written by:
photos by:
January 19, 2012
Originally published in Inspired Renovation

This family of cost-conscious Hamburgers (freshly back in Germany after years abroad) converted a kitschy turn-of-the-century villa into a high-design home.

Minimal modernist home renovation in Germany

A family of cost-conscious Hamburgers converted a kitschy turn-of-the-century villa into a high-design home with a strict budget in place. To unite the quaint masonry of the original villa with the squat, ugly add-on built flush against it, the architects decided to paint the old-fashioned facade graphite gray and then covered the box next door in plain, light-colored larch. Photo by Mark Seelen.

Photo by 
1 / 10
Modern spacious dining room with concrete flooring

An LC4 lounge by Le Corbusier for Cassina keeps company with a trio of large planters and a surfboard in the space between the kitchen and the dining room.

Photo by 
2 / 10
minimal modernist home renovation in Germany
High Contrast

The question of the facade was a big one: How to unite the house, with its quaint old villa, and the squat, square, ugly minimart add-on built flush against it? Instead of trying to minimize the discrepancy, the architects emphasized it. They kept the old-fashioned facade intact and painted it graphite gray using RAL color 7024, made by Brillux, and then covered the “box” next door in plain, light-colored larch. brillux.com

Photo by 
3 / 10
neutral colored dining room with concrete walls and floors
Idée Concrète

To get a concrete look for the floors throughout the house, the team first considered Pandomo flooring, a slick treat-ment that would be even more expensive than a standard finish. Instead, says Winterhalder, they experimented with raw materials. “I’d call the suppliers and say, ‘Do you have something grayer?’ They thought I was crazy.” In the end, instead of a concrete look, the couple went with actual concrete—at a fifth of the price. pandomo.de

Photo by 
4 / 10
Library room with a minimal muted color palette
Three’s Company

Inspired by the minimal color scheme of a hotel they stayed at in Bali, Winterhalder and Ehlers decided to limit their palette to three colors: anthracite black, concrete gray, and a light larch wood. The first move was to paint the backyard wall gray. Next up for a coat of dark paint was the villa’s old-fashioned wooden staircase, which the couple didn’t like but didn’t have the budget to replace. The consistency works to unite the different styles found in the house. “Somehow,” says Winterhalder, “it all fits.”

Photo by 
5 / 10
Peter Janke inspired garden landscaping
Glass Houses

Though the original plans called for a frameless wall of glass in the back, it turned out that it would eat up most of the budget. Instead, they installed three wood-framed windows made by Fecon. fecon.de

Cut and Plant

For the landscaping, the couple literally took a page out of somebody else’s book. Winterhalder says their garden was lifted from page 38 of Peter Janke’s Kleine Gärten (Small Gardens), published by Becker Joest Volk Verlag. bjvv.de

Photo by 
6 / 10
Disposable unit area by kitchen
Bring In the Trash

With an eye for the industrial, Winterhalder built the garbage area in the kitchen around two standard-issue plastic trash cans common in German cities. One is orange; the other, green. These in turn inspired her to start adding color accents around the house.

Photo by 
7 / 10
Red locker storage with hanging E27 pendant lamps
Happy Accent

Now that the interior’s palette is firmly in place, Winterhalder has slowly been adding splashes of color. E27 pendant lamps from Muuto in the kitchen and guest room have red cords; one wall in the guest room is also red, with matching red locker storage. The inside of the front door is painted bright green. “For me, they’re kids’ colors,” she says. “I just love them.” muuto.com

Photo by 
8 / 10
Modern children's room with cute wall decals
Sticker Shock

Though colorful dashes here and there certainly enliven the sober interior, little adds a dose of whimsy like the wall decals found in the kids‘ rooms. The owl over Jonne‘s shoulder is available from Raumgerecht and the branch leaves are from the Dutch company Inke. raumgerecht.de, inke.nl

Photo by 
9 / 10
Square-shaped area guest bedroom home office
Boxy Rebellion

“I like simple shapes, and for a house,” says Winterhalder, “a box is very good.” The two downstairs bathrooms are located in freestanding larch-covered cubes; the kitchen island is resoundingly rectilinear; and a square-shaped area in the guest bedroom serves as a home office, where Winterhalder designs UV-blocking children’s beach wear for her label, Beach Heroes.

Measure Twice

When determining the height of the concrete blocks that form the outer wall of the kitchen island, the couple took a hands-on approach. “We measured our coffeemaker and a bottle of oil, and that’s how much higher we made the concrete blocks than the counter,”Winterhalder says. The blocks themselves were made to measure by a concrete supplier.

Photo by 
10 / 10
Minimal modernist home renovation in Germany

A family of cost-conscious Hamburgers converted a kitschy turn-of-the-century villa into a high-design home with a strict budget in place. To unite the quaint masonry of the original villa with the squat, ugly add-on built flush against it, the architects decided to paint the old-fashioned facade graphite gray and then covered the box next door in plain, light-colored larch. Photo by Mark Seelen.

Project 
Black Villa

When Hinnerk Ehlers and Katja Winterhalder moved their family to Hamburg, Germany, after seven years abroad in Canada, they knew what they wanted: a supercool, minimal, modernist house. Ehlers and Winterhalder were after lots of light, lots of functionality, and something durable enough for the kids to run around in. Ideally, they'd also get a chance to implement some of the ideas for better everyday living they’d aggregated over the years. Integrating state-of-the-art energy efficiency was nonnegotiable. Everything they found, however, was too old-fashioned, and it was all too expensive. So the couple—he works for a large frozen-foods company; she was a creative in an ad agency—went back to take a second look at a tiny 1907 villa in a great location they had dismissed the first time around.

