Cohousing and Co-living started in Denmark.

architect Jan Gudmand-Høyer

When trying to find out more about house sharing or communal living in Europe it doesn’t take long to come across the experience of Denmark. It’s quite common for Scandinavian countries to be put on a pedestal for various aspects of their lifestyle and so too is it true when it comes to co-living; in fact they may well be worthy of our admiration in this respect.

More than 40 years ago architect Jan Gudmand-Høyer, dissatisfied with life in the city or in isolated suburban single-family homes, decided it would be better to live closer together in homes that met their needs and wishes. So he initiated work on his view of communal housing – privately owned homes which shared communal facilities in order to make “a more supportive living environment”. He made clear from the start that, although he was an architect by trade, “Cohousing is not related to a certain architectural style. It is a lifestyle”. These initial communities often revolved around groups of whole families living together, sharing the burdens of day-to-day life including childcare.

Skovbakken - the original design for cohousing by Jan Gudmand-Hoyer

As a result, co-living is a well-established living arrangement in Denmark today, with 10% of new-build properties falling under the banner of communal housing.  However, over time the general model has evolved and diversified. The success of the older projects has spurred on new communities, whilst individual residences have decreased in sized, some integrating all dwellings and communal areas under one roof -creating a range of unit mixes and different living arrangements.  Interestingly, co-living has previously been viewed as something for the wealthy in Denmark, but thanks to this diversification of the market, there are more options to suit a range of budgets.

One of the most recent examples of a co-living environment, The Nest Copenhagenwherein everyone lives inside one building, is Nest in Copenhagen, which is aimed specifically at entrepreneurs. This presents a noteworthy example, showing that the wide choice of cohabitation environments offers opportunities to live with like-minded people in a similar stage of life. Founder Kristensen describing how this setting allows them to progress in their own personal goals, together.

Many projects like this are aimed at younger audiences, with the oldest member of Nest being 38 noting that he does feel the age gap.  However, given the strong history of cohabitation in the Denmark, many projects also feature residents further through their life. Mark Fearer notes that communal living attracts diverse groups of individuals living together where an “aspect of intentional diversity is generational”, with people of all ages living together.

The Danish model shows not only the endurance of a communal living model, but also how this evolved and diversified to maintain its relevance and popularity today. These factors will be sure to keep the Danes as one of the greats in the communal living world.

References in this article

Brignall, M, 2009, Communal living: Grand designs on living in perfect harmony, The Guardian,

Fearer, M. 1994, Cohousing: From Denmark with Love

Morrision, S. 2011, Come together: Could communal living be the solution to our housing crisis?, The Independent,

Miman, D. 1994, Where it all Began: Cohousing in Denmark


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