This Home Is Literally Built for the Kids to Swing from the Rafters
Name: Stefanie Archer, Chris Archer, Gabriel (12), James (8), Darcy (6)
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Size: 1,872 square feet
When Stefanie and Chris Archer started to think about shopping for a new house, they asked their kids if they wanted their own rooms, and they all emphatically said no. An unsurprising reaction given the fact the kids share a verifiable playground in their Amsterdam home.
Located in the historical center of the city, the Archer family has created a warm and lively home in a UNESCO Heritage Site home built in the late 17th century. Their family of five (plus two cats, Ally and Molesley) “fills every inch” of former warehouse that was used to store sugar, coffee, and spices during the Dutch Golden Age.
As soon as you walk into the home, the living space is flooded with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the canals of central Amsterdam. The family loves to leave the windows open as the city is bustling with local festivals, making it easy for them to join in on the fun. Upstairs, they have transformed the upper floor into two bedrooms, a master and a room for their three children (with a swing and playground included!)
The Archer family not only loves the charm and character of their history-rich home, but the neighborhood full of their favorite markets from which they source most of their furnishings. With such a charming house that’s always full of action, you can definitely feel the love and warmth that’s present throughout the home. Read on for Stefanie’s notes about their style.
On finding your style: “We’ve found our style has evolved over time to be an eclectic mix of traditional French antiques mixed with Scandinavian mid-century modern. Being avid hobbyist antique hunters, we’re lucky our local flea markets, antique markets, and brocante shops are full of unusual items we’ve discovered to style our home.”
On decorating for the whole family: “It’s important that our home decor fits our family, in style, colors, and comfort. We often ask the kids their opinion on a mid-century lamp or a new couch. We want them to feel that they participate in the styling of our home. At this point, the kids still love going to flea markets; giving us a thumbs up or thumbs down when we ask about a new item. When we buy for our home we buy because we love it and we’re passionate about it. Each one of us has chosen something special that has added to our distinctive decor, and ultimately, made our new house a home.”
On their favorite spot: “Our kitchen is by far our favorite place. We love to cook and the kids love to eat. It’s a place where the whole family hangs out, works, reads, does homework. When we had originally designed the kitchen, we wanted a place that everyone would want to spend ample time together as a family and we feel we’ve achieved that.” The cabinetry is Logic Kitchens sourced from Kookhuis and the overhead lamps are the Brass Alto Surface 10 from Cedar & Moss.
On old house quirks : “Being a UNESCO monument on the Amsterdam canals, all the houses were built on very wet soil and have been moving in every possible direction over the last 350 years. The city and builders go through great lengths to ensure the houses don’t fall over. What that means for us is absolutely nothing is straight. There are no 90-degree angles and the ceiling may be up to a full foot lower on one side of the house over the other. We find it charming and appreciate the character but it can be quite frustrating during a renovation. We overcame this problem by finding creative solutions with our contractors and just accepting that many things just aren’t going to be straight, and that just adds to the charm of this old house.”
On her second-hand shopping strategy: “The amount of markets and quality of markets around Amsterdam is incredible. We very rarely visit the markets looking for something specific, and we try to keep an open mind to allow ourselves to fall in love with hidden treasures as we see them. We look for quality goods—the older the better—in beautiful colors and try to get the price as low as possible. If the item happens to be from a known designer or maker, all the better; but we primarily look for beautiful and unique things. When thinking about all the gems in our home, we feel we didn’t find them but they found us.”
On the power of the hunt: Stefanie says the 18th-century entryway mercury mirror was her biggest indulgence—and worth the wait. “For this specific mirror, our list of demands for the mirror was quite long. The mirror had to be a very specific size to fit under the beams. We preferred it to be made of mercury glass, and for a crest sitting on top, we wanted something a nature-oriented design. After about two years of searching, we found the right size mercury glass mirror with baby artichokes growing on the vines within the crest. It’s the consummate piece to reflect our style and the home.”
“It’s always important to us to buy quality vintage/antiques to keep our home looking cozy, yet unique. With our kids always in tow, Gabriel can now accurately determine mercury vs. silver-mirrored glass on a 200-year-old French mirror and the small kids can spot a Danish teak monkey from across the market.”
On flea market shopping with kids: “We don’t normally buy our things online or from the big antique emporiums: We’re value hunters. We get much more satisfaction from buying something interesting from someone that just cleaned out their grandma’s attic. We’re lucky with the part of Europe we live in; grandma has a lot of great stuff!
On her secret source for kid furniture: “Both day care centres and schools have a lot of amazing wooden furniture,” say Stefanie. “We’ve found many schools don’t know that people are interested in their older equipment or supplies and often throw out old chalkboards, desks, benches and gym equipment. A short email to the school administrators saying, “If you’re ever replacing your items, I’d love to purchase it from you and let my family use it in our home.” You’d be amazed at what they have in storage and happy to pass on for a small fee. “
On having the kids share a room: “We like having them close and force them live with each other,” says Stefanie “We do feel it bonds them. Even with the age differences the three are very close. Even when we stay in a vacation home and there are extra rooms they choose to stay in the same room.” In the kids’ room, Stefanie opted for IKEA’s classic MYDAL bunk beds.
On making a room into a gymnasium: “It’s always been a bit of a dream to have a swing in the home. With the high ceilings and big windows with canal view we thought it was the perfect location. Sitting in that swing you can watch canal boats drive by all day. Both the swing and slides we have a lot of interchangeable elements that we can put on and off; for example, the swing easily converts into a trapeze or gymnastic rings and the slides have different types of ladders.” The climbing gyms are by Janssen-Fritsen & De Rolf Groep.
On aiming for timeless design: “We love things that can cut through design and color trends and could fit into most interiors with relative ease. It’s incredibly difficult for any designer to do this, but when you can look at something that’s not specifically on-trend and still say “that’s a beautiful thing,” you’re getting pretty close.” In the master bedroom, midcentury finds and vintage rugs mix seamlessly with the GJORA bed from IKEA, Waxed with Briwax Brand ‘Antique Brown.’
On her proudest DIY: “The bathroom as a whole has been a labor of love. It had not been looked at since 1982, so we decided to gut the whole room; we took out a shower and left only a bath. We built a secret compartment on the side of the bath to hide the in-floor heating divider. We converted a vintage teak sideboard into a bathroom vanity; stripping it down, re-staining it and installing the sinks and plumbing. We also made the terrazzo countertop that sits atop the sideboard. Finally, we handpicked all the marble in the terrazzo and with our hammer and chisel, knocked each piece to the desired size.
This is adapted from a home tour that originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: A Historic Amsterdam Home Has the Best Wooden Ceiling Beams in Every Room