Cover The study features a Ralph Lauren table lamp, Muuto vase, Panton chairs by Verner Panton, Eames Soft Pad chairs by Charles and Ray Eames and an Arctic Pear ceiling chandelier from Ochre London

In the Hamburg home of Danish designer Karin Schandorff, the old is mixed with the new, creating a tastefully layered interior with a story to tell

When interior designer Karin Schandorff and her entrepreneur husband Jens Loff bought the 5,920 sq ft house in Hamburg, Germany, five families lived in it, so it has been a massive undertaking for the couple to transform the house to how it looks now.

“The house in Hamburg was built in 1890 and has been rebuilt twice since, and when the developer had finished, he still thought it was too small, so he added a beautiful tower, which unfortunately has disappeared during the Second World War,” says the Danish designer.

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Schandorff, who runs Hamburg-based firm Little Chelsea, has been living in the city for over two decades, and saw a major renovation to be necessary for this new abode. It took more than a year to restore the original two-storey house, which she now resides in with her husband and their labradoodle dog Freya. Their two daughters, who live and work in Los Angeles, use the guest room upstairs whenever they’re back home in Germany.

Featuring a freshly painted white facade, the two-storey house is situated on a site with a slight elevation above street level and is surrounded by lush greenery. The spacious light-filled living area is connected to Schandorff’s home office, as well as the rest of the rooms on the ground floor. 

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When it comes to decorating, the self-taught interior decorator has no fixed rules for what one can or cannot do, which is reflected in her home. “When I modernise old houses, I often relocate the windows and doors, in order to maximise the natural light in the interior and create transparency and openness,” says Schandorff, who loves to get the best out of the old houses while respecting the building’s original style.

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Schandorff also prefers her rooms to be lightly furnished with loose pieces so that each item can be admired on its own without competing for attention with other accent pieces.

Her absolute favourite is the iconic Barcelona daybed designed by Mies van der Rohe. “It is both classic, modern and with a design that lasts forever,” she declares. The daybed’s classic visual lines reaffirm the grand feel of the home.

One of the home’s most remarkable spaces is Schandorff’s workspace, which takes pride of place in the abode rather than being tucked away on the upper floor. Here, a pair of brass sliding doors becomes part of the art on the wall. The raw concrete flooring reflects the light from the outside, while creating a striking contrast to the metallic ceiling and gold doors. A pair of Panton chairs by Verner Panton is mixed with Charles Eames-designed office chairs around the large white table in this home office.


This workspace connects to a cosier reading room and lounge area, which features warmer colours, soft furnishings and light wood parquet flooring. Here, key pieces include the B&B Italia Camaleonda sofa by Mario Bellini, which is a vintage find from online retailer 1stdibs. A Verner Panton chair by the doorway stands in contrast with the beautiful old parquet flooring, while the large wall-hung radiator beside it appears like a sculpture.

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Throughout the abode, Schandorff’s choice and mix of furnishings is a balance between modern and historic. Among her treasured pieces include iconic pieces by Verner Panton, Mies van der Rohe, and Charles and Ray Eames, architects and design legends who helped define modern design through the 20th century. Schandorff also loves incorporating playful decorative pieces in her home. These include the whimsical Fornasetti plates that are wall-hung in her minimalist kitchen.

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While the colour palette of the first floor is light and bright to expand the sense of space and loftiness, the hues selected for the private spaces upstairs create a more intimate mood. In the master bedroom, the feature wall is painted in anthracite grey to add to its cocooning feel. 

In contrast, the bathroom is clad in emerald green wall mosaics from Bisazza, as well as graphic black-and-white tiles also from Bisazza; the mirrors also add to its dramatic impact.

Besides exploring online stores and auctions, Schandorff often finds her vintage furniture and decorative objects during her many travels, not only for her home but also for her clients as well.

Aside from designing the interiors of abodes in Germany and the US, her firm also acquires old houses with over 100 years of history, thereafter renovating them within the year and reselling them as fully furnished homes on the real estate market. The designer recently refurbished the interiors of a church in Hamburg, and is currently working on her first project in New York. 


“When I travel, I usually stay for at least a week in a city where I try to mingle with the locals so that I can explore the streets, shops and buildings,” she shares. “I found and purchased some of my furnitureand accessories in Los Angeles where my daughters have been living. I aim to renovate and decorate more houses in the US within the next couple of years.”

This cover story appears in the June-July 2022 issue of Tatler Homes Singapore, available soon on newsstands and at Magzter.

  • PhotographyBirgitta Wolfgang / House of Pictures
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