Laundry renovated into a house

When the owners of the cleaners decided to shut down and retire in 2001, Landwehr, 50, inquired about buying it.

The two-storey, 2,695-square-foot building had been used as a laundry for almost 100 years. The ground level had sand floors with concrete pathways and platforms for the washing machines, and the second floor was a large open room used for ironing. There was no heating and the water system was ancient.

But the space and the courtyard in front of it appealed to Landwehr. “At first I thought it would make a beautiful studio,” he said. “I thought I would fix it up and pass it along to a painter.” Buying the building ended up being a complicated process, so Landwehr arranged a deal where he would rent the space for 30 years at 450 euros a month (about $600). But after working three months on renovating the place, Landwehr decided not to sub-let it, but to keep it for himself.

Unaltered layout

Despite the raw nature of the duplex, he didn’t alter its layout or any of its defining characteristics. He kept the large old single-pane windows and the industrial tiles that lined the stairway up to the second floor. He fixed the roof, painted the walls and added the basics: a heating and water system, a wood floor and a kitchen that he designed himself. He moved into the space in the fall of 2001 and has lived there ever since.

An almost three-foot-tall figure of a fox installed on a pedestal, a rare sculpture by the German painter Daniel Richter, appears to welcome guests into the airy white living room, one half of the mostly open, L-shaped ground floor.

Behind the fox on the back wall hangs four large artworks: a childlike painting of flowers by the Israeli artist Tal R, a piece with dozens of cassettes in a wooden case by the German installation artist Gregor Hildebrandt, an abstract portrait of Landwehr by the German painter and sculptor Thomas Scheibitz, and a colourful oil painting by Richter.

The modular couch underneath the paintings, a four-piece set that appear to be wood frames sandwiched by squares of colour, creates a square of social space around a round glass table. “I had been thinking about the design and sketching it on napkins for a while. I had the wooden structure built in my workshop and then I had a local upholsterer make the cushions.”

The kitchen, which abuts one wall, is lined with cabinets that look like frames of wood and multi-coloured glass.

Some of the glass is antique and hand blown. Landwehr bought it from a neighbourhood glass source his framing company works with. “I like to go to their storage and look through all the old glass. Sometimes I buy a piece and make something with it,” he said.

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