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.