Country Life in the City by Uta Abendroth | 27th November, 2015 | Prime Properties
A home in green surroundings where her family can enjoy life – that is what Dana Schweiger was looking for when she moved to Hamburg back in 2003. She discovered a grand mansion in the region known as ‘Niendorfer Gehege’, and brought the listed property into the here and now. She furnished the three levels of this sprawling house, indulging her fondness for design classics from the Fifties and Sixties. Casual and bright, original and style-conscious. She wasn’t interested here in merely impressing people. She was interested in creating a home where people feel at ease.
This house feels a little like a grandma who wraps her arms around you,” Dana Schweiger says. “You feel somehow protected here, and both upbeat and relaxed at the same time.” Her home was originally built as the summer residence of Johannes Merck, the former Director of the Hamburg-America-Line (HAPAG). He commissioned Ernst Paul Dorn to design and construct his mansion on this expansive country plot. His other creations include the machine hall built for the Hamburg Industrial and Commercial Exhibition of 1889 and renowned as a perfect example of technical construction. He also designed various office buildings before finally dedicating his services to wealthy Hamburg residents. His work centred around Niendorf, where businessmen had begun to buy up large swathes of land in the 19th century, on which they had trees planted and created distinguished park gardens. The grand buildings built on these estates were always thought of as a kind of escape from the city. It was only from the 20th century onwards that they were lived in on a permanent basis.
When Dana Schweiger moved to Hamburg in 2003 with her then husband Til, their son and their three daughters, she was very keen to live in verdant surroundings. “I grew up on the outskirts of Seattle. Whatever we used to get up to with family or friends, we would spend the majority of our time outdoors,” she muses. “That is why I didn’t want to live in the centre of the city here. I want to be able to walk straight out of the front door and straight into nature. My kids should have the opportunity to experience this too, even though it is not quite the same here…” Spanning almost 150 hectares, the ‘Niendorfer Gehege’ is after all the largest area of woodland in the Eimsbüttel district, and an idyllic place to go jogging or cycling, take a stroll or watch wild animals in their natural habitat. “All that reminds me a little of home,” says the lady of the house. The location in the north of Hamburg is ideal in the sense that it feels just like being in the countryside, yet at the same time the heart of the city is just a stone’s throw away.
“I grew up on the outskirts of Seattle. I need to be able to look out into nature’s greenery.” Dana Schweiger
To this day, the exceptionally large country residence exudes an air of almost aristocratic grandeur. It is easy to imagine guests being received here in formal scenes where prestige and representation played an important role. A sets of steps, flanked by two columns and aligned in the middle of the façade, forms the entrance to the mansion. This door leads visitors straight into the large living area with its adjoining conservatory. Dana was looking for a little less pomp however, and had a second entrance added at the side of the house. This leads through to a small vestibule and straight into the kitchen. This was promptly knocked through to the dining room as they weren’t keen on keeping it as two separate rooms. “My kids used to play football, basketball, and a whole load of other sports. They were always bringing friends from their teams back to the house with them. I thought having a separate kitchen at times like that was very impractical. This way the kitchen and dining room make for one homely space,” she says. Large sliding doors lead through from here into the living room, which in turn gives on to the conservatory, as well as a sitting room and an en suite bedroom.
“When we bought this home,” Dana reveals, “It felt a little gloomy with its dark wooden floors. It had something of a hospital or sanatorium about it. I wanted it give it some warmth. And make it more modern.” The 47-year-old had the wooden boards sanded down and painted white. Marina Prinzessin Reuss advised her when it came to the choice of colours for the ground floor. The Hamburg-based interior designer selected subtle and subdued colour tones that incorporate the doors, window frames and skirting boards. “I’m not a fan of white frames anyway, which always look like the cream decorating a cake,” says Dana.
My favourite colour is green, but you won’t see all that much of it in the house,” she adds with a smile. Dana Schweiger ‘smuggled’ a green-framed mirror and a console table on wheels into the dining room, both of which she found in America and had shipped back to Hamburg. In her bedroom there is a couch with darkgreen velvet upholstery, along with an antique tiled oven stove in a similar colour tone. “I am particularly proud of this find,” she says. “I have a special fondness for vintage furniture, especially Danish design from the Fifties. I buy a lot of pieces second-hand and I just love taking part in auctions. I bid for this oven stove online, originally from the Schleswig-Holstein region, and had it re-installed here. It works absolutely perfectly!”
The colour white is the dominant force on the first floor of the three-story house, as well as in the converted former repository. Well-proportioned rooms coalesce here alongside rooms featuring nooks and crannies that are tucked underneath the slanting trusses of the overhanging roof. Some of the bedrooms also have their own en suite bathrooms. Under the windows in the dormer, between a few wooden beams, Dana has created a snug mattress area on the floor, and there are ladders to climb up into the furthermost corners of the attic and cosy up in a kind of bunk bed.
Even from here, the greens of the garden are visible time and again through the lattice or roof windows. Not as formal as it once was, the garden still forms a natural transition to the natural expanses of the ‘Niendorfer Gehege’ beyond. This home is the ultimate idyll in the city, where unadulterated privacy can be enjoyed to the full. ua
Hamburg (DE) E+V Hamburg Immobilien GmbH, Licence Partner of Engel & Völkers Residential GmbH
TEL. +49 40 46 86 31 20 MAIL Hamburgpremium@engelvoelkers.com
Hamburg (DE) Remy Wohnimmobilien GmbH, Licence Partner of Engel & Völkers Residential GmbH
TEL. +49 40 20 91 37 00 MAIL Niendorf@engelvoelkers.com