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02. Revealing the potentials of space

Renovation and furnishing with an eye on the historical roots of the place. Furniture as repositories of memory. Resonances between objects and epochs.

Renovation of the attic in 2015. Initially, we ignored it to avoid overwhelming ourselves. However, there were leaks through the ceiling. The floorboards under the linoleum and chipboard layer were mostly unusable. There was still a historic door frame that served as a template for us. The oak wardrobe was placed there shortly before the renovation as a "guiding motif" for the later design.

Attic 2022. View of the two rooms, which will be described as examples.

Working with cultural history, assumptions, and spatial potentials

To stick with the old metaphor of a counter-current movement or dual spiritual orientation "backwards and forwards", our re-furnishing of the living spaces in the manor house was mainly aimed at reviving the spiritual and cultural roots of the place.

It sounds paradoxical, but this "return" to the early eighteenth century also meant (for us) a reconnection to one of the most intellectually "progressive" times: It was the time when in Germany (primarily initiated by "poets and thinkers" and in reaction to the French Revolution) the program of an inner revolution or a "revolution in spirit" was undertaken.

The spirit of the founders around 1855 was, stylistically speaking, a movement from naturalism to realism into "materiality". Or in terms of intellectual history, it was a movement from idealism through positivism into materiality. Moving backwards does not necessarily mean conservative, as is often understood today.

But now back to the rooms.

Each room has a certain potential inherent in it. This is, as mentioned, not always immediately visible but palpable. Through this sensing, some details eventually come into view more clearly or are perceived more consciously.

Attic Room 01

On the walls, the patterned colour stripes were still partially preserved, which once may have contributed greatly to the poetic atmosphere of the room. We tried to preserve the remaining traces of colour in their special and "inimitable" signature as best we could. Inimitable because certain time qualities, ideas, and feelings that were still present in these decorative remnants "graphologically" (similar to handwriting) would otherwise have been lost forever.

The original wall colours and paintings were still present. Some floorboards could be reused.

2022 What was usable was preserved. The delicate double casement window at the back is from eBay Classifieds. Unfortunately, such windows are no longer built today.

In historical houses, much more original construction was often done within the framework of regionally developed construction methods and available materials than is the case with catalog houses nowadays. So, in the pictured chamber above, there are three small window openings in a very confined space, as well as two opposing walls structured differently by the framework. Despite the obvious destruction, this chamber had a rather high design potential - simply due to these architectural peculiarities.


We rarely worked historically accurately. Because in this attic chamber, which never even had its own stove, there were never such high-quality furniture as those seen in the second picture (after renovation).

Furniture can be like "storage media". When they were designed and built from a clear vision and genuine passion, in which the respective time quality is best expressed. And when they could preserve this time quality, the "cultural impact" over the decades and centuries.

This is usually the case if they were not restored, or at least not in such a way that they should look "like new".

Fortunately, such furniture does not have the market price that they could have - in terms of their atmospheric effect - they are affordable. But they greatly enhance rooms - almost through their "inherent qualities".

In the case of this room, the furniture dates from a period between 1780 (the chairs and the desk) and around 1820 (the chest of drawers). Even though these were made before the building was constructed and come from a surely more noble environment, they could have stood in a room with this texture and materiality. And they connect with it in a visual and, at the same time, subtle way.

Everything there shares the commonality of the craftsmanship of things.

Resonances and Simulations

Everything that is assembled creates a visual field of reference—or not. Perceived on a subtle level, this can also generate an energetic and hopefully inspiring field through the harmony of resonating elements.

For example, the craftsmanship of the roughly hewn timber frame in this chamber is echoed by the delicate writing and seating furniture. (At that time, furniture was not yet machine-turned, but carved).

The Louis Seize period coincided with the French Revolution. In a sense, it was also the cradle of idealism. This era was still aristocratic in nature. And it was the age of sensitivity and refinement.

The associative field or fictional narrative could be: This is the attic or study of a (possibly impoverished, possibly noble ;) poet. It has miraculously survived the vicissitudes of time.

So, the whole thing is actually a simulation. But because the elements stylistically, associatively, and atmospherically fit together, it becomes an "authentic-looking simulation."

Dachkammer 02

The floorboards fortunately remained intact. Due to the standard dimensions of the windows from the GDR era, the spacing between the middle windows was significantly reduced. This was widened again. The windows were also sourced from eBay Classifieds and later double glazed. The curtains were sewn from historical linen rolls.

Painting with clay Clay paints have a warm, natural radiance, and they interact with an (old) organic substrate (in this case lime plaster) to create variously toned shades. Together with a transparent and translucent painting style, the traces of the past remain visible and readable in the wall.

Resonant connections between Modernism and Proto-Modernism

Most of the antique furniture in the rooms dates back to the so-called "Proto-Modernism." This was primarily the period between 1800 and 1820, which also encompassed the era of German Idealism, the Classical period, and the Early Romanticism.

The furniture of this pre-modern "Modernism" was simple and functional. It aimed to appear noble and elegant with the simplest means. This was often achieved through a developed sense of harmonious and sublime proportions and through special attention and appreciation for the selected veneer woods.

It is also the epoch of introspection, of inner values, of turning towards the natural and nature. And when a carpenter, during this particular time, created furniture with sensitivity, skill, and dedication, it could lead to a leap in quality, a kind of "enlivenment in the material."

On the walls and furniture, the traces of over a hundred years are evident.

Resonance testing in the green room: Chest of drawers and chair

Take a close look at the chest of drawers in the upper illustration: The drawers are minimally wider and narrower, they slightly protrude or recess. They do not all have the same height. Imagine making all the drawers the same size. Then you find yourself in the commonly known form canon of modernism. Then the magic is lost.

The furniture of the early eighteenth century was once the union of a sublime perception of higher and idealistic orders, coupled with a minimalist expression that achieved the greatest effect with minimal effort.

In its finest creations, the proto-modern even appears as a foretaste of the "essence of modernity."

During the renovation, the chest of drawers was already in place.

Various pieces of furniture were moved in and out of this room during the renovation. Their impact on each other and on the space was tested. The steel tube chair depicted above was one such piece of furniture.

It is a classic design of the modernist movement, conceived as simply and functionally as the chest of drawers. Both pieces of furniture fit together in terms of form and worldview. They resonate with each other.

In this sense, it is possible to build "resonant connections" and "temporal bridges" between items from the 1820s, 1920s, and 2020s. But furniture from the 1960s also fits in. Why?

This is another story. It is not the story of "minimalism" but of "awakening": It begins, in my perception, in early romanticism, leads to Monte Verità and expressionist free body cultures, to the hippie movement, to the peace movement, and to a current awakening into a new era.

In the realm of the subtle, there are these connections and affinities between things and events. And especially today, our desire to free ourselves from increasing control and systemic constraints to return to a creative autonomy resonates with the early romantic and artistic liberation movements that sought to escape bourgeois constraints back then.


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