There are many factors that contribute to creating a home that makes you go wow! when you walk into it. Ingo Butsch’s apartment in the very heart of Frankfurt’s historic old city is one such space—there are details to take in and layers to peel back before you can start understanding all the magic at work.
That this is the home of a designer is immediately apparent, though it is the kind of design that is inviting, not forbidding or sterile. Interesting pieces of art hang everywhere, curated perfectly with beautiful pieces of modernist furniture without any hint of fussiness.
A very gracious host, Ingo invited myself and friend and photographer Sonja Schwarz over one evening. Over drinks and a delicious chickpea salad, we chatted late into the night about topics as diverse as identity, the origins of his art collection and what home means to him.
/ How would you describe your home in one sentence?
“A central as f*** and nicely laid out '50s apartment belonging to a designer and creative director with a lot of nice lamps” would describe it pretty well!
/ Could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us how you came to live in your current home?
I moved to Frankfurt in 2011. Before that, I lived in Canada where I spent a wonderful year hitchhiking, snowboarding and encountering bears. Since my move back to Frankfurt I’ve been working as a creative director, designer and consulting creative on a variety of projects.
I've moved quite a lot in my life—as also within Frankfurt. The two apartments I lived in before this one were located in Bornheim and Nordend and I really like those neighborhoods a lot—they're easygoing and have a nice village vibe to them.
They’re also very different to where I live now. To be honest, the very centre of the city was not my first choice, since the Römerberg is mostly populated by tourists—and none of my friends live here. But the apartment was a no-brainer. As soon as I saw it, I basically had no choice other than to take it.
/ What does home mean to you?
That’s a hard one. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve moved a lot, even as a child. So for me ‘home’ as a description of where I’m from doesn’t really work.
I definitely feel connected to certain places like Trier, Luxembourg and maybe even Aachen, where I was born. They are familiar and are part of who I am now but I struggle to call them ‘home’.
For me 'home’ is a description of where I want to be. A destination I want to reach some day. It is an idea of how I want to live as an emotional state, defined by the feeling of arrival.
All that sounds pretty abstract, but in the end it simply comes down to a little house in a little village surrounded by nature like in the Odenwald, Eifel or the Pfälzerwald. I just love being there. So I guess I’m not exactly there yet with my current apartment.
/ What is your philosophy for life and everyday living?
DEM WAHREN SCHOENEN GUTEN. It's an inscription over the main entrance of the Alte Oper (the stately Opera House) in Frankfurt. It’s a German inscription and almost impossible to translate into English but can be interpreted as something like a dedication: “To the true, the beautiful, the good”. I can fully identify myself with this sentiment whilst feeling very attracted to it. I think a big part of the beauty derives from it being a dedication.
The other sentence that hit me when I first read it was an inscription as well. It was at a Cajun restaurant in Santa Barbara that read “Laissez les bons temps rouler”. I don't think that really needs any explanation.
/ Could you describe your aesthetic and the process behind furnishing and decorating your home?
I don’t actually feel like I’m decorating my apartment… It feels much more like I’m arranging things I've gathered over the years to make them work well together. The interior came into being organically and naturally; through time and the regular flow of life.
I just fill in the gaps. I think everybody knows that feeling: You get a new piece of art and hang it on a wall, and suddenly the other walls seem a little naked. It’s the same story with furniture. If you get a lovely piece of furniture, the Ikea Expedit doesn’t really work with it anymore. Then you start looking out for something else. Sometimes I have an answer to this and a pretty clear idea of what I want, but most of the time I just know when I see something. With my sideboard, for example: I was always on the look-out for a nice secondhand teak sideboard, but wasn’t really convinced by what I found. Then, one day, I saw this one—and it was crystal clear that there would be no other piece than this one. Naturally, that takes time—and I think this might be the most important ingredient of the process.
Each piece has a story to tell or is connected to people I’ve met in my life, everything you see is very true in that way, very authentic. I love that aspect and you’ll find few exceptions to this in my home.
/ What do you love about your home?
Definitely my lamps. Most of them were found at flea markets or garage sales and I was very lucky to have found some true gems. I can’t resist a beautiful lamp for a good price, so I've ended up having way more lamps than actual space for them all.
Then there’s the atmosphere and vibe of the apartment. The big floor-to-ceiling windows ensure it’s quite bright and if I am sitting in my study with the windows open to the Römerberg, I do get the feeling of working in a café.
This summer, Eintracht Frankfurt, the local football club, won the German Football Cup after 30 years. The winning team came to the Römerberg to celebrate with their fans and the atmosphere was electrifying. The entire square was jam-packed with people that had waited hours for the team to arrive and when they finally did, emotions reached fever pitch. It's hard to put the emotions of those hours into words—it was a very unique experience and being able to witness it straight out of my living room was quite unbelivable.
The original linoleum floor might not be the most obvious answer to this question, but I've come to love it. It adds a lot of color where you usually don’t expect it and it supports the authentic mid-century charm of the apartment.
And last but not least, the art I've collected over the years. It just makes me happy to see these pieces and I never tire of looking at them.
/ What is your favourite thing to do at home?
I like working from home, especially when I'm working on my own projects. With nice music as accompaniment, breaking for a nap when I feel like it, plenty of lunch places around the neighbourhood—what more can you ask for?
When I can find the time, I love making music. In 2016 I saw DJ Koze in Barcelona and was deeply impressed. For me, that was almost a spiritual experience. It was also when I realised I need to make music myself.
Also, I love having friends over: For a couple of gin and tonics or a huge Italian dinner. These are my favourite ways of spending the evenings. The more the merrier—if I put my two tables together I can host up to 16 people. That’s quite an event!
Thank you so much Ingo!
Photographs by the lovely Sonja SoYung Schwarz