Dutch Pastoral

Dutch Pastoral

By Dwell and Amanda Dameron
A derelict farmhouse in The Netherlands is updated with skill and wit by designers Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk.

Dutch designers Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk, partners in business and in life, are graduates of Design Academy Eindhoven and, in the past five years, have built an increasingly resonant following in the design world at large. Having created works for brands from Moooi to Bernhardt, the pair are known for surreal, handcrafted pieces that balance technicality and whimsy. Fortunately for them, with professional success comes a chance to build a singular domestic retreat. After careful consideration, the duo decided they needed to establish a bucolic getaway—but it had to be one that wasn't too far from their studio in central Eindhoven. Here they share the back story on their most personal project to date. 

Tell us about the house. 

 Kiki van Eijk: The house is on an old cattle farm, which was originally constructed in 1890. In 1909 it was partly destroyed by fire and then rebuilt. It was completely rundown when we saw it, but we saw that we had an opportunity to make exactly what we wanted, with no compromises. The house is a typical "long farm" following the traditional vernacular in the southern portion of The Netherlands. Its size is 30 x 10 meters [just under 1,000 square feet]. The property was a farm until the early 1990s, after which it fell into ruin. We bought it and started a renovation of both the farm, the garden, and the house.  

How did your design practice inform your approach to renovation? 

Kiki van Eijk: We have always played with history and tradition in our work, and this is how we addressed the renovation. You can see our touch, and find our contemporary visions, but you can also see the history of this place. We like that.

Did you face any challenges? 

The house is protected under heritage conservation rules, and we could only renovate it under strict regulations. Especially the outside of the farm. Everything is new, from the complete roof to the wood beams, floor, electricity, plumbing, windows, and more. 

 Joost is to be considered the architect of this house. As a construction expert, he created elegant solutions that gave us what we wanted, while managing to conform to the city’s demands. The timber frame is a replica of the original (which was destroyed by a wood-boring beetle) and, in collaboration with another architect, Joost devised a system of high metal pull beams to replace the lower horizontal beams—creating an open plan with an additional 2,100 square feet of vertical space. The sleeping quarters are located on the second level.  

The lamp in the foreground is from Joost's Mechanic Constructions series, which shows pieces made from hand-cut elements that have been bolted together. 

Please describe the area. 

 Kiki van Eijk: Actually it is very near to Nuenen, which is the hometown of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. The house is located in the first stretch of farmland, on the  outskirts of Eindhoven. It’s only 15 minutes by bike from the center of Eindhoven, but it feels as if we’re living in a small village. Perfect!

You are both professional designers, and have both created works for a sophisticated, global audience. How did you need this home to function for you? 

Kiki van Eijk: Home is a place where you feel safe, at ease and relaxed. It’s a nest, a place that keeps you sane and grounded,  a place that makes you feel at ease. We feel it’s important to live with respect for quality and authenticity. That’s why we care for the quality and preparation of food, the things that surround us, and the leisure time we have in and around our house. We travel a lot and work in the  hectic world—coming home is a moment of peace. .

How would you describe your approach to interior design? 

Kiki van Eijk: The style we have is very eclectic. We like to gather and collect nice items, whether it’s a ceramic piece from Tokyo, or some secondhand vases from Normandy. We like to swap pieces with our designer colleagues,and of course we have a lot of our own prototypes to try out. We like a mix between craft and design, but we don’t want our house to be a showroom. After a day of work, or some time abroad, it’s important to feel at home, and not like you are in some kind of hotel, anywhere in the world.

What items at home are worth an extra spend?

Kiki van Eijk: It’s so nice to have some good sets of bed linen. It gives you an enormous sense of luxury. We also care about good pans for cooking, good quality tools and machinery, a nice sofa, but also simple things like a good olive oil or fresh herbs from the garden. 

Did you enjoy the architectural process? 

This kind of work, thinking in a larger scale, is something we really like at the moment. Our goal is also to built a new studio within a couple of years and to get more architectural projects for clients.

Any further advice about creating a well-designed home?

Kiki van Eijk: Make it personal, a place to really live. Don’t buy from a catalogue, but also don’t make it a gallery. Don’t imitate what you have seen. If you can’t create a nice atmosphere—call a professional! This is what we do when we need help with our personal affairs and taxes! Don’t think everyone should be capable of creating a nice interior—and don’t feel interior designers only want to create a "designer" palace. They also listen, think and combine!!


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