The original building that housed the general store in Venneshamn was Nerstu (the 'lower building'). The building was constructed in Empire style in 1888. The ground floor included a general store, a post office and stockrooms. The layout of the rooms was radically changed in 1930. On the first floor there was a dwelling unit that was in use until 1971. In 1978, the store was moved into another building, named Øverstu (the 'upper building'), which was enlarged for the purpose by demolishing the nearby bakery building. The changes also saw the transition from a general store with service over counter to a grocery store with self-service supported by modern facilities.

After the 1970s, Nertu fell into decline and appeared quite rundown by the start of the new millennium. Lack of maintenance combined with water leakages from above and rising damp from the ground had particularly damaged the wooden construction materials. The local people were of the opinion that the building was beyond repair and would soon be ready for demolition. However, for Asbjørn Karlsen, the idea of conserving the building matured. In 2008 he sent his first application to the nation's cultural heritage fund (Norsk Kulturminnefond) for financial support, which proved unsuccessful. However, he soon learned the secrets of submitting successful applications and consequently the restoration of Nerstu was able to start in 2009.

Sticking to restoration principals meant repairing as far as possible rather than substituting new materials. When substitution was necessary, we strived to copy the traditional solutions by using traditional or original material and paint colours. For example, because the old roofing slates had disintegrated, we had to search for high-quality slates to replace them. Eventually, we bought used slates of Alta quartzite and used a high-pressure hose with boiling water to cleanse them of lichen and dirt. Most of the windows were restored. The severely damaged ones at the front of the building were reconstructed in a style and with materials corresponding to the originals. The window mouldings and casement were made of heartwood. We chose to use linseed oil paint, which would have been the kind of paint used originally. Now and then we faced the dilemma of how to balance conservation against functionality. For safety reasons, we had to comply with prevailing standards such as installing new smokestacks, fireplaces, stoves, a smoke alarm system, and new wiring. We chose solutions that protected the building from rainwater and moisture in general. In addition, we made some adaptions to the interior in order to have a café with up-to-date-sanitary installations, and to make the building fit to live in. Nevertheless, we managed to preserve the building's old-fashion charm.

We were fortunate to be able to rely on the help of master craftsmen and craftswomen, especially carpenters who were skilled in restoration work. One carpenter specialized in interlocking joints of the type used in log-built constructions, and another craftsman specialized in window repairs. We also engaged skilled masons, electricians and plumbers. All members of the family were greatly involved in the restoration work, particularly when it came to applying surface treatments and the finishing details. Hundreds of working hours were spent on scraping off old paint from wooden panels both inside and outside the house. In addition, we received help from various relatives and neighbours.

Among the five buildings belonging to Ernst Karlsen was a unique boathouse, with a loft that was used to store inflammable oil products and other liquids at a safe distance from the main building. Early in the 1960s the boathouse was partially shifted from its original location by a drifting ice floe. Later on, its substructure collapsed and the building tilted severely. Gradually, vegetation growth and the accumulation of humus caused further damage to the wooden materials. Once again, we had to hire the carpenters, this time to plan the restoration of the boathouse. They discovered that the corrugated plates on the roof were concealing the remains of an earlier wooden shingle roof, and suggested that it should be restored. Restoring the boathouse required the use of a crane, a mechanical digger, tons of rocks for the foundations, and repairs to the building's framework and timber cladding. Making the wooden shingles and assembling them on the roof was a novel challenge for the carpenters, and the project thus helped to revitalize the traditional craft. As the work involved additional carpenters (apprentices), the skills were handed down to a new generation. As a result, a craft that was at risk of dying out has probably been kept alive for the future.

The realization of the restoration projects relied on external financial support. Successful applications for funds to Kulturminnefondet, Stiftelsen UNI and local authorities accounted for approximately a quarter of the total investments.
  
Kalsen.no
N-7059 Jakobsli
Phone: +47 478 33 748
Email: asbjoern.karlsen@svt.ntnu.no
 
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