You Can Rent a Room in This 19th-Century Bavarian Farmhouse, Which Just Got a Minimalist Refresh
Reinhold Windorfer grew up on a dairy farm in the village of Moosham in southern Germany. Agriculture was in his blood, but not his future. After college he became an analyst in Munich, evaluating corporations’ sustainability cred. He and his wife, Verena Windorfer-Bogner, visited his parents at the homestead on weekends.
The 50-acre property, which has been in Reinhold’s family for seven generations, includes an 1840s farmhouse, a barn, a landmark-protected hut with a wood-fired bread oven, and other outbuildings around a central courtyard. All of it was crumbling. "My wife and I decided we had to do something," says Reinhold. "We felt that responsibility in a good way."
Rather than restore what had been, Reinhold proposed a new design and business, based on the growing popularity of farm stays: Convert part of the home into a pair of vacation rentals, offering tourists a chance to experience the same simple pleasures that had drawn him back to the countryside after eight years in the city.
With his parents’ blessing, they closed the dairy operation and sold the cows. Working with Bernd Vordermeier, an architect who owns a studio in the area with his wife, Andrea, they transformed the three-story house into separate living quarters for themselves and the elder Windorfers. They also carved out a home office where Reinhold could work remotely and two 430-square-foot rental units to supplement the farm’s income from selling timber and hay.
An end of the building was sliced away and replaced with a tower-like plaster-coated structure that cuts through the original gable. A pair of huge, asymmetrically positioned windows, one jutting slightly above the roofline, gives a modern appearance to the tower’s exterior and floods the white-walled interior with light. A similarly framed aperture marks the house’s traditional facade, replacing an old window that had rotted.
The tower encloses a new main entry and a floating staircase of spruce. The vacation apartments are on the first and second floors, while Reinhold and Verena occupy the third. Reinhold’s office and his parents’ apartment are at the back of the building, with a separate entrance.
The architect designed wood cubes in the center of both rentals to house bathrooms, closets, wires, and ductwork. In doing so, they freed the perimeter walls to serve up views through casement windows of the hills and spruces at the edge of the Bavarian Forest. All the floorboards were milled on-site from trees from those same woods and were left untreated. "It works best if it is just wood," Andrea Vordermeier says.
In Reinhold and Verena’s spacious unit under the red-tiled roof, vintage posts and beams, golden and grainy, are exposed against the white sheetrock of the walls. Skylights bring in the sun.
"We had a chance to do something special, to bring the farm into the next century." Reinhold Windorfer
The furnishings are flexible and many are bespoke. The vacation units’ beds and cubes were made by local carpenter Martin Bernauer. The sofas that convert to beds for extra guests are by Softline. A table in the first-floor unit came from an 11th-century Benedictine monastery that had evolved into a pub. Reinhold refinished the piece and fashioned the glass lights that dangle from the ceiling. He also built the desk in his own apartment from an old table and new hairpin legs.
The couple lavished particular attention on their kitchen. Built by another local carpenter, Christoph Wagner, it is large, gray (black was rejected as too extreme), and practical, with an island covered in stainless steel. "It is really a working kitchen," Reinhold says. "We cook every day there because there are no takeaways around." (They also grow many of their own vegetables.) The Bora Professional stove was selected because it has an integrated extractor; there was no need for a hood punching through the ceiling, which would have spoiled the room’s airy look.
At first, the couple planned to connect the front half of the farmhouse, accessed by the tower, with the back half containing Reinhold’s workspace and his parents’ apartment. But they discovered the dividing wall had been built with granite boulders up to one and a half feet in diameter. To remove them would bring structural disaster. Or, as Reinhold explains, "The house was telling us, no, we don’t do that."
Verena, who works for a nonprofit organization that fosters cultural and social connections among the three countries that converge in the area—Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic—manages most of the couple’s rental business, which comes from online bookings. They took in their first guests last summer, and the reviews so far have been laudatory.
"As design and architecture lovers, it was a very special pleasure for us to spend a weekend in Moosham 13," one guest wrote, referring to the house by its address. "The beautiful long dining table, the heat of the fireplace in the background, and the coziness of the purist design incredibly delighted us."