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When Peter Kleijnenburg’s grandmother gave him a set of wooden spoons, he wasn’t just touched that they were a gift she had received decades prior on her wedding day in 1947. He was in awe of their perfect condition: They were clearly unused. “[She said], ‘I’m still using the ones from my husband’s grandmother,’” he says. Her “If it’s not broken, why buy new?” philosophy resonated with Kleijnenburg. When she died at age 94, he continued her mission. His own 1,076-square-foot apartment in Luxembourg is full of her belongings, along with personal treasures from other grandparents, great-grandparents, and even great-great-grandparents (peep his coffee grinder in the kitchen and the big brass clock on the floating shelves). “Reducing waste and reusing items is essential to me,” he adds. “I like the idea that practically everything in my home was already around when I was born.”

Inheritance has never been a foreign concept to Kleijnenburg—it’s his job. For the past 15 years, he’s worked as a lawyer specializing in estate planning. But Kleijnenburg’s real passion isn’t drafting the contracts that get people’s possessions from point A to point B, it’s decorating with them. After he bought his flat in April 2018, he started studying up on such design greats as Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In 2022 Kleijnenburg officially launched his side hustle, and he’s been trying to strike a balance between his 9-to-5 and his interior design business ever since (the other week, he used his PTO to work on a client’s home in Spain). “My idea was to give it a try. I’ve got nothing to lose,” he says. 

Not all of Kleijnenburg’s things came from family. His sofa used to belong to a friend who moved to New York and couldn’t take the piece with them.

Kleijnenburg’s apartment was his first big project. Despite having a builder-grade bathroom and kitchen as well as low ceilings, he saw potential in the large living room and light-drenched dining area. He strategically oriented his deep sofa along the wall and stuck the TV in the corner; he didn’t want to sacrifice any space that could otherwise be used for art. “I wanted to look into the whole space and actually enjoy it,” he shares.

The yellow pot on the stove that Kleijnenburg regularly uses is a piece his grandmother bought in the 1950s. Both the coffee grinder and the scale are from his great-great-grandmother.

Kleijnenburg credits his parents with instilling a sense of curiosity in him: They were always pointing objects out and explaining how they were made, when they were made, and who made them. “It must have fascinated me at a young age, because I can explain to my mom what my great-grandmother’s space looked like—which lamp, vase, and table were where—and she’s amazed because I was only 5 years old,” says Kleijnenburg. 

Some of Kleijnenburg’s favorite belongings are pieces that he can identify in old family photos, like the blue vase that now has pride of place on his nightstand.
The designer’s great-grandparents painted their whole kitchen yellow in the 1950s, including the chair that now lives in Kleijnenburg’s guest bedroom.

As he grew older, he took to interviewing his relatives. Now, when he shows guests around his apartment, he can say with confidence, “That’s a Japanese Imari vase that belonged to my grandmother’s uncle” or “The yellow chair in the guest room was painted to match a kitchen in the 1950s.” And if people ever need to put a face to the name of an ancestor he mentions, they can just refer to the gallery of portraits in his bedroom (they’re loosely arranged like a family tree with the oldest generations situated higher up on the wall). “I like the big group pictures where my grandma is a little girl. It gives such a nice peek into another world of another time,” he says. Kleijnenburg prefers even spacing and, in the case of his living room display, a clear outer line, meaning the works form a neat rectangle.

The radio-slash-stereo cabinet in the corner of the living room is from 1962 and fully functioning.

Kleijnenburg’s goal isn’t just to spew fun facts—it’s about letting people in on the experience these older items can offer. All of the window treatments in his apartment are vintage (the floral ones in the living room were his grandmother’s, from 1967), which “completely changes the ambience when you close them,” he says. “It instantly becomes very moody and cozy, almost fairy tale–like.” When Kleijnenburg mounted them and noticed that they fit the length of his windows to the millimeter, he knew they were meant to be. 

The large Delft vase on the coffee table once belonged to the designer’s parents, while the yellow Murano glass vase was a score from one of his great-grandmothers.
The Art Deco table was gifted to the designer’s grandmother on her 16th birthday in 1940.

Like any other maximalist who has a thing for antiques, he keeps constant tabs on Facebook Marketplace as well as the Dutch website Marktplaats—an even better platform, he notes. The glass coffee table was the result of a trade through one of these secondhand resources (Kleijnenburg gave up a big Toblerone bar in exchange for it). “Luckily I have an old Volvo that can fit big pieces,” he says with a laugh. Still, he accepts that his home has its limitations: “I really want a Barcelona chair or the Lc2 chair, but I simply don’t have the space for it.” He might be out of square footage, but the stories are endless.

The painting that hangs above his assortment of Delft ceramics was made by a friend of the designer’s, Cokky Diepstraten.