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 antique china. They painted it the same shade of grey as the walls, which provides the perfect backdrop for the copper pans hanging from the ceiling. The old French table, with its worn paintwork, isn’t used for any culinary purpose, rather it acts as another surface for John’s still lifes
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 pair of vases are displayed on the mantelpiece. A pair of English button- back armchairs sit either side of the !replace FACING PAGE At night, the chandelier creates a wonderful atmosphere in the dining room with its black walls. The teak table came from an antiques market and the dining chairs are modern copies