written by:
photos by:
July 29, 2012
Originally published in Designers at Home
as
A World Apart

Inspired by her natural surroundings, a Dutch felt artist intuitively crafts a home on a northern Holland harbor.

Window view of sheep outside
Paula Leen and Kees Middendorp lived in their home for 16 years before they finally purchased and renovated it.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
1 / 14
Modern kitchen with zinc pantry and salvaged wood flooring
“We like old stuff, and we like reusing the same materials over and over again,” says Middendorp, who built the kitchen pantry from the home’s old wooden flooring and zinc from their former countertop. Leen commissioned a local ironsmith to create the 11-foot-long kitchen island, as well as the staircase that connects her ground-floor workshop with the family’s living space upstairs.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
2 / 14
Reading area with Axel leather sofa by Gijs Papavoine for Montis
Leen's reading area.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
3 / 14
Modern living space with sheep's wool hanging and antique furniture
Leen and Middendorp’s living space is peppered with an assortment of objects and textures, including sheep’s wool, an antique French farmhouse table, salvaged chairs, a Glo-Ball light by Jasper Morrison for Flos, and an Axel leather sofa by Gijs Papavoine for Montis.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
4 / 14
Paula Leen and Kees Middendorp outside
Leen and Middendorp walk down a path in Akkrum.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
Copyright: all copyrights Hotze Eisma
5 / 14
Modern home black wood-clad facade
Leen and Middendorp’s home faces the Akkrum marina. In the spring and summer, the family can hear the chirping of birds that lay their eggs on the roof, in nests fortified with stray bits of wool that have floated into the garden. “I like to picture the different colored nests up there,” says Leen. “It gives me a feeling of harmony with nature.”
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
6 / 14
Modern bedroom space with tinted plaster walls and Leen furniture
The couple’s bedroom is a serene space with tinted plaster walls and a white felt headboard and lampshade by Leen.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
7 / 14
Modern felt studio sink area
Downstairs, in what was formerly a tractor garage, Leen created a felt-making studio and hangout space that she calls, in her creative English-as-a-third-language way, “the chill room of me.”
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
8 / 14
Felt studio space with antique yellow sofa
Here, with the help of an antique sofa and a woodburning stove, she “drinks coffee, gets inspired, and gets warm.”
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
9 / 14
Modern felt studio space with concrete slab table
A longtime crafter, Leen worked primarily with clay and did bookbinding. But a decade ago she saw the work of the Dutch felt artist Claudy Jongstra and was drawn to the felt-making process. She experimented by dragging loose sheep’s wool, wrapped around a concrete roller, behind a tractor along the harborfront; after an hour, the fibers would interweave and create a fabric. More recently, following three years of trial and error, she built a large steel machine in her workshop that streamlines the way she creates the material.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
10 / 14
Wall art and handmade objects
Leen's house is filled with assorted ceramics from years past.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
Copyright: all copyrights Hotze Eisma
11 / 14
Handmade felt textiles on rack
After initially selling her wares—pouffes, pillows, lampshades, rugs, throws—at the craft shop at Royal Tichelaar Makkum, the oldest ceramics company in the Netherlands, Leen now offers her pieces exclusively through her website and out of her studio, under the label Poetryworld.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
12 / 14
Handmade felt by Paula Leen
As an introvert and an artist, Leen has a strong aesthetic sensibility. "I always go for the most simple design," she says.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
13 / 14
Feltmaker Paula Leen handling sheep wool
"I like buildings where people work with their hands, where craftspeople do their thing—that was an inspiration for our house."—Paula Leen
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
all copyrights Hotze Eisma
14 / 14
Window view of sheep outside
Paula Leen and Kees Middendorp lived in their home for 16 years before they finally purchased and renovated it. Image courtesy of all copyrights Hotze Eisma.
Project 
Poetryworld House
Architect 

For a country as small as the Netherlands, the province of Friesland is about as remote as you can get. Located 80 miles north of Amsterdam, in an agricultural area laced with canals and bordering the Wadden Sea, Friesland is distinct from other Dutch regions for a grab bag of reasons—a high concentration of windmills, a high concentration of speed skaters—but is especially notable for having its own native language, Frisian. Uniquely tuned in to the region’s weather and landscape, Frisian has a multitude of poetic words to distinguish subtle climatic differences: Rûzig means “there is a lot of wind”; koeltsje means “there is a little wind.” Krôkje refers to tiny, slow-falling snowflakes, izelje to the rain that falls on a frozen road, creating a thin layer of ice.

Modern living space with sheep's wool hanging and antique furniture
Leen and Middendorp’s living space is peppered with an assortment of objects and textures, including sheep’s wool, an antique French farmhouse table, salvaged chairs, a Glo-Ball light by Jasper Morrison for Flos, and an Axel leather sofa by Gijs Papavoine for Montis. Image courtesy of all copyrights Hotze Eisma.
Similarly responsive to the region’s physical and atmospheric states is the central Friesland home of Paula Leen and Kees Middendorp, in the town of Akkrum. In 2005, Leen and Middendorp bought Akkrum’s marina, where Middendorp serves as harbormaster and where they had rented a house for 16 years. When they finally bought their longtime residence, they decided to renovate it. They removed the dropped ceilings to expose the rafters and add an airy feeling and installed a radiant-heated concrete floor in their open-plan kitchen, living, and dining area. They also painted the partially yellow exterior black. “For other people, yellow gives a happy sunshine feeling, but for me it was terrible and depressing,” says Leen. “I need black and white and gray, the colors of Friesland. Yellow is an extrovert color. But I am a person who stays inside myself.”

Wall art and handmade objects
Leen's house is filled with assorted ceramics from years past. Image courtesy of Copyright: all copyrights Hotze Eisma.
As an introvert and artist, Leen has a strong aesthetic sensibility. “I always go for the most simple design,” she says. “No bling-bling. I always know what I like and what I don’t like.” These days, what she likes is the home she and Middendorp have created for their family. After years of renovation and creative customization—commissioning metal fixtures from an ironworker friend, salvaging furnishings from local barns and flea markets, and arranging and rearranging tableaus of natural found objects throughout her home—Leen has finished tinkering. “When you create a house from your soul, you don’t have to keep changing things,” she says. “In essence, it’s perfect.”

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 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.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016