Real home: an artistic factory restoration

Paintings play a big part in the Larsson family’s life, so it’s no surprise that Urban and Lara have turned a former 19th-century factory into their own work of art

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus)

Amsterdam’s Jordaan district is well known for its artistic community, so it is fitting that oil painter Urban Larsson, his wife Lara, a painting restorer, and their three children have settled there. A series of impressive cast-iron columns hint at the previous use of their home – a spacious apartment on the second floor of a converted 19th century factory – as do the rustic oak supporting beams, which the Larssons restored to a natural finish when they moved in. 

Find inspiration for your own renovation project with more of our stunning real home transformations. Read our guide on renovating a house, too, for more guidance.

THE STORY

 Owners Urban Larsson, a painter, lives here with wife Lara, a painting restorer, and daughters Noah, 17, and Larissa, 12, and son Nikolaj, 14

Property  A four-bedroom apartment in a 19th-century factory in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam

Essential repairs The kitchen, plus the flooring throughout, have been replaced, and oak beams renovated

Layout The existing layout worked well, so was kept the same 

Previously, the family was living in an apartment opposite Anne Frank’s house. ‘It was great for the two of us, but as our family grew we needed to move,’ recalls Urban. ‘A lot of houses in Amsterdam have a series of small rooms on different floors with steep stairs in between. What we loved about this apartment is that it is a large space on one level.’

The couple bought the apartment in 2004 and began renovating it in 2005. ‘It only took us about a month and a half to make the necessary changes,’ explains Urban. ‘We kept the walls where they were but painted them. Then we replaced the floors, sanded the oak beams and installed a new kitchen.’

 

upholstered antique day bed in an amsterdam factory restoration

Try Frenchfinds for a similar upholstered antique daybed

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus)

New wide oak floorboards now run the length and breadth of the apartment so that one room flows seamlessly into the next, with rugs used to cosy up spaces where required. The walls are painted in what Urban describes as a ‘beige grey’, which is the perfect backdrop for the family’s quirky mix of furniture and furnishings. ‘I hate white walls,’ he says.  

built in shelving library in an Amsterdam factory restoration

The piano in the living room was a gift from a friend in England; Larissa is the family’s pianist. The 17th-century Dutch cupboard was passed down through Lara’s family. For similar floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, try Cue & Co of London

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus)

‘This is a nice colour because it can be both cool and warm, depending on the time of year and how the light catches it.’ The kitchen was given to the Larsson family by a friend who was selling her house in the city. ‘She said, “Why don’t you take the kitchen – maybe in the future you will find a house for it,”’ recalls Urban. 

storage library in an Amsterdam factory restoration

A built-in cupboard has been turned into a library for Larissa’s growing collection of books. Try The Dolls House Emporium for a traditional dolls’ house like this one

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus)

‘So we took the kitchen and stored it somewhere until we bought this apartment. Having studied architecture for a year, I know a bit about drawing plans, so I redesigned it according to the measurements of the new space.’

industrial style kitchen in a factory restoration

The industrial-style kitchen features cabinet bases from Ikea and flat-panel stainless-steel doors. A Portuguese marble worktop adds a chic touch, and quirky artwork by Lara hangs above

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus)

The finished room is a nod to the apartment’s industrial roots, with stainless-steel cabinet doors complementing the luxurious Portuguese marble work surface. To soften the utilitarian feel, lighter touches have been added in the form of everyday kitchen paraphernalia: fruit bowls are piled high, and favourite pieces of art adorn the wall. ‘I love the ‘eggs’ piece that hangs above the kitchen sink,’ says Urban. ‘My wife made it.’ 

living room in an Amsterdam factory restoration

The restoration of the rustic wooden beam and supporting cast- iron column in the living room bring the history of the house into the present day. The couple gave the frame of an antique table a top made from Swedish cloth, and the child’s chair was a gift that they painted and reupholstered
(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus)

Asked what he would do differently, Urban says that next time he won’t get so involved in the renovations. ‘Replacing the floor was a nightmare,’ he says. ‘It was a complete mess, and there were a lot of challenges, even with four men helping. But at the time, funds were low, so I worked like mad myself.’

Urban larsson's studio five minutes from his apartment restoration

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus)

painting of daughter aged six in an amsterdam factory restoration.jpg

Urban’s portrait of Larissa aged six hangs in the living room above an antique console, framed by a mobile from South Carolina. For similar, try Pavilion Broadway

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus)
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A restricted budget also meant that Urban and Lara couldn’t carry out all of the renovations on their wishlist, but they still worked hard to turn their apartment into a comfortable family home. What started out as Lara’s restoration studio is now a stunning guest room complete with a sofa bed and cupboards designed by the couple. ‘My wife now has a wonderful studio in an apartment in the same block,’ says Urban. 

The Larsson home tells a story about who lives there, where they have been and what they love to do. Urban describes their style as eclectic: ‘We have collected many weird and wonderful things over the years.’ 

There are playful touches, too, including a globe mobile in the living room, which came from Charleston in South Carolina, where Urban exhibited many years ago. It’s a masterful mix of objects, and proof that a personal style often means simply living with what you love.

Words – Ruby Rogers; Photos – Anne Nyblaeus

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