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Homestory: 1 half-timbered house, 3 kitchens - work and life under one roof

Not far from the spa gardens of Bad Oeynhausen, the Bökamp architecture office is based in a half-timbered house that is over 200 years old. The picturesque building was completely renovated in 2013 and, in addition to the architecture office, houses a practice for naturopathy and physiotherapy, the private living space of the Bökamp family and - three Nolte kitchens. You can find out more about the renovation of the half-timbered house, the planning of the kitchens and tips from experts on the subject of house building in the following interview:

1. What made you decide to renovate the half-timbered house?
The first idea was born during a run with the dog. The central location in Bad Oeynhausen gave us the idea of awakening the fallow land from its slumber. We generally have a great affinity for old buildings and history. At first we thought of using the whole thing as a client project. Until, in 2012, we decided to tackle it ourselves.

2. What were the difficulties in converting the half-timbered house?
The biggest challenge was to find a suitable concept in coordination with the authorities. Above all, a solution needed to be found for the oldest part, the Deelen area, which was formerly used as a stable. The second major challenge was that the half-timbered house had been left unused for a very long period of time. Accordingly, the wood frame structure on the outside of the timber framework was not properly maintained, thus raising the question of how to deal with the existing structure – also in terms of replacing the timbers. All this had to be coordinated with the monuments office.

3. What had to be taken into account due to the monument protection?
The existing building had to be refurbished, i.e. measures taken to maintain and enhance value in and on the building. Large parts of the timber framework needed to be replaced, reinforced and made safer – and this involved time-consuming, manual work. Furthermore, the building had to be raised in order for a new floor slab to be installed. All these measures require a great deal of coordination and can only succeed through teamwork.

4. How did it come about that both the architecture office, a practice and your residence were merged there?
The practice was a convenient solution for using the Deelen area. The private solution came later, after a former tenant wanted to move out and we took the opportunity for a change of residence.

5. What attracted you to move the architectural office into the half-timbered house?
The undeveloped area in the attic offered space to expand everything according to what we wanted and to tailor the room to our own needs. We also have a soft spot for heritage-protected buildings and their history. Just like our company history: Karl Ottensmeyer, the offspring of an old-established Westphalian farming family, decided not to become a farmer but an architect, and more than 70 years ago he founded the office that is now known as Architekten Bökamp. For us, moving into the farm in spring 2020 felt like going "back to the roots".

6. Why was the attic only converted in 2019 and not done at the same time as the rest of the work in 2014?
In retrospect, I have to say it was a good decision. At that time, it was simply a matter of money. However, at that time we did make sure everything would be okay from a legal standing to do so in the future, albeit originally for possible residential use, not as a business. Another key factor was that converting the interior of the attic could not involve any tax benefits through financed funds or depreciation of listed buildings.

7. What historical details have been preserved in the half-timbered house?
Essentially, first of all, the façade with its timber framework, the arrangement of windows and also the large extension, especially on the west side, but also on the south and east sides, have been preserved, i.e. all have been refurbished in the same style as the original building. Inside, the wooden-look Deelen area in particular has a real historic look and feel – except for the floor, which was originally paved and did not have a floor slab. The historic paving stones with traces of agricultural use (grooves of the horse-drawn carts/etc.) were then cleaned and reused in the outdoor area. The same goes for the old sandstone troughs used as feeders, which are now being used as flower boxes outside. The layout of the rooms in the large extension is almost unchanged, only the functions of the rooms have been changed.

8. Was there also anything to consider when planning the kitchen due to the building being under monumental protection?
No, not really. The kitchen planning per room followed the room layout and use of space regardless of that fact that it is a listed building.

9. At what point in the renovation did you start planning the kitchen?
It is customary for us to start planning the kitchen right at the beginning of the initial planning phase. This is then refined in detail throughout the course of planning the rest of the building and then finalised with the kitchen planner before the order is placed.

10. Which fronts, front colours and worktops are installed in the kitchens?
The kitchen is Portland in the colour anthracite. The worktop is 12 mm thick and also has a cement look.

11. You have got three Nolte kitchens and a utility room in your building. Why did you decide on the cement look and why does every kitchen have the same front?
We were lucky enough to see the cement look "live" in the Nolte kitchen exhibition and everything about it immediately appealed to us: top quality, three great colours to choose from, wonderful to touch, matt and hard-wearing – just our style. After having installed them in private buildings and with more than four years of experience with them in practice, we knew we wanted to have precisely these fronts in the office as well.

12. Why are there two kitchens in the office?
In the open-plan office, we need drinks such as coffee because we often use the meeting room for customers, craftsmen and visitors – and going up the stairs each time is not really ideal for everyday use. On the top floor, we combine the social or team room with a sampling room and, if required, a quiet workplace. This kitchen is suitable for cooking so that any odours are also kept away from those at work.

