The home of good design
Dieter Rams’s 1971 house has been protected for future generations.

Words: Vitsœ

Photography: Ingeborg Kracht-Rams

The modest L-shaped bungalow in which Dieter Rams and Ingeborg Kracht-Rams have lived in Germany since 1971 has been listed by the Hessen Office for the Preservation of Historical monuments. It is now protected for future generations and will remain as a manifestation of his philosophy for good design.

The unique ‘doppelbungalow’ stands within the Roter Hang estate, parts of which were originally designed to house Braun employees based at the company’s headquarters in Kronberg. After purchasing a small plot of land within the site, Rams undertook his only fully-realised building project in partnership with Rudolf Kramer, an architect from nearby Königstein.

Dieter Rams wrote candidly about his home to accompany photographs taken by his wife Ingeborg. We leave you in their hands:

“My house in Kronberg, bordering the Taunus woodlands, is part of a concentrated housing development that I had originally helped to plan. The house is built and furnished according to my own design and I have lived here with my wife since 1971. It goes without saying that we live with Vitsœ furniture systems. Firstly, because I have only ever designed furniture that I myself would like to have and secondly to get to know them during daily use to better recognise where they might be improved or developed further. In instances where the Vitsœ programme is not complete, I have selected furniture from other manufacturers that have been designed from a similar perspective, such as the bent wood 214 Thonet chairs around the table that we use for dining, or the Fritz Hansen stools at the breakfast bar between the kitchen and living area.

“In the centre of the living room area there is a loose group of 620 armchairs, my version of a seating landscape. It is a lively and much-used area with a view of the garden. Here we sit together, talk, entertain our friends and watch television. Plants, books and pictures lend atmosphere. The composition of these rooms represents the basic intention behind my design: simplicity, essentiality and openness. The objects do not boast about themselves, take centre stage or restrict but withdraw into the background. Their reduction and unobtrusiveness generate space. The orderliness is not restrictive but liberating.

“In a world which is filling up at a disconcerting pace, that is destructively loud and visually confusing, design has the task in my view to be quiet, to help generate a level of calm that allows people to come to themselves. The contra position to this is a design that strongly stimulates, that wants to draw attention to itself and arouse strong emotions. For me this is inhumane because it adds in its way to the chaos that confuses, numbs and lames us.

“Inside my house I can adjust my senses and my sensitivity. I often work at home - in a room that opens out onto the garden, just like the living room. Working for me does not mean so much designing in the usual sense of the term, but more contemplating, reading and talking. Design is in the first instance a thinking process.

“In traditional Japanese architecture, living spaces are designed from a position that is similar to my own. The aesthetic of an empty room with its clear and precise organisation of floor, walls and ceiling and careful combination of materials and structure is much more sophisticated than the European aesthetic of opulence, pattern and loud forms.

“In the design of my relatively small garden, I have allowed myself to be inspired by Japanese gardens. It is not a copy of any specific garden, rather a homage to the essence of the Japanese garden, a translation into our time, our landscape and our climate. I find working in the garden stimulating – it is a kind of design work that is comparable with a room, a furniture system or an appliance.

“It may seem surprising that I, as a designer of the late twentieth century, as a designer of technical products, also draw inspiration from design cultures such as traditional Japanese architecture and view their achievements with total respect and recognition. But it would be even more surprising if there was nothing in the long history of design that had inspired me or helped strengthen my beliefs. The lack of historic interest in many contemporary designers is, in my view, a weakness.

“Just as with the old Japanese design culture, I feel equally drawn to the architecture of the romantic period. The medieval Eberbach Monastery in Rheingau is one of the pearls of Romanesque architecture and lies not far from my native city of Wiesbaden. I visited it often when I was young. Another most exceptional architectural achievement is, to my mind, the octagonal thirteenth-century Castel del Monte in Apulia, Italy, built by the emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. Years ago I became acquainted with Shaker design, which deeply impressed me with its straightforward approach, its patient perfection and respectful regard for good solutions.“

All quotes first appeared in ‘Less but better’, published by Gestalten. © Jo Klatt Design+Design Verlag