DIY home with style


You may have seen some of these images on DCasa last month. But the house of my friends Marjolein and Carlo (she is Dutch and he is Italian, they live on Lake Comabbio) is so packed up with intersting ideas to copy that I decided to propose it here with more pictures and explanation, to provide useful material for inspiration. Photos are by Andrea Martiradonna.


It’s a house from the early 1900s but it is not the usual interior full of unaffordable furniture. Almost eveything you see was actually made by hand or purchased gross and then finished, or designed and produced with the help of local furniture makers. Marjolein started decorating her home out of need. When she and Carlo bought it, in the early Nineties, it was a ruin and there was just enough money to sort it out and make it livable. None for decoration or furnishing. She therefore started learning everything by herself, since she had a very specific idea about what she wanted her home to look like. She got into mixing colours, painting walls, restoring old pieces of wood or furniture, designing solutions in order to make the most out of all the available space. Her passion for interior decoration later turned into a profession (if ever you happen to get to Ternate, in the Varese area, pay a visit to Perucco1929: it’s a lovely shop and the interior styling is hers).


The most interesting solution is, in my opinion, the one that was chosen for the two kids’ rooms. The house is a typically lombard building, with a central staircase and two rooms, one on each side, on two floors (see above). Which meant only two bedrooms. For years, the girls shared. But when they grew up it was necessary to think of two separate spaces. Marjolein decided to create a wall in the middle of the room, and thus obtained two long and narrow areas roughly 2×4 meters each. On paper, it does not seem so nice. Yet, they are both adorable.


In one of the rooms, Marjolein decided to put a double size deck bed which she specifically signed with her husband (“it’s perfect to welcome friends for a sleep over and tell each other secrets”). It was then made by a local woodworker. The end wall was painted with magnetic varnish and decorated with a murales: the whole thing turned into a huge game. Below the deck bed there is the desk, which run all along the wall (basically it is three times bigger than a normal child desk): not bad for such a tiny room. Opposite the bed, there is a wallfixed wardrobe. 8_A_556707

In the other bedroom (same size), Marjolein put an iron bed with a chest of drawer that she purchased raw and later painted white and roughed up with sand paper. The most charaterizing element of the room is, of course, the large wall decor: the initial of the girl’s name written in pink thread and nailed in a crochet-like fashion. 12_A0556734b 13_A0556774_5_7_fused

The secret to furnish and decorate well a home, Marjolein explains to me, is to selet a strong piece for each room and to believe so much in it by turning it into a center piece. In her bedroom, she bet on the bed: a four poster designed by her husband and locally produced. A minimalistic, candid white presence, further strengthened by the grey walls. But “you must never take yourself too seriously”: so on the other side of the room, there is an old baker’s chestboard (“they used to keep pasta and sweets in the glass drawers”), a modern baroque looking chair and a mirror. 2_A_556435nopiede

The centerpiece of the kitchen is not the beautiful, modern cooktop and oven in stainless steel but cuoboard in rough wood that creates such a pleasant contrast with the cleanness of the appliances. You can see it better in the opening page, at the top of the post. The planks that cover the cupboard were collected by Marjolein in a building site. It took a while to clean them up without actually losing the patina that Marjolein liked so much. There was a spare one. You can see it in the study, next to the fireplace: it’s been used as a photodisplay. The chandelier that looks oh so posh on top of the wooden table has also got humble origins. It had actually been discarted and Marjolein collected it at the dump (where she is a regular visitor). She hung it on a tree and sprayed it with white enamel. “I coloured also the fake crystal drops. Now they look much more chic”. The final touch was the phosph pink feather. 4_A_556583

In the studio, where she works and where her daughters study, Marjolein lut two wooden tables. Behind them there is a typical fireplace, like in all homes of that time. The decision to paint the whole wall gray truly adds a contemporary touch to this otherwise very traditional corner. The paint that was used is blackboard paint, so the whole wall is now full of drawings and writings. Also in the study, there are plenty of wooden pieces of furniture, all painted and decorated by Marjolein.. 5_A_556613 The living room was added on a later stage, to the righthand side of the kitchen. There is a fireplace here too. This time it’s not a period but a contemporary one, all squared lines. The wide sofa, with its 160 cm wide seat, is Ă¼ber comfy: it was designed by Carlo and made by a upholstery company nearby. In this newly built area the floor is different from the rest of the house: no wooden parquet but gray concrete. “There is no point in faking things”, says Marjolein. 11_A_556961_ When I first visited Carlo and Marjolein’s home, many years ago, it was very different from what you see today. “It changes continuously”, she tells me. “No structural revolutions, just decor evolutions. I don’t know how many times I painted the walls: they were first brushed then scratched now I like then slightly more sober, so I went for gray, white, black: neutral backgrounds to play against with furniture and decorations”. All, obviously, rigorously dyi. 3_A_556520


About Laura Traldi

I am a journalist at D la Repubblica. I also have a blog about #design that sometimes makes people talk. Visit
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