Many of us fantasise about living in the perfect white box – a light-suffused dream home with sleek surfaces, invisible cabling and minimal clutter. Danish media mogul Mads Munk wanted all of that, but he wasn’t looking for serenity: he was on a quest for a blank canvas. Or rather, a gallery.
‘I collect a lot of things,’ he says, sitting behind the gleaming iMac at his desk, flanked by an antique bronze statuette of Themis, Greek goddess of justice, and a framed poster of the first Technicolor, Christopher Reeve-era, Superman movie. ‘If you have simple, white square rooms, you effectively have an exhibition space, so everything I own looks like it’s curated, even though all the objects are so totally different.’
Munk has been immersed in the upbeat fantasia of pop culture for decades. He earned his wings in the development department at Lego before setting up the multimedia company M2Group, which has created advertising for some of the world’s biggest brands.
A minimalist arrangement of white boxes provides the ideal backdrop for its owner to display his glamorous and kitsch collection CREDIT: FREDERIKKE HEIBERG
Its rapidly growing animation studio has made hit TV series as well as a feature-length film for Lego, and Munk’s home in Aarhus demonstrates the kind of visual flair that would appeal within the coloured-building-brick universe.
‘Lego is Danish and I’m Danish, and there’s a tradition here,’ he says. ‘You grow up with it. You carry that in your heart from your youth – it’s close to you.’
While there is plenty of contemporary Danish design in this house, that’s not what defines it. It’s the carefully ordered, ever growing selection of ‘cool stuff’ that has caught Munk’s eye on his travels.
It comes from markets in Asia and vintage stores in America, and just about everywhere inbetween. Like the posters of favourite bands and movie stars a teenage boy pins to his bedroom wall, the house reveals Munk’s passions.
Mads Munk: ‘Lego is Danish and I’m Danish, and there’s a tradition here. You grow up with it. You carry that in your heart from your youth’ CREDIT: FREDERIKKE HEIBERG
In his office, a row of plates bearing images of images of John Wayne, found in a Bangkok flea market, hang on the wall. They are a masterclass in kitsch as much as hero worship.
Wayne is the man that Munk most admires, but with his tongue firmly in his cheek. ‘I often ask myself, what would John Wayne have said now?’ he says. There’s a wonderful, camp insouciance about both the movie star and these plates that somehow sums up Munk himself.
«At the dining table, no one is on their phone and we can actually talk properly. Food and family always make the happiest moments»
‘I was in Dan Tana’s, my favourite bar in LA, a few weeks ago,’ he says. ‘I ordered a negroni as usual. The waiter brought it to me with a straw in it, so I said to him, “I don’t think John Wayne would have drunk out of a straw, would he?” Without pause, the waiter looked back and said, “Sir, I don’t think John Wayne would have drunk anything bright red either.” And of course he was right!’
One wonders what Wayne would have thought about Lego, not to mention teen pop sensations: Munk’s latest project is an all-American girl group, L2M, described by Sheryl Garratt in the Telegraph Magazine last year as ‘the tween girl band tipped to be the next big thing’.
‘I was in LA financing a Lego film production,’ he explains. ‘I was looking for music, and nothing I was being sent was right. I wanted music that was being made by someone close to the age of the film’s audience, not 20 years older.’
Munk bought a collection of Thai chicken baskets and inverted them to use as shades in the garden CREDIT: FREDERIKKE HEIBERG
Munk doesn’t do things by halves: after the idea formed, he hit the road for eight months, holding open castings across the US, until he found the five best tween-princess candidates. They’re now filming their own Monkees-style TV show called Hyperlinked, for which they’re creating all-original songs; it’s launching with vast billboards overlooking Sunset Boulevard.
To make sure he’s up to speed with musical trends, Munk spends a lot of time listening to teen pop at full volume, through the state-of-the-art sound system in his bedroom.
‘It’s the most simply furnished space in the house,’ he says. ‘It’s where I go to calm down. I also go there to listen to music I want to concentrate on – I want to hear what those kids are listening to. But when I’m in my car, I put on Steely Dan.’
«The house there is older in style. It reminds me of my friends’ places in Lake Como. But the house in Europe represents how I’ve lived most of my life»
Munk needs a base in LA, so there’s also a house in California, towards which his children – Kamilla, 16, Kristian, 21, and Otto, 21 – gravitate when they aren’t in Denmark. ‘I got tired of staying in hotels,’ he explains. ‘The house there is older in style. It reminds me of my friends’ places in Lake Como. But the house in Europe represents how I’ve lived most of my life.’
There’s definitely a touch of LA glamour to his Aarhus home, and not just because Munk buys a new picture from the gallery at the Sunset Marquis hotel each time he visits, to add to his collection. You can feel it most, perhaps, in the backyard, which is just a kidney-shaped pool short of being full-on Hollywood Hills.
The chandeliers in the kitchen are largely vintage, from antique stores in Denmark, but there’s also one from Harrods in London CREDIT: FREDERIKKE HEIBERG
‘We love sitting out there,’ he says. ‘I actually think it feels more like a New York rooftop than Denmark or LA.’ It’s full of architectural-salvage touches – a row of colourful grandfather clocks and old bank safes used as plant holders.
In the open-plan kitchen a spectacular array of chandeliers hangs above the dining table, which Munk has designated as a technology-free zone, insisting on a smartphone amnesty during meals.
‘When we sit on the sofa together, in front of a movie, everyone gets their little individual screens out,’ he says, with the resignation of every modern parent. ‘At the dining table, no one is on their phone and we can actually talk properly. Food and family always make the happiest moments.’