Your dream home in a former rubber factory: Loft H in Cologne
It takes real vision – combined with a great deal of courage – to create a modern living space in an old factory building. But luckily, the couple who built this home could see the potential in its old walls. The Haags asked architect Jochen Reetz to come up with a complete concept for the materials and extension of their 170-square-metre loft apartment in a former factory in the district of Nippes in Cologne.
The project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the owners to create a living space tailored exactly to their needs. Working closely with Jochen Reetz and his team, the couple came up with a concept to open up and restructure the building, which had previously been divided into smaller units, including the installation of all built-in fittings and a kitchen. In this interview, architect Jochen Reetz tells us more about the unique challenges of the project.
G-Pulse editorial team: Mr Reetz, before we start talking about your project, could you tell us a little more about you and your architecture firm?
Jochen Reetz: I was born in 1974 in nearby Mönchengladbach, so this is a part of the country that’s very close to my heart. After training in carpentry, I took a break to travel the world before starting a degree in architecture at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. Since 2011, I’ve been working on a hugely varied portfolio of projects with my team at DIIIP, aiming to bridge the gap between people and the spaces in which we work, live and play. We like authentic materials, practical details, clarity and a coherent overall aesthetic. For us, less is often more, and we place more value on timelessness than on following the latest trends.
G-Pulse editorial team: Loft H in Cologne is a project that minimalists will adore. What were your specific objectives when designing the space?
Jochen Reetz: We wanted to create a structure that would be spacious while also providing areas for quiet retreat and privacy. In spite of the industrial features like steel, wired glass and concrete, we wanted to make the atmosphere of the new space warm and inviting. The vision we conveyed to our clients throughout the project was one of a timeless home in which you experience an overwhelming urge to walk barefoot across the floors.
G-Pulse editorial team: Tell us more about the unique design of the loft and the challenges you faced in its creation.
Jochen Reetz: The main challenge was that we had to work with some of the existing physical constraints of the building that had been put in place during the vendor’s prior planning phase. We had to take existing ducting, supports and heights into account in our design and conceal, integrate and accept these features as they were. The loft faces onto a park and to the south. We concealed the less prominent face of the building with large built-in fittings in the living area.
However, to ensure that daylight can flood into the space on both sides, we opened up the fittings by installing opal wired glass within the steel doors. We integrated places for the owners of the home to come together – in the form of the kitchen counter, the dining table, the sofa corner and the office – to create communication zones that reflect the many different ways in which the home will be used on a daily basis. The materials we selected are inviting and represent the unique, self-confident style of the owners without appearing decadent or forced. With use, the materials will age beautifully and develop a unique patina. And this kind of timeless, personal architecture is exactly what we like to create.
G-Pulse editorial team: Each room is designed in line with a consistent and streamlined concept. Every single detail has been carefully thought out: The black switches in particular create a prominent, eye-catching contrast. Why did you opt for the Gira E2 design line?
Jochen Reetz: The Gira E2 design line is streamlined, minimalist and timeless. It represents pure function, so the person looking at it or using it does not question its role in the design concept. Its clarity seamlessly merges with the formal aesthetic of the apartment. Contrast is always easier for us than complete co-ordination. When combined with the black light fittings, the switches create authentic and elegant accents that are also reflected in the steel components of the other fittings and furniture.
G-Pulse editorial team: How do you feel about smart technology?
Jochen Reetz: In the age of digitalisation and given the rapid pace at which digital technology is developing, clients can often find it difficult to choose a technology in the knowledge that it might be completely out of date just a few years after installation. Many clients continue to struggle to weigh up the security concerns, costs and maintenance needs against the added value that these systems bring. Planners and professionals play a huge role in the decision-making process and can help to guide home-owners towards an individual and appropriate solution based on factors such as the clients’ priorities, budget, property size, technical expertise and current situation.
Mr Reetz, many thanks for talking to us and sharing your insights into your work and this amazing project.
What do you think of Loft H and its combination of industrial accents, bold contrasts and natural materials?