Hello friends and happy Friday. I’m writing now on decor8 Substack, so if you follow this blog you certainly still can but for daily musings, follow me on Substack and be part of my lovely decor8 community where you can subscribe and join me there. So, happy Friday! Let’s take a home tour, shall we? This home is so fun and unexpected that I have to share it along with a little interview that I made with the homeowner, Interior Stylist Susanne Otter, based in Leeuwarden, Holland which is the capital of the province of Friesland located in the northern part of Holland near to the North Sea (so northeast of Amsterdam).
Susanne lives in one of the oldest parts in the heart of the city in a 17th century house (circa 1669) with lots of character, pattern, color and a fun mix of furnishings and periods, of art, vintage and new design, it’s indeed light-hearted and fun. She shares the space with her husband and two children. “My style, that’s such a hard thing to define, I don’t know. I’ve called my business Frivole Studio, frivolous. It’s not too serious, playful, light-hearted,” Susanne confessed… And Frivolous is right!
They renovated for over three years and claim to know every nook of their home by now. Susanne confessed, “It’s been a great adventure moving from room to room until the end of the renovation. We’ve started from scratch and could do it all according to our view and taste.” She also mentioned that it’s not a typical house because this one was built for living and working back in 1669, “What is now our front room downstairs used to be the previous owner’s workplace, a goldsmith. Our living room is upstairs with the kitchen. In between there’s a floor with just one room. The unusual arrangement of the rooms is what I love the most. And it’s so old, it outlived so many people, world wars, I can’t even imagine what a hundred years feel like let alone three hundred.”
Susanne told me about a life lesson she learned in a very hard way, that I wanted to add to this post because it may resonate with you as much as it did for me. Especially when she speaks about her take on enjoying the moments of a renovation and not stressing yourself out about it…
“After the birth of my son, now 13 years old, I nearly lost my life. Everything that could go wrong went wrong, the doctors even told my husband to prepare for the worst. Since then I live day by day, no worries for what’s coming, no stress about things ahead, I only have now and this moment, I am 41. I think that’s why renovating our home was such a wonderful adventure for us. No planning, no schedule, we couldn’t get stressed about a deadline. Please enjoy life the way you want, I’ve seen so many people around me working hard for something they never reached, or followed the rules for a happy and healthy life but ended up having cancer, losing their job or relationship while they didn’t do what they loved but what they thought they needed to do. Life is hard enough. Please be kind to yourself and have goals, but don’t pressure yourself too much.”
What is her favorite room in the home? She told me that it really depends on the season. In summertime, it’s the front room downstairs because it never get’s hot even during a heatwave. She also loves her bathroom with the pink bathtub. I personally think her dog and cat like the living room sofa best… What do you think?
I was also curious to find out how life has changed for Susanne since the big C and all of the lockdowns, as we had a lot of them here in Europe. This was her reply…
“Not much has changed during lockdown and everything changed during lockdown. I’ve moved out at a really young age and have seen and done it all. I live a simple life and don’t go out that much so for me it wasn’t a big adjustment. My husband went from working a day or sometimes two at home and always on the road on other days of the week to working from home full-time. It might sound strange but in the beginning It felt a bit like an invasion of my personal space having him home all the time. Usually my children, Pepijn and Annabel, and I had dinner with the three of us. We were so used to do things our way and waiting for Anne-Roel to come home after dinner but now he was home all the time and even meddling in. The whole dynamic of our family changed. It took some time to get used to it but nowadays I can’t even remember how it was before and I love having him around, we go out for lunch (living in the heart of the city means restaurants all around us), I cook a lot less, not sure I even know how anymore, ha ha. But I have to say, we live in a house with enough space so we can work from home without getting in the way of each other. That makes it easier for us. And we just finished renovating as lockdowns began, so the timing wasn’t bad.”
I asked Susanne about these lovely pieces of art and she told me that they’re by Dutch painter Grace Spiegel who only uses 6 paint colors which she mixes, “The colors really work well with the colors in our home and the portraits have a serene feel to them, it’s how I think our home feels like, a good match,” Susanne says.
