Authenticity is a powerful concept. When it comes to behavior, it’s almost a moral code. When it comes to design, it’s a matter of expression. That could mean a midcentury house kitted out faithfully with everything from an Eames lounge chair in the living room to Eva Zeisel dinnerware in the kitchen cupboards. Or wall-to-wall Stickley in a Greek Revival. Because when it comes to the way we live, there’s more to authenticity than period-perfect styling. There’s doing things right and there’s doing you. And as photographer Joanna Siedlar’s chata (Polish for “cottage”) in the country so charmingly demonstrates, the two can marry up quite happily.
No fairy-tale cottage, Siedlar’s little wooden house has a solid, workaday look to it, its simple form and pitched roof the essence of shelter. Siedlar had the 90-year-old structure moved, piece by piece, over 300 kilometers to land she owns about an hour outside Warsaw. “It was rebuilt in a couple days,” she relates. “Every piece was numbered, and it went up like Lego blocks.” Once a weekend retreat, it is now her permanent residence. “I always dreamed of not having to leave,” remarks Siedlar. “There’s a great atmosphere here and I love the silence. I hated to pack and close the house every Sunday to go back to Warsaw.”
While Siedlar appreciated the simple rusticity of the house, she wasn’t afraid to make some changes. On the ground floor, she transformed a cluster of small rooms into one open space, brightened the nearly black walls with shades of white, and replaced the quaint but uneconomical open fireplace with a modern insert from the Norwegian manufacturer Jøtul.
Although these changes to the interior resulted in a more modern envelope, Siedlar outfitted the space with pieces that generate a simple, homespun ambiance, including a linen cupboard and mirror that had belonged to her grandparents. “It is a mix of old and new things from different sources, like antique markets, contemporary shops, things brought from my journeys, things from friends or artists,” notes Siedlar, who has photographed interiors across Europe and as far afield as Chile, Pakistan and Australia.
Like plenty of folks who get themselves a place in the country and quickly go hunting for a butter churn and hooked rugs, Siedlar early on made a habit of collecting pieces that spoke to rural life in the old days. “I gathered some things – like chests for clothes – that have a lot of charm and recall a world that doesn’t exist anymore. It was a hobby, but then I had to stop and edit.”
As she made the transition from weekend visitor to full-time resident, Siedlar also gathered a variety of colorful fabrics, upholstery and carpets often organizing the interior. “Colors change with seasons, so I wanted the look of my place to change, too,” she shares. “Decorating the house became my hobby, passion, after photography.”
Photography courtesy of Joanna Siedlar.
If you enjoyed this country cottage, be sure to check out the monochromatic interiors of this loft apartment in South Africa.
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