Dutch mas­ter­piece

With lit­tle still life ar­range­ments wher­ever one looks, it’s clear that the own­ers of this barn con­ver­sion in the Nether­lands share a pas­sion for an­tiques and fine art


Step­ping inside this invit­ing home in The Nether­lands is like walk­ing into a still-life paint­ing at ev­ery turn

‘I'm very fond of old things,’ says John Rep­ping, owner of quirky florist and an­tiques shop De Roze En­gel in the south east of The Nether­lands. ‘They’re a re­flec­tion of your per­son­al­ity and nec­es­sary for cre­at­ing warmth and at­mos­phere in an in­te­rior. I don’t think you can do with­out them.’

And his philosophy is ev­i­dent from the mo­ment you step into the house that he shares with his part­ner, John van Horck. Wher­ever you look there are an­tiques: chan­de­liers hang from the ceil­ings, gilt-framed portraits look down from the walls and ev­ery ledge and shelf con­tains a dis­play of an­tique taxi­dermy, flow­ers, cu­rios and ob­jets trou­vés. It’s rather like walk­ing into a 17th- cen­tury Dutch still life – ev­ery­thing is art­fully ar­ranged to look just so against the dark walls and in the low light. ‘An­tique fur­ni­ture re­ally comes into its own against dark colours and even more so by candlelight,’ says John. ‘ We like to light can­dles ev­ery day.’

John has al­ways been in­ter­ested in an­tiques and he showed a pre­co­cious tal­ent for in­te­rior de­sign as well as floristry, which was in­spired by his mother’s love of cut flow­ers. ‘As a child, my par­ents al­lowed me to dec­o­rate my own bed­room,’ he says. ‘I changed the car­pets and even the wall­pa­per. From an early age I started vis­it­ing junk shops and flea mar­kets in search of in­ter­est­ing things for my room.’ John was

For John and John it was ex­actly the kind of pro­ject they were look­ing for: full of rus­tic charm, but ready for an ex­cit­ing new lease of life

par­tic­u­larly fond of small dis­play draw­ers and cab­i­nets, which he would use to cre­ate the ‘ever- chang­ing still lifes’ that re­main the hall­mark of his in­te­ri­ors to this day.

The cou­ple bought the house nearly 20 years ago and the ren­o­va­tion was a real labour of love. Orig­i­nally a barn, built in 1818, the prop­erty stood on what had once been farm­land. At some point, as the village grew up around it, the barn had un­der­gone a very ba­sic con­ver­sion, and for John and John it was ex­actly the kind of pro­ject they were look­ing for: full of rus­tic charm, but ready for an ex­cit­ing new lease of life.

‘ We had been look­ing for a home that felt like a small farm­house,’ re­calls John, ‘but for a long while we were shown noth­ing but mod­ern flats and then sud­denly there it was! The lo­ca­tion was per­fect – an old, nar­row street filled with shops. It was small and sim­ple, and the kitchen was very ba­sic – just two cab­i­nets and a stove – but it was cosy and had a good feel­ing about it.’

The cou­ple were pre­pared to do the work them­selves, but six months after mov­ing in the roof be­gan to leak and it be­came clear the pro­ject was going to be more of a chal­lenge than they’d an­tic­i­pated. ‘At night we had to sleep with saucepans on our bed,’ says John, laugh­ing at the mem­ory. So, in ad­di­tion to their plans to open up the ground floor and re­lo­cate the bath­room to the base­ment, John and John also had a new roof to con­tend with. It was hard, phys­i­cal work, es­pe­cially in­stalling the new bath­room, which in­volved lug­ging sack after sack of rub­ble up the

TOP RIGHT The old barn has been given a new lease of life, its brick­work cleaned and re­pointed, shut­ters and doors painted in smart black gloss paint FAC­ING PAGE In the kitchen, the cou­ple com­mis­sioned a new cab­i­net to con­tain their col­lec­tion of...

ABOVE Eclec­tic ob­jects are care­fully ar­ranged on a cab­i­net in the hall­way. It in­cludes old pho­to­graphs, can­dle­sticks and vases !lled with "ow­ers from John’s shop RIGHT The sit­ting room is all about sym­me­try and bal­ance: two crys­tal can­de­labras and a...

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