I had to ask Susanne about this gorgeous Zebra wallpaper. She went on to tell me a little story about it which you may find as charming as I did.
Susanne: “Oh, the zebra wallpaper! The look on people’s faces when I told about the plan for our kitchen, especially when I told them we were going to wallpaper all the walls of the kitchen, hilarious! To me it is not daring or bold. I really wanted a brass kitchen but my husband’s dream kitchen has always been a stainless steel industrial kitchen and he is the chef most of the time so we went for his choice. I don’t like kitchens that feel very cold and clinical, I like it more as a room with a kitchen in it.”
“Years ago I found the zebra wallpaper in the Dutch issue of Residence (magazine) and ripped out the page to save so I knew I wanted to use it in our home. Metals work well together, steel, brass, copper, chrome, etc, you can easily mix them. So the stainless steel kitchen works very well with the gold and black wallpaper, it’s not that big of a contrast, it’s easy on the eye… And I got to have that touch of gold despite not getting the brass kitchen.”
More on her choice of the pattern on the kitchen walls…
“The thing is, most people choose wallpaper for just one wall in a room with white walls, a wallpapered feature wall. Most of the time it isn’t done right and the wall is too much in your face which makes a room restless. It’s all about balance, a nice flow, you can mix and match whatever you want but keep it in what I call a family. The metals are one family, pastel colors are a family, various colors in the same shade are a family and different shades of the same color are a family. We have a lot of different wallpapers in our house but they all have something similar. Most of the wallpapers have a touch of gold and some have a marble pattern. We have emerald green marble pattern carpet in our bedrooms, marble tiles in our bathroom and in some of the wallpapers we used in the rest of the house. You get a perfect mix by repeated use of pattern but not in the same material, but soft carpet, glossy tiles, so it doesn’t get boring and predictable.”
I asked Susanne about color mixing, as I love her take on mixing patterns…
“The same with colors, contrast but not too big of a contrast, a balance. I only use colors of the same shade, grey-ish colors. If you’ve ever been to a construction market to look for colors for your home you’ve seen the paint samples. The samples usually go from light to dark shades of the same color. If you want to mix colors and you don’t know how to start, put the samples next to each other and choose the shade you prefer. You can go dark, light, something in between, that’s your personal choice. But use the same shade for every color you choose, they will work well together because there’s no big contrast, it blends in perfectly. And take your time to adjust to your new interior. We people don’t do well on changes, it takes time to take it all in and get used to. Not days but weeks. Our brain needs at least a few weeks to adjust. So don’t rush to paint over that wall that doesn’t feel perfect right away.”
Susanne uses mostly paint colors from Dutch paint brand Painting The Past. She’s been working with their paints for over a decade and said they even produce scented candles since their motto is, “Don’t fall in love with a color without knowing it’s fragrance.” Isn’t that interesting? I asked her what her favorite scent is at home, it’s Rosewood & Velvet Plum. She also used Rosewood in the front room downstairs for the ceiling and shutters and Velvet Plum for the window frames in the living room upstairs. She said that the fragrance really matches the color. Her second favorite is Eucalyptus & Sage. Now I’m curious about this Dutch brand and have to look them up – fascinating concept of mixing candles and paint in the same world, don’t you think?
So that’s a wrap! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing this lovely Dutch home as much as I have loved sharing it. Susanne is such an inspiration, a creative who leads from her heart, and this inspires me so much. I love how she just lets go and decorates, without restraint, without worry about public opinion or whatever. We can sometimes feel so held back at home, trying to make everything perfect or “right”. Susanne is the perfect example of how liberating it can be to just follow your heart and create rooms that you love, that speak to you and your family.
In case you are curious, Susanne’s rugs are all from The Souks. She loves pottery by a local potter in her city, Lydia Pieksma and the kitchen/home shop Dille en Kamille. You can follow Susanne on her Instagram here: @frivolestudio
Have a lovely weekend everyone!
(Photos with permission from Susanne Otter)