This Designer’s Copenhagen Apartment is Full of Life

Every object is full of life in the Atelier Axo designer’s airy Copenhagen apartment.

“We built this cabinet in the window niche, and I had this idea that when my son was laying here he had to look at something. We had this idea of a dream ship, so he could look at that and then we could make stories about the ship when he was lying down,” Rose says.

Words by

Photos by

January 26, 2024

Rose Hermansen sits at her dining table, a gallery of artworks framed in oak on the wall behind her. The Danish designer, who co-founded the cross-disciplinary studio Atelier Axo with her childhood friend Caroline Sillesen, apologizes for looking tired today. She looks awake to me; the late afternoon light brightens her face, and her expression is sincere and engaged.

She is sitting in the apartment she shares with her boyfriend, artist and musician Loke Rahbek, and their son, who at 2 years old has a notable presence in the apartment. The objects and character of the place, from the artworks to the cello hanging in the bedroom, are all fragments of life from Rose and Loke. “From when we were teenagers and smaller, we have collected drawings from friends or little clay objects that someone made for us as a birthday present,” Rose says. “All these small things have so much story.”

While students at The Royal Danish Academy—Caroline studied architecture while Rose studied furniture and spatial design—they frequently met to help each other and discuss techniques and ideas. “Every time we went out for a drink or something we had these talks that one day we should do something together,” Rose says. When Caroline was invited to participate in a design competition post-graduation she asked Rose to work with her. They won and received enough money to get an office and begin their practice—suddenly Atelier Axo was born in 2019.

“It was a very organic way of starting, maybe a bit naive because we were so young. We finished school and thought the world was open to us,” Rose says. “Maybe today I wouldn’t have the guts to do it in that way, but it felt so natural and had such a lovely energy to it.” Their combined studies allow them to consider the interaction of shapes and compositions at any scale—from a building to a chair to a piece of jewelry (which Caroline also designs for her brand Corali). Yet their shared experiences, from teenagerhood to recent travels, give them the same language and references. Rose says it’s almost like a psychic link, a shared toolbox.

In her home in the heart of Copenhagen’s bustling Nørrebro neighborhood, Rose houses Atelier Axo’s furniture designs like the gleaming Uno Lamp and the Jakob Chair, a 2021 collaboration with crochet designer Lulu Kaalund. “I really love to see what we make being used, for better and worse, as something to jump from or to make a fort to play in, so it doesn’t have this alienated feeling,” Rose says.

Much of the furniture and objects in her home are, in fact, often jumped on or transformed into play spaces. Rose’s son has surprisingly free reign in the apartment, even sharing a room with his parents. Rose wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s nice to have a place where you spend time together. Everything is kind of mixed up, and he can touch everything here. It makes it into a place full of life and makes it more fun to live in a small apartment as a family,” Rose says.

Plus the family has a strong emotional connection to this apartment. Rose says Copenhagen can feel a bit “pretty,” but their neighborhood, with its late-night spots and multicultural, young atmosphere, also offers a taste of the street culture and grit she and Loke grew to love when they lived in Berlin. They were thrilled to buy their apartment, which was outdated and rundown when they found it; it had no bath or shower and was full of dirty towels and darkened by sunken ceilings. After extensive renovations on a tight budget, the space is entirely theirs—from the built-in cabinetry around the bedroom window to the raised ceilings.

One of Rose’s favorite objects in the apartment is a toy ship with soft, vibrant orange sails. The ship is somewhat of a compromise, a way to make her son know he belongs in the bedroom without giving the space over to the chaos of toys. Rose came up with the idea of a “dream ship,” an object to build stories around. “It’s something we all really appreciate, the dream ship that is hanging and looking out of the window, especially on these gray days. It makes you feel like going somewhere; your fantasy is being stimulated in a way.”

While the ship, purchased from a Japanese toy store, is a vessel for stories the family imagines, most of their objects tell the stories of their own personal experiences. A Hans Wegner chair passed down from Rose’s uncle, a framed palm leaf Rose picked from an old botanical garden on her first date with Loke, and a small ceramic woman lying in a seashell with pearls by artist Anna Stahn, which Loke gave to Rose as a motherhood present when her son was born, are all memories on display in the apartment. Her cello, which she has played since childhood, is another cherished object Rose calls her “forever roomie,” as it has been with her from Copenhagen to Berlin and back.

“I can’t find a scarier thought than walking into a home where there’s no personality, no stories, and you can’t feel that anyone lives there,” Rose says. “Going into a home, visiting people, traveling—everything is about storytelling to put value into what you surround yourself with. It allows things to patinate over time in a beautiful way, and you can see it’s used by people. That really stimulates me and makes me feel comfortable.”


A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 11 with the title “Rose Hermansen.” Subscribe today.