This home makes my heart jump a little. There’s a garden that reminds me of La Cressonnière, and stone walls and gorgeous beams that sweep me straight back to France. Boy, I miss that place. But Felicitas’ home is the perfect antidote for Europe-sickness! It’s a wonderfully balanced mix of old and new, austere and cozy. A place that lives in her childhood memories, but will also take center stage in her own daughters’ memories, too.
Probably, that red garden door will, too. Friends, please welcome the Von Richthofens and enjoy the tour of their haus!
Q: Please tell us all about the family who makes this house a home!
A: Our little family is made up of me, Felicitas, and my husband, Raphael. We are both 33 years old and have two children: Viola is three years old, and Elenor is one. We live in a small village called Sondermuehlen in Germany. Raphael and I have been together since we met at school.
I love being outside in the countryside with my two girls. We live door to door to my parents who are madly in love with their granddaughters, and vice versa. My personal guilty pleasures during my baby break from work are interior design, Jane Austen books and films as well as any adaptions, and following several Internet blogs of interesting women and mothers.
Q: How did this house become yours?
A: The oldest part of our house dates back to the 14th Century. It belongs to the estate of my parents who live very close to us. It had been a total ruin until my parents renovated it in 2006. During that time I finished my exams at university and was looking for a job around in order to be able to live together with Raphael. I was lucky to find the job as assistant curator at Kunsthalle Bielefeld.
When we decided to move in, we started with just our stuff from our student digs. I always knew I wanted to stay at home, and this was the perfect solution for us all.
Q: What makes you love where you live?
A: I love to live here in this old building! There’s so much charisma because everywhere you look there is history. It is actually my childhood home and I am blessed to be able to inherit it.
I love to live here because we are here in the deepest countryside but also close to the cities around for a little escape once in a while. I love the autumn in this part of Germany with its golden light and wuthering winds. I love the sound of shouting ducks in autumn, and cracking ice around the house in winter when the moat is frozen while I’m sitting in front of the fireplace.
Q: How would you describe your style? Has your house made it easy to reflect your aesthetic, or more difficult?
A: Our style is not static. We have both inherited several antique pieces of furniture and pictures from our families that we cherish. Those pieces fit very well in this old building, but it is sometimes hard to place pictures because of the stonework and woodwork in the house.
There is indeed a whole lot of stonework and woodwork that we had to work around. We ultimately decided to combine the antique style with modern aspects. Like my favorite Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen in my study.
I love the light and minimal style of the Scandinavian designers. My favorite brand at the moment is HAY from Denmark.
Q: What rooms work the best for your family? What details have you added that make your life better, more fun, and happier?
A: When Viola began to crawl, we spend most of the time with her in our smaller living room. It is very cozy and has a very smooth carpet from Hay. When Elenor was born, we began to spend more time in the dining room next to the kitchen. The big Scandinavian stove was built and we moved a sofa to the room. It has become more of a living room for us now. As the rooms of the two girls are upstairs, we arranged a corner of the room with a carpet and big cushions for crawling and playing. Viola has a little table where she can draw and play picnic with her teddies and dolls. In the kitchen we have also a little doll kitchen that the girls love to take apart.
Every night I am crawling around the rooms to put things in order again. The destiny of moms, I suppose. Once a very good friend of mine sent me an email with this nice quote saying “Good moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids.” I always try to remember this quote when I’m tired of cleaning and tidying up.
A typical day with our two girls begins with a little singing while waking both one after another up. Some reading and playing follows, and then the battle of getting dressed. Breakfast for all and then I get the kitchen in order. We then go outside regardless how the weather is unless it pours cats and dogs. Elenor takes a nap in the stroller and Viola plays in her sandpit or we take a little walk with the trainer bike around the house.
