All Grown Up
With a house for her family and an office for her firm, Susanne Nobis returns to her native Bavaria
Gisela Williams -- Interior Design, 6/1/2011 4:18:00 PM
To truly understand the design that architect Susanne Nobis built on the edge of a lake about 20 miles south of Munich, it helps to know that the lake in question, the Starnberger See, is almost sacred to Bavaria. Having a second home on the shore has been a status symbol for generations of well-to-do Germans. In the 19th century, mad King Ludwig II chose to spend his last years on the Starnberger See, in the village of Berg.
Berg also happens to be where Nobis grew up. She later earned one of her architecture degrees at the Technische Universität Berlin and assumed she would never return to the Bavarian countryside. But after marrying and having two daughters, she was given an offer she couldn't refuse: the chance to build on family-owned land in Berg.
She knew the 1/3-acre property and was now, as a working mother, able to embrace it. In fact, the design for a combined home and office was already in her head-she just had to get the details down on paper and refine them on-screen. The H shape would comprise an entry, in the low connector, and two higher wings, their peaked double forms inspired by the traditional boathouses that line the lake.
While those boathouses are almost always wooden, the front and rear facades of the Nobis design are glass-intended to make the 3,000-square-foot structure as inconspicuous as possible in its natural surroundings. "Architecture, in my opinion, is about environment and function, the light and the view," she says. For the sake of privacy and shade, enormous steel shutters on hinges can swing partly across the window walls, however that doesn't happen often. White blinds generally suffice. "What interests me is layering," she continues. "And each layer has its purpose."
Sidewalls, paneled in aluminum, disappear in the summer behind the ivy she planted. "It took a long time for the vines to grow. When they finally did, the project was officially complete," she says. Not until that point did she allow photographs to be taken.
The interior neatly organizes living and working functions. One wing, housing the kitchen, the dining area, and the living area, is a single 20-foot-high volume. It's interrupted only by a floating staircase up to a catwalk, which provides access to books on the sidewalls' higher shelves as well as sheltering a living area that might otherwise seem severe, with its black Wassily chairs by Marcel Breuer and massive leather-covered sofa by Paolo Piva. "To feel cozy there, you don't need a lot of other people around," she says. The other wing, meanwhile, she divided into two stories. Offices and a guest suite are below, family bedrooms and bathrooms above.
She chose interior materials for their neutrality: spruce for built-ins and ceilings, maple or poured concrete for floors. Islands in the kitchen are also concrete, creating both consistency and a "calming effect," she says. The concrete's pale gray tends to fade from sight against the verdant backdrop of the outdoors.
By day, one of the strongest interior elements is sunshine. It enters, most dramatically, through the slender skylight that runs along the apex of each wing's roof-producing a line of light that moves across the floor as the day progresses. If it gets too warm inside, several of the skylights' panels can open, as can doors in the glass walls.
Of course, Nobis can always head out on the breezy lake in her quad scull. She also enjoys taking a dip with her children and her husband. Amazingly, her family had only one design request for the new home. "They asked that the central dining area be raised, so we could look at the water while eating," she says. As someone who grew up in Berg, she admits she never would have thought of that. She can sense that the lake is there, even without seeing it.
Photography by Roland Halbe.
alois inning zimmerei und holzbau: woodwork.
B&B ITALIA: SOFA.
THONET: CHAIRS (DINING AREA).
I GUZZINI: CEILING FIXTURES (DINING AREA, KITCHEN).
IKEA: CHAIR, RUG (CHILD'S ROOM).
JAKO-O: DESK. GUTMANN: HOOD (KITCHEN).
KWC: SINK FITTINGS.
MAGAZIN: CHAIRS (OFFICE).
ATELIER RAUMKLAR: LINEAR FIXTURE.
CORUS BAUSYSTEME: PANELS (EXTERIOR).
VELFAC: CUSTOM WINDOWS, DOORS.
FINNFOREST MERK: LUMBER SUPPLIER.