Interior designer Torah Bernsdorff invites you on a tour of her empire – a manor house on a lake in the region of Schwansen in Schleswig-Holstein, between Schlei and the Baltic Sea. This house looks as if many generations had already grown up there; it carries patina that gives the impression of centuries-old traditions. But, astonishingly, the house is less than 50 years old! When Torah Bernsdorff and her husband first saw the house, they immediately recognised its potential. They then spent eight years they have working on it, with Thora's expertise and particular feel for atmospheric effects put to use to make this 1960s house look like a real historic gem. Thora took inspiration from the stylistic features of the 18th century, something visible in many small details, such as the balanced and timeless proportions of the wood paneling on the walls; the furniture chosen; and the historic colours and antiques. The result is a wonderful and romantic house full of subtleties that give a feeling of real living history.
The property underwent profound changes both inside and outside. For example, the entire facade including windows and doors were adapted to the 18th century style that we will find inside the house. Ivy was planted at the exterior walls, twined around the building, it gives the sense that this house has always looked the way it does now.
Who would believe that this is how the house looked a decade ago, before the Bernsdorffs began their magical renovation?! This structure is barely recognisable as the skeleton of the jewel of home visible today. From this picture we can see the transformation that has been wrought on the entrance and the approach, as well as the extensive work carried out on windows and doors.
Inside, the dining room glows with lively, warm colours and elegant accessories. Heavy curtains pick up the dominant warm terracotta colour, while golden chandeliers, mirrors and precious woods give a feel of luxurious 18th century decadence.
Torah says: 'No room is finished for me without a flower arrangement, because the only floral splendour makes the composition of rooms fully complete.' Bernsdorff uses both real flowers and silk ones. Here we see a sumptuous bouquet on the dining table that looks so real, it's almost tempting to bury our noses in it. It's hard to believe these blooms are made of silk.
The entrance hall of the house was – as mentioned above – completely remodeled, and, like all the other rooms in the house, decorated in a uniform colour scheme. Each room has its own special nuances – here it's the toile wallpaper with green hunting motifs on a light background, which was custom made for the house. A radiator near the door is hidden behind antique wooden paneling. During the renovation of the house, while its 1960s structure was largely maintained, enormous changes were made to the interiors to create the sense that one is inside a historic, classical villa. Original, antique wood paneling in front of concrete walls, as well as antique window frames and radiators, were used, and the ceilings were finished with new stucco elements. Bernsdorff's own collection of antiques complete the sense that inside, we have stepped back in time.
Compared to the entrance, the small dining area in the kitchen looks rustic and playful in its design. We see different floral patterns, a fresh, striped wallpaper and predominantly bright colours. The chair coverings and blinds are made of French cotton. Wallpapers and fabrics are particularly important for Bernsdorff, 'because its look and feel are crucial to our well-being.'
Various details in the kitchen balance modernity and history; with modern appliances sitting alongside an antique footstool and gold finishes on the cabinet doorknobs. It's a classic and timeless design with a hint of the contemporary.
A riot of colour in the bedroom somehow manages to be soothing and luxurious. Here we see again little contemporary touches, in the plum shade of the antique bedstead. Gold-shaded lamps and detailing on the bedstead give an overall effect of sumptuous decadence.
From the panelling on the bath to the wallpaper to the chair covers – in Bernsdorff's interior nothing is left to chance. This creates stunningly beautiful arrangements that take us into whole new (old) worlds. Even the view from the bathroom window – including peacock! – feeds the impression of timeless elegance that follows us throughout the entire house.
The conservatory offers a wonderful view of the green surrounds of the estate. The pattern and colour of the old tile floor is echoed in the upholstery on the chairs and the floral pattern wallpaper. The wallpaper was reprinted from an original 1796 hand-drawn design.