Modern spacious dining room with concrete flooring

An LC4 lounge by Le Corbusier for Cassina keeps company with a trio of large planters and a surfboard in the space between the kitchen and the dining room.

Their initial reaction was understandable. In the 1960s, the two-story, 1,070-square-foot villa with pea-green faux masonry had been all but swallowed by an L-shaped addition that once served as a minimart. The whole thing—2,200 square feet between the two structures—had since been carved into three separate living units. Only two rooms were inhabitable; the rest were filled to the brim with electronics parts and junk. “It was the black sheep of the block,” says Winterhalder. But the price was right, and an S-Bahn transit station, a school, and a bakery were each a minute’s walk away. So, even though the family couldn’t do anything to change the odd layout without giving up space under new zoning ordinances, they decided to take a chance.

With just a few months to go on their temporary housing’s lease, Ehlers and Winterhalder had to get to work. For assistance, they drew on the know-how of Berlin-based architect Frank Drewes, of the firm Drewes+Strenge Arkitekten, whose father designed the modernist house Winterhalder grew up in.

Library room with a minimal muted color palette
Three’s Company

Inspired by the minimal color scheme of a hotel they stayed at in Bali, Winterhalder and Ehlers decided to limit their palette to three colors: anthracite black, concrete gray, and a light larch wood. The first move was to paint the backyard wall gray. Next up for a coat of dark paint was the villa’s old-fashioned wooden staircase, which the couple didn’t like but didn’t have the budget to replace. The consistency works to unite the different styles found in the house. “Somehow,” says Winterhalder, “it all fits.”

While Drewes’s high-end, high-drama, high-design work fit right in with the cool Asian flats pictured in Winterhalder’s inspiration scrapbook, one issue remained. “We told Frank, ‘We have a small budget and no time,’” says Ehlers. “He said, ‘That’s a problem.’” They had spent two-thirds of what they could afford on the property, and the remaining third had to cover all the major renovations, repairs, and energy-savings measures required, leaving almost nothing for stylistic flourishes. Instead, the cool had to be built in from the beginning, along with the new walls and wiring.

With the help of Volker Schmidt—a laid-back, experimentally minded local who served as the construction architect—20 debris boxes to haul away junk, and lots of hours clocked on the Internet looking for the right raw materials, the team made it happen. A mere six months after signing the purchase papers, Ehlers, Winterhalder, and their two kids, Jonne and Oona, moved into a truly modernist miracle.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

kannerresidence 6 mcinturff architects
Abstract expressionist Richard Diebenkorn inspired the fresh coats of paint at this Maryland home.
May 31, 2016
burton residence concrete floors metal panel sliding outside
An easy construction process reduces any drama for a couple in California.
May 31, 2016
Modern outdoor deck with wooden ceiling and metal fence
Working with a limited footprint, a daunting slope, and killer views, architect Bruce Bolander went vertical with a secluded canyon house in Malibu.
May 31, 2016
Sustainable home with galvanized steel shed roof and siding
A rural house in Ontario doesn't fuss around and fits right in the surrounding landscape.
May 31, 2016
Modern prefab summer home in Madeline Island, Wisconsin
Prefab construction simplified the building process of this northern Wisconsin summer home, where all materials required ferrying across Lake Superior.
May 30, 2016
This unrealized plan reimagined the city’s downtown and included a large green area next to the capitol building and paths to bring people to the Delaware River
In her new book, Wild by Design, Margie Ruddick shows us how to get closer to nature.
May 30, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent joa herrenknecht berlin cstudio joa herrenknecht berlin loftsw livingr02 studiojoaherrenknecht 2015
Size doesn't intimidate this ambitious designer.
May 30, 2016
modern fjallbacka sweden pine boxes vacation facade
Architect Gert Wingårdh creates a passionately outfitted vacation home for two midcentury furniture dealers on the western coast of Sweden.
May 29, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent driaan claassen cape town south africa ccourtesy of driaan claasen dualpage82
Driaan Claassen combines a variety of materials and a love of history to create distinct objects.
May 29, 2016
energy star dirk wynants extremis poperinge beligium sustainable farmhouse facade
The owner of an outdoor furniture company updates a 19th-century farmhouse.
May 29, 2016
Modern small sustainable weekend home with flat roof
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts.
May 28, 2016
inside out los angeles home barbara bestor hollywood outdoor facade charcoal paint pool
Architect Barbara Bestor transforms a Hollywood Hills home by opening up its interior to the site’s dramatic backyard topography.
May 28, 2016
right of laneway vancouver garden sliding glass western window systems door outdoor
A Vancouver garden blossoms alongside fresh development.
May 28, 2016
20160229 dgd highhouse 1777 1024x683
A toddler, a pup, and their parents fit onto a 16.5-foot-wide plot in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
May 27, 2016
rec
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 27, 2016
capitol gains seattle multifamily living dining room wassily chair chaise le corbusier cb2
Two Seattle architects design and build a dynamic multifamily structure on a formerly vacant lot.
May 27, 2016
modern beach house thatch roof living dining bar cart
By eliminating walls and incorporating a series of interior gardens, architect José Roberto Paredes creates an eclectic and inspired El Salvador beach house.
May 27, 2016
7
A two-story Eichler in San Francisco gets a freshening up.
May 27, 2016
Bathyard renovation in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid, Spain, Husos Architects renovate a turn-of-the-20th-century apartment for a client with dual passions: her houseplants and a nice, long bath.
May 26, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
May 26, 2016
starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016