cool but cosy
The Kolenbranders transformed an historic cowshed into a stunning family home with a very distinct sense of style – even at Christmas
With its quirky vintage touches and rustic details, this converted cowshed in the Netherlands has individual good looks – especially at Christmas time
For the Kolenbranders, Christmas in the family home is the culmination of a dream. ‘Our job is to create interiors that tell the story of a company,’ says Andre. ‘ With this house, we could do it for ourselves, and tell our own story. That’s why Christmas here is so special.’
And Annemarie knows exactly how to bring out their converted cowshed’s best features. ‘As well as cheese, the city of Gouda is famous for its candles, which I fill the house with at Christmas,’ she says.
Hanging the Christmas tree from the beams in the ceiling was an innovative idea that perfectly suits the eclectic feel of their new home.
‘I like the simplicity of it, and the long rope of lights keeps the look natural and a bit raw,’ says Annemarie. ‘ We don’t like fuss, so our tree has no baubles. Our Christmas theme is copper with lots of greenery – it’s a good balance between cool and cosy.’
Four years ago, the couple were looking for a property to renovate when Annemarie spotted an historic, listed cowshed for sale. ‘I saw it online on Wednesday evening and by Friday, we’d put in an offer. We hadn’t even seen it – talk about impulsive!’
The property is two kilometres from Gouda’s centre, and originally housed cows that provided milk for the famous cheese. ‘What appealed was the history and size – around 750sq m of floor space and over 6,000sq m of land – plus it gave us the chance to create something unique,’ says Annemarie. ‘ We redesigned it from scratch, inside and out.’
The couple, who have two children – Jip, 16, and Lotte, 14 – rebuilt the entire space. ‘All we kept were
LESSON LEARNT ‘You’ll never stay within your budget, but try not to let that stop you doing things. Sometimes you just have to go with your instinct’
the outer walls and the roof – nothing else of the old building survived the demolition,’ says Andre.
The couple run a design agency, Optie A, which develops store concepts for international brands, so they were used to creating something from nothing. But this renovation was never going to be easy. The shed was designed so that the cows would stand at the sides, with room for the farmer to walk in the middle, but Annemarie and Andre wanted to walk down the sides and live in the middle.
The shed had been owned by the local council and was only licensed for commercial purposes, not residential, so the couple also had to get permission for a change in use. That meant disconnecting the electricity, water and gas, and reconnecting it to a residential supply on the other side of a river, beneath a main street. ‘You can imagine what a hassle that was,’ says Andre. ‘Then our concrete floor was made with the wrong mix, so we had to do it again. But we knew we could turn it into paradise.’
The family moved in during November 2015 when the shell of the building was complete, and lived with the builders working around them until the job finished in early 2017. The property is now a warm, industrial-style home with quirky vintage touches, like old vaulting horses, hanging chairs and rubbedout paintwork on rustic cupboards.
The Kolenbranders are delighted with their new home. ‘But we’re always thinking of changing things,’ admits Andre. ‘ We’ll keep this place forever, though.’ Which means the family can enjoy Christmas in this unique property for many years to come.
DESIGN TIP ‘We like to set up contrasts: leather with wool, concrete and steel teamed with wood, or copper and greenery with candles’
Sitting room A hanging chair, fluffy sheepskins and mistletoe bring cosy touches to this elegant conversion. HK Living rattan hanging egg chair, £249.95, Cuckooland. Try the Tibetan sheepskin, from £119, The Swedish Wooden Horse Company. Gold mini bunting, £ 4.77m, Etsy, has a similar look
sitting room Underfloor heating beneath the poured concrete is topped up by an efficient woodburner, which keeps the huge, open-plan space warm and snug during winter. The Aga Westbury woodburning stove, £1,330, Twyford Cookers, is a good option. Termatech recycled tyre log basket, £72, Country Heat. Off-white knitted pouffe footstool, £59.99, Homescapes
Lotte’s bedroom Painted floorboards continue the rustic theme, while Crittall-style black steel windows used as internal dividers add a chic industrial edge. rust-oleum’s chalk floor paint in winter grey, £29.99 for 2.5L, homebase, is a good alternative