houses

Nest Living: A Sprockhövel abode in Germany

Flemish minimalism and painterly natural light bring to life an interior design duo's abode and live-in showroom in Sprockhövel.

Caterina Rancho
German House
A 'cupboard' that reveals a bathroom door 

 

There’s no such thing as can’t – a personal and everlasting motto for American Jeanette Walther, an interior designer living in Germany. And it’s how she came to be in her current home: a 300-year-old carriage house in Sprockhövel, a small town in the south of Germany’s Ruhr Valley region.  

You need to have a real eye for beauty in order to have discovered this small sandstone property, which is located  on a through road, surrounded by  post-World War II buildings, fast-food chains and hairdressers. Jeanette had her eye on the house for years, dreaming that someday she would own it.  And then one day, while driving past, she noticed a removal van outside. Her time had come.

The first thing the interior designer had to do was convince her husband Stefan to invest in this diamond in the rough. She wanted to turn the house into a new home for her family, but at the same time design it in such a way that it would also serve as a kind of inhabited showroom for the business that she and Stefan run together.

Months later, after complicated negotiations, the Walthers bought the house with its large, enchanting garden and began the process of gutting and renovating. ‘The inside was a total botch job,’ the interior architect recalls. 

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More than a home 

The building had last been ‘renovated’ in the 1970s, a fact borne witness to by the erratic wallpaper patterns and amateur fittings. ‘It was a nightmare,’ groans Jeannette.

The walls were packed on the inside with polystyrene and insulating foil, beneath which the house’s timber framework was mouldering away. 

The couple discovered antique wooden door frames hidden away beneath the plastic ones, and after they had pulled up the dilapidated flooring, beautiful original oak floorboards came to light. ‘It was like uncovering a treasure trove. We removed entire decades, layer by layer.’

They tore down walls and installed new bathrooms, put in new wiring and restored the wooden and stone floors. Finally, they coated the walls with fine clay plaster. The backdrop for Jeanette’s compositions was now complete.

German house
A staircase to the second floor leads to yet another private nesting space: A Hoffz stool and daybed bathed in natural light.
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Alchemist's at work 

Working hand-in-hand, they planned and brought to life their interior designs throughout the house. Whatever Jeanette imagined, Stefan would turn into a reality. In his workshop, he makes the couple’s self-designed furniture and builds bespoke kitchens. Nothing here is off the peg.

They work  like alchemists, experimenting with colour pigments and working with natural materials such as stone, wood and iron until they achieve the desired look. ‘It’s a mixture of simple and sophisticated,’ explains Jeanette. 

The home is in a constant state of flux; greys are the  current dominant tones, with certain constants that can  be found in the simple furniture and the Flemish-inspired colours, tactile fabrics, some of the couple’s antiques, and  their own designs.

German house
A clean-lined bedframe in blonde wood, offset by simple linen and earthy scatters, takes centre stage in the calm and uncluttered bedroom space. All the furniture, carpets and lamps are by Hoffz.

 

In the centre of the house is the kitchen, which leads into the garden and the garage. ‘We want our fittings and furnishings to look good, of course, but they also have to function on a day-to-day basis,’ Jeanette explains.

This applies especially to the kitchen, which is used for cooking daily. The pair worked together on the fiddly job of special etched-steel wall panels, each created individually by hand. Apart from protecting the wall from hot oil splatterings, they bestow depth and dimension to the space. 

German House
Stefan built the kitchen according the Jeanette's vision. The curtain beneath the sink is made from leather, and the floor tiles were repurposed from the original house. Handmade etched-steel wall plates serve as splashbacks and add depth to the space. 

 

It’s this kind of detail that is characteristic of Jeanette’s interior design philosophy: no effort is too great for the creation of a casually elegant home. 

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