Christmas house: 19th-century Dutch farmhouse comes to life with vintage decor


People thought Gwen and Rob were crazy to take care of a run down farm, especially because at the time, Gwen was studying fashion design a hundred miles away in Arnhem and had very little income.

See all of our real home transformations and get inspired by our traditional Scandinavian style decorating ideas.


A beautiful old Dutch folding writing cabinet and a chest of drawers with vintage covers, both by D’n Blauwe Pater. It was the unusual colors that caught Gwen’s attention

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)


The owners Rob Peeters, truck driver and owner of a web design company, and Gwen Dorpmanns, part owner of a children’s furniture and accessories company (, live here with their children Saartje, eight years old , and five-year-old Dirkje and their cat Mimi.
The property A two-story farmhouse built in the 1850s in the small town of Baarlo, Limburg, in the south-eastern Netherlands, not far from the German border.
What did they do The couple had to repair and restore just about everything: floors, ceilings, plumbing, electrical, roofing and window frames, while preserving the original features of the house.

Undeterred and unwilling to abandon the house she had fallen in love with, Gwen found herself a part-time job. It was a roller-coaster few weeks when the couple first found out that the house had been sold to a developer, only to hear that he would put it back up for sale directly, minus the original land.

Gwen was so sure it was their dream house, or at least it could become their dream house, that they bought it anyway. All without Rob even glancing inside.

The previous owner of the property had lived there all her life and was 93 when she died. Almost everything needed to be restored or replaced. It was a shock to Rob when he finally got to see inside. “The house was in terrible shape,” says Gwen. “There were huge holes in the roof that had been filled with straw and old rags in an attempt to keep out the worst of drafts and humidity.”


The couple bought two new sofas from, adding Gwen cushions made from a pile of leftovers she found in the attic. Gwen’s dad built the coffee table using the base of a baby cradle and the top of a school desk

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

Fortunately, Rob was able to see past the many repairs and see that their new home had potential. He and Gwen agreed that they had to preserve the original and distinctive look of the house, so typical of the region. Low ceilings, cozy small rooms and as many period features as possible were restored and incorporated into the renovation, which included the electrical, woodwork, heating, plumbing, floors, ceilings, doors and window frames – everything needed attention.

living room-with-chairs-table-and-vintage-Christmas-tree

Soft pinks and blues and vintage D’n Blauwe Pater wallpaper create a lovely setting for vintage finds from Gwen and Rob. There was not enough paper to cover the entire wall but painted panels turned out to be a good solution. The table and chairs have been in Gwen’s family for generations

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

The couple worked the property six days a week for nine months, enlisting the help of their parents, until they turned it into the quaint country house they wanted.

They originally planned to keep the small rooms and layout exactly as they were, but when their kids arrived they realized that a more spacious interior would be better and so built a new kitchen extension. “We love having all this space to cook and entertain,” says Gwen.

kitchen with blue walls and black and brown cabinets with stairs and Christmas decorations

The couple extended the kitchen into the garden for about three meters. The floor tiles were salvaged from an old school in Belgium and match well with the tiles in the original part of the kitchen. The blue stool belonged to Gwen’s grandmother

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

The kitchen extension was built with the help of their fathers and a family friend. The cabinets are oak, which they have aged to match the feel of the old house. The concrete kitchen counter has been mixed and poured in place and works well in the extended space.

Unfortunately, the 1950s stove that had served them so well had to disappear because it was too small for the new kitchen. However, a new Smeg cooker turns out to be a good replacement.


The dining table is set for a family celebration, complete with Gwen’s favorite crockery – the Wood & Sons vegetable patch. She has been collecting it for years, but unfortunately it is now discontinued. The chandelier of Caatje received an extra seasonal touch with precious Christmas decorations that once belonged to Gwen’s great-grandmother

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

“Almost everything else is what we’ve collected over the years. “I love flea markets and charity shops, but I don’t tend to go with the trends.”

Gwen Dorpmanns


Vintage boxes add color and pattern to neutral interior design

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

Once she buys something, it’s there forever. She also inherited many pieces, including a favorite crystal chandelier from her grandmother and a Swedish table and chairs that belonged to her great-grandfather. These and many other items around the house have a wonderful story to tell, and that’s what matters to these flea market fans.


Gwen’s vintage cookware collections add a vintage touch to the kitchen

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

Gwen doesn’t favor any particular brand, but chooses the things she likes based on their individual merit. For example, a lot of times when she buys a painting it turns out to be a different color than the one she had in mind, and she ends up having to mix the color she wants. His father was a painter by profession, so he is always there to give good advice.


With three new bedrooms on the first floor, a solid staircase was needed to replace the old rickety barn ladder. Draped fairy lights and a Christmas garland make a lovely addition

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

Lots of accessories they have used, especially in children’s bedrooms, Gwen also sells in her online store ByGeK, which specializes in handicrafts, bed linen and children’s accessories. In 2001, Gwen and her partner Karen Huys started selling custom mini suitcases and the business has since grown to sell signs, t-shirts and tote bags. Gwen is proud that they still design and manufacture everything themselves in their workshop.


In eight-year-old Saartje’s bedroom, the centerpiece is the antique French bed, with an appropriate rural scene painted on its frame. Gwen made the cute patchwork quilt and painted the vintage cabinet and closet to fit the room

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

The old farmhouse always looks great when decorated for a party, whether it’s a small family birthday party or a big reunion with
all their friends.

ice skates in the foliage on the door

Vintage ice skates create a character alternative to a wreath on the front door

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

At Christmas, Gwen likes to keep things natural, pretty, and quite understated, with soft candles, fresh greenery, and vintage decorations that have been part of the family for years. “I don’t really believe in turning my house upside down to decorate it for Christmas and New Years,” she says. “I think it’s pretty comfortable all year round! ”

outdoor christmas house

The farm was originally said to have been divided into two parts: the living space, shown here, for the farmer and his family, and a separate barn for the animals. Gwen uses the old barn as a workshop for ByGeK, her children’s furniture and decorative accessories company

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet / Coco Features)

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