Build­ing on the deep-rooted char­ac­ter of a his­toric barn in the Dutch coun­try­side, one cre­ative cou­ple have lov­ingly con­verted it into a mod­ern fam­ily home


Rus­tic meets mod­ern in this his­toric barn in the Nether­lands

Set in the ver­dant farm­ing vil­lage of Raams­donk in ru­ral south-west Nether­lands sits a his­toric hold­ing made up of a small farm­house to the front, with a large barn at the back and sev­eral smaller out­build­ings close by. “When I first saw this place, I was im­me­di­ately at­tracted to its tran­quil­lity,” rem­i­nisces Mi­jke Niks, an in­te­rior stylist who ren­o­vated the 19th-cen­tury prop­erty along­side her hus­band Jan, an ar­chi­tec­tural project man­ager.

The cou­ple were look­ing to move away from the bustling city of Rot­ter­dam to set­tle down in a big­ger home with Juul, their five-year-old son, but were un­sure about where to re­lo­cate. They came from dif­fer­ent back­grounds – Mi­jke was very much at­tached to the city, whereas Jan grew up on a farm. Mi­jke ex­plains that “it was Jan’s view­point that made me be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate the space”, as he was at­tracted to the ro­man­tic land­scape sur­round­ing the barn.

They bought the house in 2008, moved in and at once be­gan ren­o­vat­ing, re­con­fig­ur­ing the space to make it work for them. “The farm­house at the front is rather small,” Mi­jke says, “but the barn is huge,” so the cou­ple’s in­stinct was to con­nect the two. They tore down the floor-to-ceil­ing wall that separated the build­ings, then turned the smaller rooms in the farm­house into work­shops and a stu­dio as the project pro­gressed: “We saw many op­por­tu­ni­ties to make the house a space where liv­ing and work­ing could co-ex­ist.”

Mi­jke’s work as an in­te­rior stylist means she is fa­mil­iar with gath­er­ing ideas. Her scrap­book for the prop­erty was in­spired by the de­sign of French farm­houses and in­cluded vis­ual ref­er­ences from the cou­ple’s hol­i­days in the Mediter­ranean: “I no­ticed how in­doors and out­doors could blend into each other by us­ing light and colour, so I knew the pal­ette had to be con­nected to the land­scape.” Blue and green hues are present through­out, from chairs and cush­ions in the sit­ting area to colour­ful walls in the open-plan kitchen space. This makes the house feel roomy, even more so with the use of bright white. “I wanted to re­flect a cer­tain Dutch airi­ness,” Mi­jke says.

“The build­ing al­ready had so much charm and charisma, and we just wanted to build on its raw beauty,” she con­tin­ues. Nat­u­ral el­e­ments, such as un­fin­ished wood and ex­posed brick, give char­ac­ter­is­tic warmth and soften the sharp lines of the ar­chi­tec­ture. “It’s a mix of my ur­ban in­flu­ences and the ru­ral en­vi­ron­ment,” she adds. The steel con­struc­tion of the barn’s in­te­rior also makes it feel mod­ern. “Ev­ery­one stares up at our high ceil­ings, but they all marvel at how in­ti­mate it feels, too,” Mi­jke says.

On the ground floor is the fam­ily’s ex­pan­sive open-plan liv­ing space. Tall win­dows and glass doors frame the sur­round­ing

land­scape and flood the barn with nat­u­ral light. “I see clouds float­ing by dur­ing the day and stars in the sky at night when I look up from the sofa,” Mi­jke says. “When bright sun­shine hits the barn, it feels like we’re on hol­i­day.”

The floor­ing is hand-poured con­crete, which Jan did him­self. “It didn’t have to be per­fect,” Mi­jke says. “It has a patina that gives it a look that is both rough and beau­ti­ful.” A com­bi­na­tion of new, vin­tage and hand­made fur­ni­ture sur­rounds a wood­burn­ing stove that has be­come an at­trac­tive fo­cal point.

The din­ing room, with rus­tic wooden floor­boards and clas­sic Wish­bone chairs by Dan­ish de­signer Hans Weg­ner, is ac­cessed through an open arch in the kitchen wall and serves as “the con­nec­tion be­tween all the other spa­ces in the house”, Mi­jke ex­plains. Doors here join the barn to the cou­ple’s of­fices in the old farm­house. In the kitchen, a raw wooden counter-top frames high-gloss cab­i­nets. Off­set­ting the sleek look are in­dus­trial el­e­ments such as ex­posed light­ing and a dis­tressed wooden door. “The white beams look as though they have been here for ever, but they’re brand new,” Mi­jke says.

Hid­den be­yond this, the cou­ple’s bed­room and bath­room are linked by an ex­pan­sive walk-in wardrobe. In the bed­room, flea-mar­ket finds sit along­side in­di­vid­ual items, in­clud­ing the bed, hand­made by Jan, and a painted por­trait of the fam­ily. In­spired by a spa that Mi­jke once vis­ited, the bath­room has a free­stand­ing bath with con­tem­po­rary fix­tures and fit­tings, while the ex­posed brick wall re­tains the in­dus­trial look.

A mez­za­nine level is sit­u­ated at the top of the main stair­case, pro­vid­ing a wide view of the ground floor. “Even though it has such high ceil­ings, we wanted to make the barn more in­ti­mate

by di­vid­ing up spa­ces,” Mi­jke says, so the cou­ple have cre­ated a sec­ondary liv­ing area on another level that they use for watch­ing tele­vi­sion and lis­ten­ing to mu­sic. Com­plete with hand­made fur­ni­ture, the space feels nook-like, with lay­ered throws and cush­ions giv­ing a re­laxed feel.

Above the mez­za­nine level are fur­ther bed­rooms and Juul’s play­room. Soft and chalky green tones are used to con­nect the room to sim­i­lar shades through­out the house, and a fab­ric teepee serves as a den in one cor­ner. A read­ing board – res­cued from the pri­mary school where Mi­jke’s fa­ther was once head­mas­ter – has been mounted on the wall and be­come a fam­ily favourite.

In the first-floor hall­way, rus­tic fea­tures such as slid­ing barn doors, orig­i­nal tim­ber beams and flashes of ex­posed brick are in­dica­tive of the build­ing’s his­tory. A door con­nects this floor through to its coun­ter­part in the old farm­house, and stairs lead up to the high­est point in the barn, a sec­ond mez­za­nine used by the cou­ple as a cre­ative stu­dio.

After mak­ing such sweep­ing changes to a tra­di­tional prop­erty that are also sym­pa­thetic to the orig­i­nal foun­da­tions, Mi­jke and Jan can now be­gin to re­ally en­joy their flex­i­ble fam­ily home.

THIS PAGE The up­per hall­way has wooden fea­tures that give a more rus­tic feel; in the bath­room, metal­lic pen­dant lights and un­even brick­work were in­spired by a Moroc­can spa OP­PO­SITE The bed in the cou­ple’s room was hand­made by Jan. The con­crete floor is warmed up with a rug

This house is fea­tured in the lat­est edi­tion of Coun­try Liv­ing’s Mod­ern Rus­tic, which is filled with in­spir­ing in­te­ri­ors, in­no­va­tive de­sign­ers and stylish pieces for mod­ern coun­try homes. On sale from 24 May; see page 152 for de­tails on how to buy.

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