Three whitewashed volumes deliver daylight and improved functionality to a creative family’s historic home in Essen.

Located in the urban area of Essen, Germany, the historic Dortmannhof building typifies 18th-century half-timbered hall houses. Pictured is the bright blue front door located on the west side of the building.

When musicians Milena and Max Schmiz purchased the Dortmannhof—a heritage-listed German farmhouse built in 1791—for their family of four, the young couple must have known that their new home would be a work in progress. Despite uneven floors, drafty windows, and strict historic preservation laws that restricted changes, the Schmizes succeeded in turning the 200-year-old farmhouse into a charming, art-filled abode. But the home’s lack of daylight on its northern side still remained a problem.

Located in the urban area of Essen, Germany, the historic Dortmannhof building typifies 18th-century half-timbered hall houses. Pictured is the bright blue front door located on the west side of the building.

Located in the urban area of Essen, Germany, the historic Dortmannhof building typifies 18th-century half-timbered hall houses. Pictured is the bright blue front door located on the west side of the building.

Christian Flatscher

While living in the Dortmannhof for several years, Milena and Max Schmiz cultivated a lush garden around the house with help from their two young children.

While living in the Dortmannhof for several years, Milena and Max Schmiz cultivated a lush garden around the house with help from their two young children.

Christian Flatscher

In search of a solution, the couple contacted Berlin-based architect Sigurd Larsen after seeing images of his Roof House, a Copenhagen home designed for daylighting.

“Getting enough daylight into the house without removing the historic facade was a major challenge,” says Larsen. “Since the building is under monument protection, all original walls and ceiling beams had to be preserved. We were only allowed to add two small skylights on the eastern slope of the roof.”

The front door opens up to a 16-foot-tall dining room that doubles as the entrance hall. Historic elements are mixed with new additions—the original stone floors ground a custom-made Faust Linoleum table fitted with Thonet chairs thrifted from eBay. A wood-burning soapstone stove is located at the heart of the room.

The front door opens up to a 16-foot-tall dining room that doubles as the entrance hall. Historic elements are mixed with new additions—the original stone floors ground a custom-made Faust Linoleum table fitted with Thonet chairs thrifted from eBay. A wood-burning soapstone stove is located at the heart of the room.

Christian Flatscher

See the full story on Dwell.com: A 200-Year-Old German Farmhouse Gets a Quirky, Glass-Fronted Addition

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