Otto Pohl -- Interior Design, 4/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
The architects who built this house outside Munich work in a Bavarian castle built in the 1100's. Seven centuries later, Napoléon and his troops are said to have spent the night there. But if you expected Felix Bembé and Sebastian Dellinger of Bembé& Dellinger Architects to indulge in tastes for shining armor and gilded eagles, you're in for a 2,500-square-foot surprise.
Window walls wrapping most of the ground level not only connect it to the rolling hills beyond but also offer a view into the psyches of Bembé and Dellinger. Having seen too many country houses seemingly at odds with nature, the two principals approached this design from the outside in, creating what Dellinger calls an indoor "living-scape" that echoes the surrounding countryside. When the weather allows, these 10-foot-high expanses of mullionless glass slide open, further shifting attention from the architecture to the world outside. This is a house to dwell in—not dwell on.
A lot of that living occurs in the eat-in kitchen, so Bembé and Dellinger took pains to camouflage its utilitarian aspects. The white plastic laminate on the cabinets and white lacquer on the tabletop were chosen for a fresh look that doesn't scream for attention. To minimize visual clutter still further, the island features a sliding extension of cherry-red glass. Pulled out, there's a bigger work surface. With the extension pushed back across the top of the island, sink and countertop mess disappear. The kitchen becomes a party room.
Bembé and Dellinger also used that cherry-red glass for the backsplash behind the cooktop; similar glass forms the cylindrical shades of the pendant fixtures over the dining table. On both sides of the room, frosted lightbulbs are suspended at different heights, adding a touch of whimsy.
The most notable lighting element in the upstairs master bathroom is the shower enclosure's round skylight. During the day, the skylight's milk glass transforms bright rays into a soft glow. At night, an incandescent bulb mimics that effect.
A partial nautilus shape, the shower enclosure curves around the side of the semicircular tub alcove. Both are clad in lemon-yellow ceramic tile, and both appear to be carved from a single freestanding block of cast concrete. It's as if a giant had "scooped the block out with his hands," Dellinger says. Anyone taking a shower or a bath or standing at the twin sinks faces a treetop view through another band of windows.
In both private and public zones, every element is predicated on the assumption that "people who move out to the country actually want to live in the country," Bembé says. However, this house's integration of the outdoors with the interior may be, ironically, too successful. The architects have discovered that their clients find the kitchen so pleasant that they almost never venture out to the terrace for a meal alfresco.