Mod­ern coun­try: 30+ pages of dec­o­rat­ing ideas

CLEVER DE­SIGN AND A GOOD IMAG­I­NA­TION BROUGHT LIGHT­NESS AND BEAUTY TO A BUILD­ING THAT WAS ORIG­I­NALLY A CAR PARK.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS, PHO­TOG­RA­PHY & STYLING JELTJE FOTOGRAFIE | HOUSE OF PIC­TURES

WHAT WAS ONCE AN OLD car park build­ing in the cen­tre of Am­s­ter­dam has been trans­formed into a unique home for de­signer Irene Mertens, 41, her hus­band Gabriel, 43, and daugh­ter Juul, two. The owner of stylish home­wares store Sukha Am­s­ter­dam has turned an old and de­crepit garage into a light, sus­tain­able and spa­cious house.

“I love how open this house is,” says Irene. “When Juul is tak­ing a bath and I am busy in the kitchen, I can still talk to her through the old wooden win­dow be­tween us.” Open ar­eas are a key el­e­ment through­out the house. All the rooms are vis­i­ble to each other. “We wanted to be able to see the trees in the back­yard and the water in the canal out­side from the in­side. When I am work­ing in my stu­dio in the front of the house, I can keep an eye on Juul play­ing some­where else. And when I take a bath in the evenings, I can see the stars through the sky­light above me. There are also ar­eas for pri­vacy, such as in the wooden teepee filled with cush­ions or the room for our bed. There’s enough space for ev­ery­one to sleep, med­i­tate, work, play or read.”

Irene and Gabriel al­ready owned a house in Am­s­ter­dam but the fam­ily wanted a more open-plan home where they could live and work. Al­though the old garage met their re­quire­ments, it wasn’t love at first sight.

“An­i­mals had been liv­ing in the build­ing and there were holes in the walls and roof. Yet Gabriel saw that the build­ing had po­ten­tial. We wanted an eco­log­i­cally built house and to use nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing mud for in­su­la­tion,” ex­plains Irene.

Over two years, with the help of an ar­chi­tect as well as a build­ing bi­ol­o­gist who mon­i­tored the health of the home’s en­vi­ron­ment, the bro­ken-down garage was trans­formed into a large open home with two sky­lights and a new roof.

One of the big­gest sur­prises dur­ing the ren­o­va­tion was when wooden beams ap­peared after the old con­crete ceil­ing was re­moved. “We re­stored all the beams; it was a huge job but the ceil­ing re­ally has be­come eye-catch­ing. In the liv­ing room you can still see the iron beams from the build­ing’s pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion. >

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