Fabian and Dorothee Heine’s renovation began and ended with a particular kitchen system. Almost a year before finding the flat they would call home, the Hamburg-based couple decided upon a matte-black Vipp kitchen that Fabian had glimpsed in the window of the company’s Copenhagen showroom. “I took a picture and sent it to my wife,” recalls Fabian, who was on a business trip at the time. “She totally agreed. We planned everything around that kitchen.”
But the pair, warned by friends about the hidden costs associated with renovation, began to fear their budget wouldn’t allow for the Vipp model, which retails for $60,000, including appliances. “It was the last thing we ordered, because we wanted to make sure we could afford it,” Fabian says. In fact, when he and Dorothee, pregnant with their son, Morten, moved into their new home, they had no kitchen at all—only remnants of an IKEA setup, left by the previous owner. By using their cardboard moving boxes to form the basic shape of the island and appliances, they visualized how the Vipp system would fit into the space. Finally, they pulled the trigger and placed the finishing touch on their apartment.
With a handful of design-minded business operations in Hamburg, Fabian and Dorothee have established themselves as leaders in the city’s creative scene. Fabian is the co-owner of Erste Liebe Film, a commercial film company, and Dorothee runs a bicycle shop for urban commuters called Two Wheels Good. Their aesthetic, which favors neutral colors and raw materials, has seen particular success at Erste Liebe Bar, a café that Fabian opened 15 years ago in the city center that’s become a popular meeting spot for architects and photographers.
When beginning their search for a permanent home that could accommodate their growing family, the couple channeled a locale that is far from northern Germany—Palm Springs, one of Fabian’s favorite cities for architecture. “I was always fascinated by bungalows,” he says. “But the pity about bungalows is that you won’t find them in the inner city.”
Tempted at one point to move into an enclave of 1970s-era homes in the suburbs, Fabian and Dorothee eventually decided that living in the heart of Hamburg was more important to them. Just two streets away from their previous rental, in the Harvestehude neighborhood, a 1967 apartment building seemed like the perfect opportunity. Two town houses, seriously damaged by a bomb in WWII, sat in limbo for decades before an architect demolished them to build a four-story multi-unit building. The structure had two bonuses: a spacious garden out back—a rare find in the city center—and a garage, both features that Dorothee and Fabian had on their respective wish lists. The Heines purchased two units on the ground floor and combined them into one, creating an approximately 1,500-square-foot home.
By looking at historical plans for the space at the city’s building department, they discovered that their floor was once used as an office. “It only had concrete columns and was planned as an open space,” Fabian says. “We were always planning to connect the apartments, but it was a nice surprise to see that we were able to knock down walls.” After consulting an architect friend, the couple decided to create an open-plan kitchen, dining, and living area, thereby giving the apartment the spacious “bungalow” feeling Fabian sought. The space that was once a separate apartment now comprises two bedrooms and a master bathroom.
The open-plan arrangement put extra pressure on the kitchen to match the residents’ visual standards. “When you enter the place, it is the first thing that you run into,” Fabian says. “The kitchen had to be a piece of furniture.” And Vipp, the 77-year-old company that became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home, had created the perfect fit: The couple’s chosen kitchen-system’s black island and cabinets, elevated on legs for a feeling of lightness, could pass for sideboards and wardrobes. Though the Heines initially wanted a gas cooktop, they chose induction, thinking it would be safer for their son and would better integrate into the sleek steel worktop.
Now, when the family entertains, they serve a starter and drinks from the island, while the main course—often the Mediterranean fish dorade, stuffed with herbs, brushed with olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt—cooks in the oven. On a day-to-day basis, the kitchen is the place where Fabian and Dorothee leave mail and notes for each other and where Dorothee prepares meals while Morten sits on the countertop or runs around the island, playing. Says Fabian: “The kitchen is the point where everything starts.”