Rescuing a Historic Homestead, Two Artists Create a Rural German Retreat
When Marieken Verheyen and Martin Hansen found a dilapidated vicarage in the state of Brandenburg, Germany, after three years of searching for the right property, their friends warned them against purchasing it. Dating back to 1870, the farm—a home, barn, and two stables situated at the edge of a national park—featured overgrown gardens, derelict buildings, and haphazard repair work done by inexperienced builders. The artist couple from Amsterdam, however, were determined to realize their dream of creating a sustainable holiday destination that would celebrate simplicity and modern architecture. Despite their many challenges and a constrained budget, Verheyen and Hansen took the plunge, emboldened by their personal experiences. "As artists and former squatters," says Verheyen, "we were used to finding creative and unusual solutions when we had to build our living spaces and studios in old warehouses and industrial buildings."
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It took three years for the couple to transform the complex into Re:hof Rutenberg. There are eight accommodations dotting the property in addition to a multipurpose barn, sauna, and farm shop. Committed to high ecological standards—the "Re" in the name refers to "recycling"—the couple constructed a plant-based water filtration system, installed solar panels, and reused materials whenever possible to reduce waste. "We wanted to set an example and show our guests that living sustainably doesn’t mean you have to miss out on anything," says Verheyen, "that it can be very satisfying to abdicate from certain things and enjoy the simple life."
During their property hunt, Verheyen and Hansen had had time to refine their concept and address the questions of how to respectfully and authentically renovate a historic site, and what kind of clientele they wanted to attract. These concerns piqued the interest of architect Peter Grundmann, who helped develop their ideas and designed one of the summer houses on site, Salix. "It was difficult to find an architect who wanted to work so closely with the builders and owners in a big project with an extremely low budget," says Verheyen. "He had the guts to do so. His radical approach to architecture led to distinctive elements and very simple solutions."
For Verheyen and Hansen, the former vicarage is an ongoing project. Says Verheyen, "We now have set up the basic structure, but Re:hof is not finished yet. We will continue to add and change things with the aim of creating a kind of gesamtkunstwerk."
Prices start around $100 per night. Re:hof Rutenberg is closed for the winter and will take reservations starting on March 31.