13. Three kitchens including a kitchenette, a kitchen with two counters and a kitchen with an island. Why did you choose three different types of kitchen?
In our work, we see almost daily that every kitchen has different requirements and needs to be adapted to the conditions on site. And it is just the same for us, of course. The size of the kitchen counter fits perfectly into our office space. We and our employees use the kitchen with two counters as a communal kitchen in the office and therefore needed to be a little bigger with more appliances than the kitchenette in the office. In our private house, we opted for a kitchen island with a gas cooker and large extractor fan, as well as a high table for quick breakfasts.

14. Why did you decide on handleless fronts?
We love clean shapes and lines – sometimes less is more.

15. What is important when equipping an office kitchen or what do employees need for their everyday work?
A large fridge was particularly important for us. So you can cook something yourself during the lunch break too. Sometimes we also have "bottle parties". Everyone brings something and the leftovers can then also be eaten the next day. A big fridge is great for this too, of course. In addition, we also really wanted large freezer compartments for frozen goods and ice cream. As well as the points mentioned above, it is also important to accommodate everyday necessities. In the attic, for example, we manage to make this possible using high cupboards. So every item has its place and everything can be stored well and safely in the cupboards.

16. Why did you decide on a utility room? Is it in your private area?
Yes, the utility room is right next to the kitchen in our private home and offers an incredible amount of space for storage, plus we also use it is a replacement for a basement. As the room is just separated by a door and is often left open, it was important to us to create a look that matched the kitchen.

17. Living and working under one roof – what is that like? Is it sometimes difficult to separate professional and private life?
Going into the office in slippers, of course. If necessary, it makes things simpler than having a long journey. It is really convenient not to have the laptop, workstation and desk in the house and thus to simply make work disappear from the home. With a little will power (and two front doors), it is great solution for separating work and private life.

18. As professionals, you plan houses on a daily basis. At what point do you usually start to plan the kitchen planning usually come into play? What tips do you have for people who are realising the dream of owning their own home when it comes to planning the kitchen? What mistakes do many people make?
It is not really possible to give a general answer to this question because every situation is different so it is important to ask about and agree on requirements and wishes during the initial planning phase. But in principle, of course, we see that these days – and for some time actually – the kitchen has become the "centre" in the home. This is where essential (family) life takes place. Accordingly, the size and arrangement are completely different to what they were 20 years ago or in the days when the kitchenette was created in the 1950s.
It is also crucial for the large dining table to have an additional 2nd function for a smaller, more personal setting. The solution to this is often solved a kitchen counter. Not only for an espresso, but also in terms of the width and type so there is enough space for the dishes. The view of outside is, of course, also a key factor. It is not just during these Corona times that the kitchen serves as a multifunctional high table – for Dad to supervise homework whilst cooking or for Mum to quickly check her e-mails if there is no other option. Everything is more fluid, with less segregation. Managing this properly can have a freeing effect. The design principle of a floating room, i.e. kitchen, dining and living areas that merge into one, possibly separated with a sliding door to the kitchen, is an important design principle for many customers. We are also committed to references to the interior and exterior, i.e. garden, patio or balcony. Areas to move and be active around and in the furniture are a particular focus in the design. For example, if I want to welcome guests, I should be able to reach the table easily from at least three sides in order to offer some hospitality and service without everything feeling overcrowded. The arrangement of the fridge, the pans and the dishes seem obvious, but should be well chosen and defined. It is important to understand that size is not everything; a clever arrangement with appropriate quality is also crucial.
The integration of a utility room – often used a replacement for a cellar in the new building – with the kitchen, ideally also arranged cleverly with the garage/carport to provide protection from the weather, is a daily help. Large areas for food storage are no longer an essential aspect because nowadays today we usually buy everything quickly and freshly as needed. As well as the arrangement of home technology, however, the subject of laundry and household chores, right down to the small tool cupboard, is housed – and also lit in this room – not in the dark cellar as it used to be. Areas for floor-to-ceiling cupboards create space for things that are needed but just not in daily life, e.g. Christmas decorations, wrapping paper.
Finally, a personal assertion – our kitchens are bigger, but we often cook less. The shared option of using the kitchen more on a daily basis again, with friends, with children and also for a small private cooking event may be celebrated in newly designed kitchens and rooms. It is therefore to find an effective solution to extracting used air (and we believe this is better than recirculating air) and this needs to be considered at an early stage if required. After all, everything mentioned above will only be ensured if time is invested to ensure life, feelings and tastes can be celebrated so that the kitchen can become a zone for enjoyment, celebration and also rest.
You should take a look at the show kitchens in the exhibitions to get inspiration for your own kitchen. We recommend that our customers start thinking about kitchens at an early stage. Coordinated kitchen planning should be available before the construction process even starts. Sockets, technology, room heights and installation guides are a minimum, even if the kitchen front does not need to be decided upon until later.