Nestled in the arctic circle, on the otherworldly island of Henningsvær in Norway’s Lofoten archipelago is Trevarefabrikken. Originally opened in the 1940s as a factory (fabrikk in Norwegian) to produce cod liver oil and house a carpentry workshop, the once abandoned site is undergoing a character evolution into a hotel and cultural hub focused on wellbeing and leisure. The first phase of Trevarefabrikken is nearing completion with the guidance of Jonathan Tuckey Design.
Four friends spontaneously purchased the dilapidated factory in 2014, and with the help of family, craftspeople and the local community have gradually transformed the site into a powerful symbol of collaboration and rejuvenation. Trevarefabrikken has a new-found image thanks to additions like an ocean sauna, yoga studio, café and renowned wood-fired pizza oven; not to mention its sell-out music and cultural festival, Trevarefest, each summer.
In 2019, the owners sought Jonathan Tuckey Design’s architectural expertise in working with existing buildings to sensitively compartmentalise the substantial open plan factory floor. The challenge was to harness the tactility, sightlines and atmosphere of the concrete shell whilst implementing a warm material palette and network of intimate bedrooms to welcome distant travellers. The owners briefed the London-based practice to design public and private spaces that could simultaneously reflect the site’s industrial heritage and embrace the breathtaking landscape. A celebration of natural light and seasonality is the outcome, with the extremities of day and night in this part of the globe accentuated by artefacts, additional thresholds and internal glazing.
The project is a true collaboration between studio and client. Jonathan Tuckey Design composed a scheme that celebrated the existing built fabric, which would be implemented by the owners over time at their own discretion. This gentle approach is very much indicative of the building's historic evolution.
As Jonathan Tuckey Design has led the conceptualisation and detailed design, the owners and their cohort of builders, friends and volunteers have carried out construction and carpentry work. This started as a deliberately simple scheme which grew into something rich in skill and craft as the team grew more confident in their tools and abilities. The process has breathed educational experience for all those involved, enabling the team to continue to work closely with the island community to ensure the project brings economic benefits and recognition to the area. This is illustrated by the joinery and furniture made by locals and travellers living at the hotel during the off season. As Trevarefabrikken remains an ever-evolving work in progress, those on site have been able to take the time to consider small, thoughtful interventions to make the most of what is already available - its value, its character and how all of the material elements interact. This has greatly informed JTD’s design concepts, giving the space a refined yet handcrafted value that reflects the organic spirit of Trevarefabrikken.
The studio’s design covers three main spaces, all with contrasting purposes and themes. The corridors on the first floor have overall witnessed very little intervention, kept purposefully ‘in the dark’ to resonate with the cycle of long summer days and winter nights. Nuanced light flows into the corridors via transom windows above the doors to the guest rooms, reflecting off resin-polished retained concrete floors reminiscent of the surrounding sea on a calm evening. Original machinery punctuates the corridor, preserving the industrial memory and casting intriguing shadows, contrasting with mirrors placed throughout to further amplify the dichotomy between light and dark. Slender steel skirting lines the hall to protect from damage by luggage or sporting equipment, and reclaimed bricks from the factory’s old chimney, perform as raised steps into the guest rooms.
JTD placed the range of guest rooms and suites within the existing concrete structure on the first floor. Upon entering the rooms, one moves from dark to light as retained industrial details contrast sharply with the bespoke timber joinery and soft colour scheme of seafoam green and cream. All timber elements were sourced from local islands, including the furniture, panelling and shutters which feature differently in each room. Likewise, curved timber wardrobe doors were shaped by the team on site, an elegant detail that allows guests maximised views of the space and impressive vistas to the rugged topography beyond. Existing services were left exposed, as were the concrete ceilings and floors, while new services were concealed behind timber bedside panelling to maintain the illusion of minimal intervention. Red-framed glazed lanterns, as well as dark, glossy bathroom interiors again contrast with the warm sleeping spaces. Discrete ‘T’ shaped cabinet door handles mark the only overt nod to Trevarefabrikken’s newfound identity.
Yet while many guests may come to Trevarefabrikken to experience nature, relaxation and tranquillity, ultimately the hotel has been designed to be a social space for visitors to gather and connect. One such social space is the wine bar and restaurant Trandamperiet on the first floor, the former cod liver oil production facility as evidenced by retained timber funnels.. Passing through a dark corridor and heavy door, a space engulfed by light is revealed, illuminated by glazing and providing sublime views across the Vestfjorden sea. JTD took advantage of these existing apertures to utilise the expansive views as a form of decoration themselves, keeping the room a neutral white to frame the vistas as paintings..
Local and retained materials feature throughout the hotel, including restored white tiling, with walls painted where tiles are missing rather than replaced. Where concrete ceilings have been left exposed, imprints of old timber boarding are still visible, mirrored in new timber flooring laid below.
To nurture a social atmosphere, Trandamperiet features 5-metre long communal dining tables. Initially, JTD suggested using sections of plywood, but importing the material to the remote island proved costly. Instead, the owners sourced from a nearby island which grows long-length larch trees, a sustainable solution that echoes both Trevarefabbriken’s and JTD’s wholehearted commitment to supporting local economies.
Additional sustainability measures include acoustic insulation in the guest room floors, wall and roof insulation and triple glazing installed throughout to improve comfort for guests staying in the old factory. Careful preservation of existing timber floors involved replacing any rotten ends with poured concrete—harking back to the factory foundation’s original construction using wood-cast concrete —creatively conserving original architectural features without disrupting the authenticity of the site. The second floor remains a work in progress, with potential to serve as additional event space, flexible accommodation and/or bar.
That Trevarefabrikken still stands today represents the power of community collaboration to reinvigorate the life of old buildings. Vigilant attention to original architectural details, authentic materiality, and adaptive reuse of industrial facilities to create spaces for both fellowship and relaxation have given new life to a site that has served Lofoten for generations. With only a light touch, Jonathan Tuckey Design has helped steer the atmosphere of Trevarefabrikken to unite both old and new without losing its unique sense of place and connection to the spectacular natural surroundings.