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.
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.’
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.
‘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.
‘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.’
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.’
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.’
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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