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The first time San Francisco–based designer Caitlin Flemming sat down with her mom, Julie Goebel, to write a book, they focused on travel. But for this second go-round, the duo decided to stick much closer to home. In their second book, Sense of Place: Design Inspired by Where We Live, Flemming and Goebel take us inside more than 20 homes belonging to top designers and creatives and reveal how they style their space by drawing inspiration from place. In this excerpt, they bring us to the Brandenburg, Germany, home of couple Laura Muthesius and Nora Eisermann, who, after an extensive renovation, created a space that meets their top needs: cook, read, relax, repeat. 

Photographer and stylist couple Laura Muthesius and Nora Eisermann, the founders of the award-winning websites Our Food Stories and Designtales, are both native Berliners. Laura was born in the area that was West Berlin, right after the reunification of East and West Germany. Nora grew up in East Berlin until the age of 7, when the Berlin Wall came down. “What I remember most about the time,” says Nora, “was how excited my parents were to have the freedom to travel again.” This historic event sparked countless positive outcomes. “We never would have met without the fall of the Berlin Wall,” states Nora.

When Laura was 7, she and her parents moved to a small village in the state of Brandenburg. They lived there until she was 11, when they returned to Berlin. While in the village, their father bought the home of a neighbor who had defaulted on her mortgage. He let the neighbor live in the home until she passed away. When Laura and Nora married, Laura’s father handed them the key to the house, which had stood empty for more than 10 years. It required a major renovation. 

There were yellowed linoleum floors, the walls had years of accumulated nicotine, and the yard was in shambles. The tile floor in the entryway was one of the few original details that didn’t require repair. In a relatively quick six months, they worked alongside a team of artisans to restore and update the house. The linoleum flooring was removed to reveal wide-plank wood floors, new windows were installed with vintage hardware and deep windowsills, the walls were painted with a natural chalk paint, and a DeVol kitchen was installed. Every detail was thought through with care.

Their English radiators are as much a work of art as a way to heat the home. A spacious room off the front of the house serves as their work studio, where they photograph much of their food creations. Their business, Our Food Stories, launched when Laura was having serious problems with allergies to certain foods. Nora, who is the cook in the family, began to experiment with new recipes that were healthy for Laura, and then she shared them online.

“We started thinking, there must be others who would appreciate these recipes,” noted Nora. At the start of each week, they sit down and brainstorm ingredients and come up with recipes. Watching them together in the kitchen is like watching a carefully choreographed dance. Nora is cooking, chopping, and creating her magic, while Laura moves in and out, cleaning up in perfect unison and photographing what they create.

The couple are minimalists. “We only chose what we love for the home,” says Laura, “and they somehow always work well together.” Laura and Nora like having a mix of vintage items, classic designs, and contemporary pieces. Antiques are rare in Berlin, as so many things were destroyed in the bombings of World War II, so they have sourced from abroad, finding much of their furniture in Copenhagen. The antique farm table in their kitchen is from the U.K. It’s as if they know exactly when to stop as well. There is nothing extraneous.

Ten Reflections of Home

What drew you to where you live? 

We were both born in Berlin and love the city, but also really love to be in nature. It keeps us calm and inspires us for our work. That’s why we spend most of our time outside of Berlin, in a little village where we have our studio.

How do the surroundings of where you live inform your aesthetic in your home? 

We are really into natural tones and natural materials in our home, which is definitely inspired by the surrounding nature. Nature is not manipulated by quick passing trends, and we really like to invest in good-quality materials like wood and stone.

What is your idea of home? 

A home is the most intimate place; a place where you feel safe and calm and where you truly can express your own taste.

What is your favorite season where you live? Why?

For Laura, it’s summer. She loves the heat and spending a lot of time in the garden. For Nora, it’s autumn—you can still enjoy the garden, and the autumn light is always so dreamy.

Is there anything you collect?

We are actually very minimalistic, but we love to collect ceramics from different artists and art postcards from museums. For our work, we collect a lot of vintage furniture, like tables and chairs.

How do you spend your weekends? 

Last year, we decided to spend our weekends without work from then on. So we always take long walks with our dogs, read or watch a movie, enjoy long breakfasts, and meet up with friends.

What can’t you live without? 

Our dogs. And besides that, for Nora, it’s chocolate, and for Laura, books.

What elements turn your house into a home? 

Fabrics like throws, pillows, and curtains make a home very cozy. Also, we love scented candles and flowers for atmosphere. And every house feels more like home with a book collection.

How does your home fuel your creativity?

As our home is quite minimalistic, we don’t have a lot of pictures on the walls. It gives us a calm feeling and room for creativity and ideas.

Are there people or businesses close to home that you rely on to fuel your creativity?

Shops like Historische Bauelemente, where you can find a lot of vintage furniture, old doors, etc., are always very inspiring to us.