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

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