The Glossy Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple

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The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple

Design couple couple Bernt Heiberg and William Cummings come from different continents, and together they have developed a completely personal interior design style. The style has become international and works equally well for customers in New York as in Oslo. Learn more about the glossy life of a Norwegian/American design couple.

In 2012, the couple had their book “Et liv med interiører” (A Life with Interiors) published by Norwegian publisher Aschehoug. In the book, they present over twenty different homes and offices in USA and Norway, among them a cabin in Nordmarka, Oslo, a winter residence in Sarasota, s summer house at the south coast of Norway, villas in New York and Oslo and apartments on Manhattan. One of them is the New York residence of Stein Erik Hagen, but in the book, house owners’ names are not mentioned.

The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple
In thir book “Et liv med interiører” (A Life with Interiors), the design couple presents over twenty different homes and offices in USA and Norway

Heiberg Cummings Design has offices in New York as well as in Oslo. The Norwegian and the American met on a street in Warszawa in 1990, and became partners in business as well as privately.

The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple
Landing was their present home until recently. It is a nondescript 1940s-era house.

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The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple, read on….

Over the course of their 26 years in business as Heiberg Cummings Design, Bill Cummings and Bernt Heiberg have taken on several projects in the Hamptons.  During the pandemic, after having transformed and flipped several different residential properties in Sag Harbor and Wainscott, each imbued with their trademark palette of Scandinavian minimalism and understated comfort, the couple decided to branch out to Shelter Island.

Landing was their present home until recently. It is a nondescript 1940s-era house. “We always like to give a home a name,” explains Cummings, “and with this house, we felt like we had landed somewhere very special.”

The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple
Landing presented the unique opportunity to tackle a purely historical restoration.

Landing presented the unique opportunity to tackle a purely historical restoration. Once belonging to a ship captain, Admiral Stanton of the U.S.S. Constitution, the clapboard cottage is part of a larger compound of residences in Sag Harbor that were originally built in 1830 for a single family.

The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple
The couple has faithfully restored the 1,800 square-foot property with a singular goal in mind: preserving the original architecture.

There is an almost identical “sister house” next door. It sits on a particularly wide street within the historic whaling community where the animals used to be brought up from a nearby dock (not quite as charming as having, say, a farmer’s market down the block, but it counts for something, Cummings admits. He is no expert in local history though he did read Moby Dick.

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The couple has faithfully restored the 1,800 square-foot property with a singular goal in mind: preserving the original architecture.

The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple
The main living room is furnished in the 19th-century style to complement its original construction date,

The couple “fell in love with the water and the views,” adds Heiberg. “It reminds me of a summer home in Norway. You have more space to find your Shangri-la. And since we’re on an island, everyone looks out for one another.” The men are so smitten with Shelter Island that they’ve opened a local atelier where they sell Scandinavian antiques and accessories from such venerable dealers as Dienst + Dotter.

The main living room is painted in a matte white paint, offset by a more traditional high-gloss paint that draws attention to the trim and millwork. Furnished in the 19th-century style to complement its original construction date, the room has ample seating that can be easily arranged around one high tea-table.

The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple
Bedroom in Landing

“Many are afraid of a scrape, a red wine stain,” writes Bern Heiberg in the book. “It is very Norwegian that it should be so perfect. No, you have to live with the interior, it gives a beautiful patina.”

Related: Norwegian Architect in New York

Although the couple hail from vastly different parts of the world, each complements the other in a textbook yin-yang fashion. Cummings grew up in Colorado and San Francisco, where he earned an international business degree before turning to photography and interior design, and Heiberg got his start in his native Norway as an antiques dealer.

The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple
In Landing, nothing had been updated in 30-odd years, so the bulk of the work was simply bringing the home up to 21st-century living standards.

In Landing, nothing had been updated in 30-odd years, so the bulk of the work was simply bringing the home up to 21st-century living standards. (Though it remains to this day authentically uninsulated).

Antique furnishings were reupholstered in a variety of neutral linens for cohesion. And windows were dressed in gauzy white linen using a custom-designed (though simple-looking) mechanism that involves leather straps and glass rings: The pair took inspiration from an 18th-century Swedish shade meant for heavier silk drapery when designing it, and they have been using the riff in projects for years. The original pine wide-plank flooring was neither leveled nor excessively refurbished, just lightly hand sanded to remove old paint.

The Glossed Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple
From the patio

“Bill says he works with his brain, and I work with my heart,” Heiberg jokes, although the pair couldn’t be more in sync with a design aesthetic that’s pleasing without pretension. In other words, everyone should feel free to sit on the sofa, even Fia, their miniature long-haired Dachshund.

Two full pages at the back of their book are devoted to the pictures of the couple’s dog with and without May 17 bow, wig, sailor hat and glasses.

“There’s not one straight line or level surface in the house,” jokes Cummings, but the home is all the better for it: True to its own history while reflecting its new owners’ sense of place. Here, the designers talk about their approach to updating an older home with respect and integrity.

As of December 2021, The Landing was under contract with an asking price of $4.75 million with Stacey Cohen at Saunders & Associates as the listing broker.

The Glossy Life of a Norwegian/American Design Couple, written by Tor Kjolberg, inspired by a text from Dienst + Dotter.

All images © Heiberg Cummings Design

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Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.