A couple have filled a Dutch converted linen plant with curios and salvaged pieces
You could say our house is our hobby,’ says Remco Kemper of the spacious property in rural Holland he shares with his wife Manonne and their children Nola, 14, Nikki, 13 and Tommy, nine. ‘We’ve been busy with it for the past 10 years,’ he adds with a smile, acknowledging the fact that not only did the couple raise a family during the same decade, but they also founded their own company specialising in bags and accessories and they continue to develop plans for both their home and the business. This industrious pair have an eye for detail and respect for integral design that is reflected in the urbane and engaging rough-luxe look they’ve created in their interiors, which are packed of warm, earthy textures, temptingly tactile surfaces, crafted fittings and unusual accessories.
Located a short stroll from the dune-lined coast, the building had originally been a bleaching plant, connected by canal to the linen works in Amsterdam and Haarlem. In subsequent years, its role – as well as its size, with extensions added during the late-19th and early-20th centuries – changed radically. Firstly, it was employed as a laundry, then a glue factory, before it was spotted by the Kempers.
‘We bought the property from an artist who used most of it as his studio,’ Remco explains. Struck by its generous proportions and light-filled ambience, the couple knew it would make a fabulous home, close enough to the cities to enable them to maintain their careers – Remco was then a furniture designer and Manonne was a make-up artist – while benefiting from the clean air, idyllic scenery and wide-open skies in this part of the Netherlands. Still, it was no
mean feat to transform the dilapidated artist’s studio into the study in modern rustic elegance it is today.
‘I did much of the renovation work myself,’ says Remco. ‘After we had finished demolishing and removing all the unstable elements, we were left with mainly the walls,’ he continues. ‘ We almost built the place from scratch. The idea was always that whatever we did, it had to give the impression that it had always been part of the original house. So, there are no contemporary additions and new materials. A lot of the interior fixtures were salvaged, which we found online at Marktplaats (the Dutch version of ebay), such as the doors, the metal banister for the stairs and the basins for the bathrooms.’
‘ We don’t like things to be too thought out or conceived,’ he adds. ‘ We prefer that our home should have a natural, self-evident air to it. Our taste is eclectic and the house has the feel of a big brocante. I also freelance as a consultant in home decor and textile design, and from my travels I bring back a lot of small pieces of furniture and accessories. There’s no specific plan or design – we slowly collect and only buy what we both really like.’
Christmas celebrations in the Kemper household are carried out in the same considered, yet effortlessly stylish manner. ‘ What we enjoy most is simple food, made of excellent ingredients,’ says Remco. ‘Lunch or
dinner is our favourite way of celebrating with our friends and family. We particularly like smaller, more intimate parties rather than large gatherings.
‘Decorating is Manonne’s passion and, since she’s easily bored, each year she comes up with a different angle for the festivities,’ he continues. ‘And because the house doesn’t seem to support very traditional embellishments, it usually turns out quite unusual, while at the same time it’s rather subtle and not at all in-your-face. At least, that’s how we see it.’
As a result, fairy lights are strung over furniture and down walls, while candles abound on mantels and floors; garlands and baubles hang from the rafters and the tree is a simple bare-branched affair, though glistening with a riot of illumination and twinkling decorations. Warmed by the logburner, the rooms are suffused with an air of magic, one that constantly changes and grows as Remco and Manonne embark on ever more projects. ‘Recently, we bought a section of the neighbouring building and renovations are about to start on that,’ says Remco. ‘Both areas used to be part of the same bleaching plant, so we’re delighted to be able to restore them as a whole. It’s the same as us as a family – we love to spend time together and, more often than not, prefer to just stay here at home. I guess that’s why we value this house so much. It’s a retreat from the world.’
sitting room ‘i constructed the sofa myself, using a couple of old pallets and cushions we bought online,’ says remco. Swoon’s Sullivan coffee table, £349, would work. try the Bow large floor lamp in chrome and white marble, £129, made.com
Kitchen ‘i made the ceiling-mounted pot rail using two luggage racks that were salvaged from a Dutch train,’ says remco. Andy Thornton sells train luggage racks, £174 each. The glazed armoire is vintage – try Neptune’s Henley 5ft glazed rack dresser, £3,225