Countryside escape to an
ecological wooden cabin in Zempow
Just before the lock down, we headed out to the countryside for a week of solitude in a tiny German village a little outside of Berlin. We had found an ecological wooden cabin, and loved it so much we could have stayed a whole month. Sadly it was booked out for the next weeks, and we sourly returned to Berlin. Perhaps we’d be able to head back there in the summer.
The cabin is located in Zempow, a small village just under two hours from Berlin. A short walk from the studio takes you right into the forest with lots of trails to stroll along. The surrounding area is filled with woodlands and hilly pastures with many lakes to explore. The surrounding farms are all organic and in the tiny town there’s a lovely little bio shop where you can buy food from the nearby farm and region–perfect for a week-long hide out in the countryside.
Designed by photographer Michael Reitz and designer Henrike Meyer, the house was built from natural and recyclable building materials like clay, hemp and wood with the help of architect and ecological construction pioneer, Arnold Dransfeld.
The design is minimalistic and elegant with huge triple glazed south facing doors and windows, offering beautiful views across the countryside while providing privacy from the road. There are no corridors and the slanted ceiling creates a large cavity, adding additional air and light to the open-plan living room and kitchen, making it feel quite lofty and spacious.
The cabin has no concrete floor slab and no insulation in the floor but rather a limestone gravel foundation that allows the house to breathe downwards. Other than the wonderful aesthetic appeal, the clay walls regulate the humidity of the rooms.
The interior of the cabin was done by Henrike–who owns the Berlin based interior firm Meyer + Harre. It is elegant and understated with minimal but comfortable furnishings in muted colours that harmonizes nicely with the patina of the wood. I liked the natural tones and textures of the wicker chairs combined with woven baskets and linen curtains.
Even though it was cold and rainy for most of our stay, we really didn’t mind. Cosy and snug, we spent our mornings in front of the fireplace, with fresh afternoon walks in the countryside. One thing that caught my attention was the incredible amount of birds of prey we saw. Red Kites were hunting across the meadows and eagles were frequently circling the sky. I guess the area must have plentiful supply of food for them–a good sign in terms of the ecology of the area.
The bathroom and shower too, are entirely made from wood. It reminded me of a sauna, with lots of space–which I assume is to make it wheelchair accessible. I also really enjoyed the blue colour of the tiles combined with the plywood. The old teal stool and clever towel rail added a nice touch to the space. The bathroom has underfloor heating provided by the gravity based solar system that supplies the home with energy.
The building has a small footprint, but is actually really spacious, with three bedrooms and space for up to 6 guests. On account of the weather we never got to use it, but there is a very nicely sized deck on the sunny side of the cabin. Perfect for family meals and barbecues in the summer. Thanks to the high ceilings, the space lends itself well as a photography studio and can be booked for both shoots and workshops. The fast internet made it really easy for us to get our work done in the morning before heading out to nature.
Some interesting facts I learnt about the area is that the town of Zempow had the only drive-in movie theatre in the DDR. It is still in operation, and close to the cabin.
The area falls inside the Naturpark Stechlin-Ruppiner Land with 180 lakes and forest covering almost two-thirds of its territory. Unsurprisingly the nature park has the highest density of breeding ospreys in Central Europe! It’s a type of raptor that can reach up to 60 cm and eat a diet consisting almost exclusively of fish. If the sky is home to so many species, I can only imagine what other creatures all hide in the underbrush :). It’s certainly a place worth going back to!
For bookings, you can visit their website Studio Zempow.
Text & Photography © Barbara Cilliers
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