplemented with old materials. The eastern part of the steamer has been entirely reconstructed since we had to change poles and logs and make sure to get the floor climatized. Formerly, this space was built as an extension for the storage of the peat used in the fire stove. Now there is a bathroom, kitchen, and a living room in this part. Since the Steamery was built for the oil production, it had many doors. We have replaced them with windows, on the outside equipped with simple labank doors, which makes the façade appear as original when closed. The traditional craftsman Torgeir Thorsen and the carpenter Brent Gooding have restored the building together with Leszek Stredzinski.
The farmstead Soleng was partitioned as a piece of land of 7 000 square meters from another farm to Otto Solheim in 1938. The year before, Otto had bought his first fishing boat of 37 feet and six men would work on board during the winter fishery. Otto and his family needed a house and a barn to settle down in Kvalnes. Due to the war, Otto and his wife Julie waited until 1947 before they were able to build on their land close to the fishing grounds and new harbour at Kvalnes. In the post-war period, there was a shortage of most things, including wood. Otto therefore bought the house from Namdalen, 600 km south in Norway. Together with good friends he went south in his boat. The house was taken apart, the materials marked, packed, and transported by horse, train and boat back north to Kvalnes. Here the house was rebuilt, and finally restored in 2002. The house still stands there, and thanks to Julie and Otto, people from all over the world can visit the farmhouse at Soleng and feel the atmosphere of the Art Nouveau house. It is one of the first prefabricated houses of Spillum sawmill, now a museum.