A Shared “Scandi Hippie Kitsch” Montreal Apartment

updated Apr 30, 2019

A Shared “Scandi Hippie Kitsch” Montreal Apartment

updated Apr 30, 2019
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Name: Mark Andrew Hamilton and Bergþóra Jónsdóttir
Location: Montreal, Canada
Size: 800 square feet
Years lived in: Rented

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This Montreal rental is shared by two artists with a great eye for design and finding wonderful treasures in random thrift stores and pop-up flea markets. As housemates, they created a cozy home despite the limitations of the apartment — you’ll notice there’s no living room! Their personal style emerges out of the objects they surround themselves with, but certainly contains elements from their Icelandic and Austrian-Scottish backgrounds. And the way they made each bedroom conducive for sleeping and hanging out — as well as maximized the shared spaces in the apartment they do have — show off their ingenuity in making an odd apartment layout work for their lifestyles.

Mark is a copywriter, composer and musician who released his new album T R O U B L E last April and Bergþóra is a graphic designer now working in Montreal for House9 Design and lpp.is.

Inspired by nature, the outdoors and old travel artifacts that no one else would want, these cool treasure diggers know where to find the good “stuff.” Old travel guides from the 1950s-1970s, guidebooks for places that don’t exist anymore, kitsch snow-globes, rocks, crystals, corals, feathers, statues and cross-stitches of various animals and landscapes are a few of the items they have found over the years. One can certainly spend hundreds of hours walking around the apartment and discovering with amazement every little and cool thing in the space.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Our personal style emerges out of our objects, but certainly contains elements from our Icelandic and Austrian-Scottish backgrounds. We also travel a lot, although we hate the word wanderlust (and those who use it). We’re also excited to explore Montreal style as it’s the city we now both call home.

Inspiration: Mark: I’m particularly inspired by old travel artifacts that no one else would want. I love those cheap commemorative items you stumble across in thrift stores and flea markets. I also collect old travel guides from the 1950s-1970s. I’m particularly interested in those guidebooks for places that don’t exist anymore — the DDR, Yugoslavia, Karl-Marx-Stadt. My only rule with them is I can only bring home things from the thrift store commemorating places that I’ve actually been, which sometimes kills me because I find great things that break that rule and have to leave them on the shelf for someone else.

Bergþóra: I seem to be filling up my room with the outdoors. It might have something to do with growing up under a mountain, next to the ocean. Rocks, crystals, corals, feathers and endless pictures, statues and cross-stitches of various animals and landscapes. I’ll usually bring back home a rock or two from the places I visit, and the kitschiest snow-globe I can find of that place. It’s a weird fusion of Scandi hippie kitsch.

Favorite Element: Neighbours. Our friend Guillaume lives right upstairs, and our next door neighbour Rene is a theatrical set designer and helps us work on our Quebecois French. The back patio is also the best, especially when the neighbours across the way play music on their third floor balcony.

Biggest Challenge: Space. At the moment we don’t exactly have a proper living room, and once the winter hits we won’t be spending as much time on the balcony. Our friends and family are also as excited about Montreal as we are and this summer’s visitor schedule has been one big game of people Jenga.

What Friends Say: “Don’t ever move from here.”

Biggest Embarrassment: The bathroom ceiling is basically a bad 1970s office ceiling. It’s the one thing in the house that’s ever elicited a “Uh” from visitors. But at least the old-school tiling is still in place and there’s a window through which we can listen to our third floor neighbour sing along to Enrique Iglesias and Shakira while she showers in the morning. Sometimes our upstairs friend Guillaume showers at the same time, blasting Britney Spears or Grimes. This makes for sensory overload.

Proudest DIY: Building a plant holder for our herbs outside on the patio, or covering the walls with small objects in our respective rooms. The boys who lived here previously commemorated their romantic relationship with the wine-cork wall behind the sink. While we didn’t DIY it, it’s still a DIY project that we’re happy to live with. Oh and the boob planter. Bergþóra is really proud of that.

Biggest Indulgence: Two stereos, two record players, three world globes, multiple copies of Lionel Ritchie albums, “Opa stuff.”

Best Advice: Often it’s those thrift stores that from the outside don’t seem to have anything on offer at all that contain that one gem worth digging for. And we’re diggers.

Dream Sources: There’s a nearby charity shop that has a tucked-away room upstairs called The Treasures Room. You’ll spot the most beautiful thing and expect it to break the bank, but once you ask for the price they typically squint at the object and price it at $4.00 or less. We’ve also recently discovered a large landfill reclamation project near Dorval that has some incredible items saved from destruction.

Mark: Right after these photos were taken I found a Norwegian-designed lampshade (sold in a pizza-shaped box with individual plastic sheets and metal rings — you make the shade yourself) that was sold in the late 1960s and still had its original hand-written receipt attached. My mom bought the same lampshade at that time and it hangs in my parents’ house — they were visiting when I found it and helped me make it, and I think it’s one of the greatest things in the house, and marks that particular thrift store as one we’ll definitely be checking out again.

Bergþóra: One of my favorite places is my old Danish teacher’s magical antiques garage, in Dalvík, Iceland. He’ll open it up on the weekends and pour you a glass of sherry to sip on while you peruse the packed shelves. Can’t wait to go back for Christmas!


The previous tenants were a couple composed of a musician and an architect. The painting choices were theirs, and we’ve only re-painted one wall a different colour.

Kölner Zoo Poster — gifted to Mark by a friend in Köln, from an edition of 5
Finland Mail Bag — purchased at the post office in Finland at a Tom of Finland exhibition
Globe — bought from a friend moving to Barcelona, 1970s vintage
Desk — rescued vintage from Vancouver, unfortunately left outside in the rain overnight and slightly warped, it still folds out into a large table and I love the shape of the legs.
World Map Jigsaw Puzzle — The first puzzle Mark ever did, although if we’re honest Bergþóra (and our friend Asad from Los Angeles) did more of it.

What living room?

The table is from IKEA, the chairs are from IKEA and Wazo. The old school tourist poster for Montreal is on heavy solid wood and was given to Mark by a man showing his apartment to a potential renter friend of Mark’s. The mail bag on the wall is a West German mail bag, purchased in a Berlin vintage shop.

Most of Mark’s furniture is vintage, including a dresser brought over from Scotland by his grandmother. The bed sheets are by Simons, and all of the items on the wall are thrift-store finds. Bergþóra’s room is filled with IKEA furniture for the time being, while the beautiful stand-up dresser with mirror was a gift from our upstairs neighbor from Bulgaria upon her moving out. It’s a work in progress as she just moved here from Vancouver, after leaving all her stuff in Iceland.

Thanks, Mark & Bergþóra!

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