It isn’t everyday that you have a chance to visit a home that is so out of the ordinary, that represents a true journey in terms of vision and fulfilment. Philipp and Chris, two designers that chose to move to an idyllic location in the midst of a jungle in the Taunus valley, completely rebuilt their current home from scratch—it was a ruin that they’ve transformed into a warm, beautiful space that is embraced by nature on all sides. Together they’ve created a home that has also quietly enhanced and changed their way of living - and they share their story with us today.
Philipp and Chris - and Mowgli, the cat! - thank you so much for welcoming us to your home.
How would you describe your home in one sentence?
A green, calm oasis in which time stands still.
Could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us how you came to live in your current home?
"When I grow up I'll build a castle!”
Philipp, aged 6
Our home is not a castle in the traditional sense, but the location comes very close: a forest clearing on the top of a hill with a view of the Taunus valley is where we found our dream property. We first visited this area on a dreary November day and Chris was sure she would never want to live here. Her opinion changed dramatically on a visit one beautiful sunny day in April, where we had a view of the picturesque valley.
We first moved into a rental house about 50 meters from our future dream home and can still remember how punctually at 5 am, a cacophony of birds would wake us from sleep. Over the next five years, we tried unsuccessfully to purchase the property above. One day, out of the blue, we had the lucky coincidence of meeting the heirs of the property just as they were toying with the idea of selling the house. After a brief presentation on our part, we immediately expressed our interest in buying - which was a bit too fast for them. In the end however, it all worked out and ever since we’ve been the happy owners of a beautiful piece of forest and the house standing on it - which at that time was a complete ruin.
We decided to rebuild the house entirely on our own with help from friends—luckily it was only in hindsight that we learned how time-consuming this would prove to be. But the trouble was worth it: we’re both designers and it was a wonderful process hewing our future ‘castle’ from roughness into perfection.
The icing on the cake is our resident Zen master—our cat Mowgli.
What does home mean to you? What is your philosophy for life & everyday living?
For us, home means: safety; a place to withdraw, recharge, dream, create, feel good, laugh, relax and meet each other. And so much more. Through life in the forest, we feel closer to Nature again. We enjoy the pattering of rain, the sound of the wind and the blaze of lightning unfiltered—clouds passing by at eye level in the valley.
All this allows us to be more mindful of nature and to live more economically with the resources available to us. We try to live in a small space with few things, so as not to waste time on their care. Another advantage of this is that we don't spend as much time trying to find things - what isn’t found is simply no longer there.
Most of our energy flows into the garden, which is our greatest luxury. We spend a lot of time here when the weather is warm. Each year, new plans are forged here; it is the place we slow down fastest and where we learn. Nature teaches us about transience, it lets everything emerge again and again, always in different ways.
Could you describe the design aesthetic and process behind furnishing and decorating your home
Light + Open + Versatile + Elegant = L.O.V.E.
Our home is almost 70 square metres: we live in a very small space, surrounded by the large outdoor space. Every piece of furniture and object in it has either been deliberately chosen by us, has found us or was given a new life by us. The space itself is just the frame; it’s very neutral with white walls, oak and stone finishes. This gives the few things that surround us the right stage to confidently display themselves.
In order to accommodate everyday objects invisibly and in a space-saving way, we created a lot of built-in storage during the refurbishment of our home. For example, we store our shoes in a niche under the bedroom floor which is easily accessible from the wall in the foyer. And so that we don’t have clothes lying around, a laundry chute goes directly from the living area into the laundry room.
We live according to the principle ‘built once, built to last’, and this sometimes makes it difficult to find the right piece of furniture. If nothing matches our expectations, we design and build our own pieces. For a long time we searched for a simple bathroom mirror: we wanted something circular with a flat profile, that still had enough storage to cover everyday use. At some point, we just put pen to paper and after a short design phase, we went into a long period of coordination with our carpenter. Our thanks to Ulrich Karos for his patience and craftsmanship which can be found in many places in our home.
What do you love about your home? What makes it so unique and individual?
We love living in the midst of nature and being in seclusion with nature. And yet we aren’t alone at all: we have our two-legged neighbours, the birds, and also many four-legged friends. Sometimes it’s a deer that comes to our bedroom window early in the morning, after a tasty breakfast of our flowers or a fox that roams the grounds and, of course the squirrels that love our walnuts.
When designing our house, we felt it important to integrate nature into the living space. It was for this reason that we decided on the large window front and the open floor plan. We look into greenery through every window except the skylight in the bedroom - here, we look up into the blue of the sky or at the stars.
Another thing about our home: it has no doors within expect those that lead outside, so all the rooms merge together into one. Yet each is a living space independently and everything feels so open and friendly for us.
What is your favourite thing to do at home?
A beautiful way to start the day is over a cup of coffee on the patio, watching the birds. We love sitting here with our friends on summer days and nights. In warm weather, the terrace with the windows open is the space where we spend most of our time - it gets really cozy when a campfire’s burning. In winter, the fireplace replaces the campfire and we spend lots of time in bed, reading. It’s wonderful never to have the feeling of missing out on anything.
Thank you Philipp, Chris and Mowgli—you have such a beautiful home!
Images & Text: Christine Buhl & Philipp Bareiss