We often visit a little dwarf that lives in a big stump in the woods or go to the neighbor farmer who has many cows and calfs. Often, Grandpa or Grandma join us with their dog Finley. After lunch both girls take a nap. This is my precious time where I have a moment for myself. In the afternoon we spent time outside or visit girlfriends with children. We go to music class or the kindergarten or do our weekly shopping. After dinner Viola watches a little television series called The Sandman. We play and read books together and when Raphael comes home in time, we go bathing with the two muddy girls and then bring them both to bed by 8.00 pm. Not every day is the same…and of course not always happy, for sure!
Q: Do you decorate with an emphasis on your daughters’ needs?
A: I have to admit that my view of the world changed drastically when I became a mother! Before that I never thought of any nursery stuff or children’s books. I could not understand that people got mad talking about their children. I told myself I would never be that mom who is constantly thinking about their children and also talking about them with friends and even strangers at dinner parties…But I actually became this kind of mother!
There is something happening with you when you become a mother. It changes your inner self drastically. In fact, your inner self is replaced and filled up by your children and their needs. Nowadays I start crying watching advertising where babies are on screen or when I see my younger daughter sleeping so peacefully in her stroller. I feel so touched when Viola is playing with little nothings, talking to her dolls and teddies, or when she comes running to me with no reason hugging and kissing me heartily. I never thought that such small people could already express such emotions and even touch my emotions.
So before I became a mother, I was interested in interior design for adults. When I was pregnant, I focused on children’s rooms and baby clothes. In Germany you call it a kind of nesting instinct that kicks in. Amazing. You cannot stop until everything is perfect.
I decorate mostly what I personally like and what fits to our house. We had to install several grilles in front of the stairs when our children started to get mobile. I removed all dangerous things from small hooks or tables. My children have their areas within the house, which are decorated with rugs, furs, books, and toys, but I do not rearrange my personal interior for their needs in particular. I think when they grow older and autonomous, their belongings will more and more move to their rooms upstairs.
Q: I see a studio! How do you incorporate art and crafts and design into your daily life? And how do you balance work and home life?
A: I have a little studio and my husband does, too, but we normally do not work from home. We just organize family life from here. I often spent hours when the girls are sleeping at my desk and checking emails, writing to friends, or just checking on my favorite blogs.
We arranged a big studio under the roof. I intend to spend there more time in the future and be creative there when the kids are older. At the moment, scissors, modeling clay, etc. are not used very often with a little baby around. When I start working again I will probably work from home, but not very often and only in the evening.
Q: What do you hope your girls remember most from this home? What traditions are you trying to build in their memories?
I hope they will remember a warm and cosy atmosphere where they will always love to come back to when they are grown up. We are living several traditions given to us by our families, and we will also create our own when the kids get older. For example, my whole family is still mad about searching for eggs in the garden on Easter. It is a funny sight to watch ten adults, a dog, and two little ones running around the garden shouting to announce what they have found!
I hope they will remember great summers outside with lots of time and freedom, and great winters with a lot of snow, sleighing, and ice-skating around the house. Rainy days spent inside playing with great childhood friends, baking cookies, or making popcorn for a cosy evening in front of the fireplace reading books or watching a film. I hope they will remember a carefree childhood with a lot of security and freedom giving them the basis to be able to develop and live their dreams independently. I hope that our girls will always appreciate the distinctiveness of their home and try to preserve it.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: I am very thankful that nobody told me that when you become a mother you will never be without fear and sorrow anymore. You’ve just been given something that would be the most terrible to lose. You will not be free anymore. You will have to say goodbye every day, to let go every second.
This is sad and also wonderful, because in return you will receive unconditional love and moments where your heart overflows.
Yes, Felicitas, I am so glad no one told me that, either. It’s so true that the process of being a parent can be summed up like this: “You’ve just been given something that would be the most terrible to lose.” Thank you so much for sharing your gorgeous home with us. I simply love the fact that your girls are outside every day, no matter the temperature. Fresh air – especially cold, fresh air – somehow keeps everyone in a good mood, don’t you think?
As someone who is now surrounded by lots of family – as opposed to friends who turned into family in France – I realize the luck of being close to relatives. Sometimes, I think that’s one of the most important considerations in settling down on a location. Do you see it like this, too? I’d love to know!