Ever since photographer and aesthete Mikkel Dahlstrøm moved to Copenhagen in 2019, he has worked on transforming his new build flat in Sfinxen, a modern skyscraper, into a cosy and charming home with room for him and his partner Frederik to relax and unwind.
The Islands Brygge area of Copenhagen is undergoing rapid development in every respect. This area of the Danish capital is characterised by its many new build, architect-designed apartment complexes where the “small living” concept is flourishing. When the lift arrives at the second floor, we are immediately greeted by Mikkel's welcoming smile inviting us inside. The flat is small, but from the moment we step into the entranceway we are embraced by a visual calm that is accompanied by the velvety notes of a scented candle, and we immediately feel at home. Mikkel Dahlstrøm, 29, undoubtedly has an innate talent for working with design and aesthetics, and it is evident that he photographs inspiring homes on a daily basis.
When we ask about Mikkel's path to photography, he tells us that he actually completed a bachelor's degree specialising in employment law, but since it was not his dream to sit in an office from nine to five, Mikkel ended up not using his degree: “My career as a photographer started very randomly. I worked part-time in an interior design store with my friend Julie. For a long time, we'd talked about wanting to do something with interior design, and we remembered that both of us had articles published about our own homes. We talked about how cool it would be to do it ourselves, and that's how it all began,” explains Mikkel. In the beginning, Mikkel and Julie were the stylists, while their mutual friend was the photographer. However, when their friend wasn't able to help anymore, Mikkel decided to grab his own SLR camera: “I watched YouTube videos and read a lot of books to learn about the subject. We scraped some money together and invested in some very expensive photo equipment, and suddenly I was the photographer. It was a crazy time, because just half a year after we started, we reached a point where we were so busy that we could make a living from it.”
In addition to his work as a photographer, Mikkel has also achieved success through his Instagram profile, where he primarily shares photos of his own flat and the things that inspire him. Even though Mikkel's Instagram profile is clearly a big part of his life, he does not consider himself an influencer. Mikkel's profile is a curated space where he seeks to inspire and portray the aesthetic that is in many ways his trademark: “My Instagram is my baby. I'm not as active as I would like to be, but that's because I am such a perfectionist. I would rather wait two weeks to upload a picture than post something that I am not 100% happy with.” When we ask him if he worries about making a negative contribution to the culture of perfection often found on Instagram, he smiles and replies: “I don't think that what I post is contrived, because that's actually how I live. But obviously you can tell that I care about everything looking good. I am a photographer more than I am an influencer; more a brand than a sales profile. That's just my way of communicating, to influence by inspiring.”
“I think the key to small living is being highly selective. If something new comes in, something else has to go.”
For many people, big city living equals a tiny living space, and Mikkel's flat is a stunning example of how to live both aesthetically and functionally in a limited space: “I think the key to small living is being highly selective. If something new comes in, something else has to go. Things have to work and be practical here, but they also have to look good. That's why I decorate my surroundings in a relatively minimalist way, so that it always looks fairly tidy.”
Before Mikkel moved to Copenhagen, he lived alone in an older luxury flat in Aalborg, and one of the challenges of moving to a new build was cultivating the charming look that he feels is granted via the unique and original details found in older flats. However, Mikkel has succeeded in creating a calm and charming interior design style in his small flat through the use of high-quality furnishings and curated colours. The walls are painted in earthy tones in a variety of shades, and tactile elements and organic shapes serve to interrupt the pure white style that often dominates new architecture: “All the things we own fall within my own aesthetic. Our furniture is classic, but most pieces also have a bit of edge. I love our vintage Murano lamp in the beautiful amber colour. When I buy something new, I need to make room for it beforehand, and I strongly believe that it should have a timeless design.” Mikkel has spent many years investing in designs that exude quality: “Over time, it has become a principle for me to spend my money on good design that lasts a long time. For example, I'm quite certain that our bespoke marble dining table will last forever, and it makes me love it even more.”
When we ask Mikkel about his favourite place in his home, he points to the Rico lounge chair in the open plan kitchen-living room. When the couple were decorating this space, Mikkel's partner suggested putting an armchair in the small nook, an idea that Mikkel immediately rejected: “My first thought was that you can't have an armchair in the kitchen, but Frederik kept insisting. Now I have to admit that I sit there quite often, during almost all of the small breaks in everyday life. It's just a nice place to cosy up in,” says Mikkel. Even if you practise “small living”, cosiness is something that Mikkel believes you should always consider in your interior design plans, regardless of how you live: “For many years I had forgotten about cosiness, and was only concerned with everything looking great. But today I know that, first and foremost, my home has to be a place where I can relax and find the tranquillity that allows me to generate new ideas and continue to develop creatively.”
“Today I know that, first and foremost, my home has to be a place where I can relax and find the tranquillity that allows me to generate new ideas and continue to develop creatively.”