We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen

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By Allie Weiss / Photos by Jason Larkin
A German family's homelife takes shape around a modern kitchen.

Fabian and Dorothee Heine’s renovation began and ended with a particular kitchen system. Almost a year before finding the flat they would call home, the Hamburg-based couple decided upon a matte-black Vipp kitchen that Fabian had glimpsed in the window of the company’s Copenhagen showroom. "I took a picture and sent it to my wife," recalls Fabian, who was on a business trip at the time. "She totally agreed. We planned everything around that kitchen."

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 1 of 11 - For their kitchen, Fabian and Dorothee Heine selected a steel countertop to contrast the matte-black island and cabinets from Vipp. At mealtimes, the family gathers at a Bigfoot table from e15, which is surrounded by vintage Eames shell chairs.

For their kitchen, Fabian and Dorothee Heine selected a steel countertop to contrast the matte-black island and cabinets from Vipp. At mealtimes, the family gathers at a Bigfoot table from e15, which is surrounded by vintage Eames shell chairs.

But the pair, warned by friends about the hidden costs associated with renovation, began to fear their budget wouldn’t allow for the Vipp model, which retails for $60,000, including appliances. "It was the last thing we ordered, because we wanted to make sure we could afford it," Fabian says. In fact, when he and Dorothee, pregnant with their son, Morten, moved into their new home, they had no kitchen at all—only remnants of an IKEA setup, left by the previous owner. By using their cardboard moving boxes to form the basic shape of the island and appliances, they visualized how the Vipp system would fit into the space. Finally, they pulled the trigger and placed the finishing touch on their apartment.

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 2 of 11 - The island serves as a generous workspace for Dorothee to prepare dishes with her son Morten. The couple’s updates to the 1967 apartment included introducing large windows to the garden and covering the floors with an oak parquet to match the original flooring in a couple of rooms.

The island serves as a generous workspace for Dorothee to prepare dishes with her son Morten. The couple’s updates to the 1967 apartment included introducing large windows to the garden and covering the floors with an oak parquet to match the original flooring in a couple of rooms.

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 3 of 11 - "There’s so much color around us every day, looking at ads and posters, we wanted to quiet down our space." —Fabian Heine

"There’s so much color around us every day, looking at ads and posters, we wanted to quiet down our space." —Fabian Heine

With a handful of design-minded business operations in Hamburg, Fabian and Dorothee have established themselves as leaders in the city’s creative scene. Fabian is the co-owner of Erste Liebe Film, a commercial film company, and Dorothee runs a bicycle shop for urban commuters called Two Wheels Good. Their aesthetic, which favors neutral colors and raw materials, has seen particular success at Erste Liebe Bar, a café that Fabian opened 15 years ago in the city center that’s become a popular meeting spot for architects and photographers.

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 4 of 11 - The home is a showcase for the modern furnishings the residents have collected over the years. Vintage armchairs by Florence Knoll and a PA05 Leila coffee table from e15 outfit the living room.

The home is a showcase for the modern furnishings the residents have collected over the years. Vintage armchairs by Florence Knoll and a PA05 Leila coffee table from e15 outfit the living room.

When beginning their search for a permanent home that could accommodate their growing family, the couple channeled a locale that is far from northern Germany—Palm Springs, one of Fabian’s favorite cities for architecture. "I was always fascinated by bungalows," he says. "But the pity about bungalows is that you won’t find them in the inner city."

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 5 of 11 - A glass wall separates the master bathroom from the bedroom, a design movethe couple had seen in hotels. A Universal vanity in acacia wood from Boffi was chosen to add some warmth, along with a stone floor with radiant heating. The mirror is a vintage design by Mathieu Matégot.

A glass wall separates the master bathroom from the bedroom, a design movethe couple had seen in hotels. A Universal vanity in acacia wood from Boffi was chosen to add some warmth, along with a stone floor with radiant heating. The mirror is a vintage design by Mathieu Matégot.

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 6 of 11 - Fabian plays with Morten in the yard, which features a spacious lawn and a greenhouse.

Fabian plays with Morten in the yard, which features a spacious lawn and a greenhouse.

Tempted at one point to move into an enclave of 1970s-era homes in the suburbs, Fabian and Dorothee eventually decided that living in the heart of Hamburg was more important to them. Just two streets away from their previous rental, in the Harvestehude neighborhood, a 1967 apartment building seemed like the perfect opportunity. Two town houses, seriously damaged by a bomb in WWII, sat in limbo for decades before an architect demolished them to build a four-story multi-unit building. The structure had two bonuses: a spacious garden out back—a rare find in the city center—and a garage, both features that Dorothee and Fabian had on their respective wish lists. The Heines purchased two units on the ground floor and combined them into one, creating an approximately 1,500-square-foot home.

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 7 of 11 - In the master bedroom, a Hästens bed is paired with an AJ sconce by Arne Jacobsen for Louis Poulsen. A vintage poster for the 1968 French film Stolen Kisses is a nod to Fabian’s career in advertising, as well as the time period in which the apartment was built.

In the master bedroom, a Hästens bed is paired with an AJ sconce by Arne Jacobsen for Louis Poulsen. A vintage poster for the 1968 French film Stolen Kisses is a nod to Fabian’s career in advertising, as well as the time period in which the apartment was built.

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 8 of 11 - Fixtures by Naoto Fukasawa for Aboutwater, a collaboration between Boffi and Fantini, adorn the Villeroy & Boch tub.

Fixtures by Naoto Fukasawa for Aboutwater, a collaboration between Boffi and Fantini, adorn the Villeroy & Boch tub.

By looking at historical plans for the space at the city’s building department, they discovered that their floor was once used as an office. "It only had concrete columns and was planned as an open space," Fabian says. "We were always planning to connect the apartments, but it was a nice surprise to see that we were able to knock down walls." After consulting an architect friend, the couple decided to create an open-plan kitchen, dining, and living area, thereby giving the apartment the spacious "bungalow" feeling Fabian sought. The space that was once a separate apartment now comprises two bedrooms and a master bathroom.

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 9 of 11 -

The open-plan arrangement put extra pressure on the kitchen to match the residents’ visual standards. "When you enter the place, it is the first thing that you run into," Fabian says. "The kitchen had to be a piece of furniture." And Vipp, the 77-year-old company that became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home, had created the perfect fit: The couple’s chosen kitchen-system’s black island and cabinets, elevated on legs for a feeling of lightness, could pass for sideboards and wardrobes. Though the Heines initially wanted a gas cooktop, they chose induction, thinking it would be safer for their son and would better integrate into the sleek steel worktop.

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 10 of 11 - A Colour Carpet by Scholten & Baijings for HAY defines the play area in Morten’s bedroom.

A Colour Carpet by Scholten & Baijings for HAY defines the play area in Morten’s bedroom.

We Can't Get Enough of This German Apartment's Sleek Matte-Black Kitchen - Photo 11 of 11 - A small office for Dorothee, furnished with a desk by German architect Egon Eiermann and an Eames chair, overlooks the street.

A small office for Dorothee, furnished with a desk by German architect Egon Eiermann and an Eames chair, overlooks the street.

Now, when the family entertains, they serve a starter and drinks from the island, while the main course—often the Mediterranean fish dorade, stuffed with herbs, brushed with olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt—cooks in the oven. On a day-to-day basis, the kitchen is the place where Fabian and Dorothee leave mail and notes for each other and where Dorothee prepares meals while Morten sits on the countertop or runs around the island, playing. Says Fabian: "The kitchen is the point where everything starts." 

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