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At Home in the Netherlands with a DIY Serial Remodeler and Instagram Star

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At Home in the Netherlands with a DIY Serial Remodeler and Instagram Star

February 16, 2018

For the past few months, I’ve been one of the many avidly following @mamoesjka_nl on Instagram. The feed is the work of Ilona Zieltjens, a 34-year-old Dutch mother, blogger, and serial remodeler who chronicles her home’s many palette changes and rearrangements (“If I haven’t painted anything for a few weeks,” she writes, “the paint tins literally call to me from the closet.”)

Completely self-taught in design (she trained as a hair stylist), Ilona has an appealingly restless creative spirit and uses her own rooms as her test lab. She and her partner, Daniel Polcyn, a barber, have been together since she was 16 and he was 17—”he moved onto the same street as my best friend”—and have two sons, Tycho, 13, and Fender, 7 and two small dogs, Benjamin and Bloeme. They live in Tilburg, a city in the province of North Brabant, and after years of saving, were able to buy a former housing association rental house built in 1969 and in much need of an overhaul. Come see the way it looks now.

Photography by Illona Zieltjens of Mamoesjka.

Ilona and Daniel did much of the renovation work themselves, including installing new electricity and flooring. (They hired pros to remove walls and install the kitchen and bath.)
Above: Ilona and Daniel did much of the renovation work themselves, including installing new electricity and flooring. (They hired pros to remove walls and install the kitchen and bath.)

After three months of hard labor (including vanquishing a colony of mice living in the first-floor ceiling), Ilona was able to get out her paints. She applied an all-white palette throughout, which has served as a canvas that she continually tweaks. She uses Stralend White from Dutch brand Flexa, which she says is akin to Farrow & Ball’s All White. Shown here, her black-and-white-checked entry hall and  living room. The rattan trolley is the Olli Ella Luggy; $75 from Maisonette.

 Ilona&#8
Above: Ilona’s new sofa is the Conrad (€899 from Sofacompany) and the wooden shelf above it from Emko’s Foldin storage system (€123 from Hoeked).

She sources all of her furnishings from small makers and flea markets: “It’s so much more fun to make independent enterprises happy by purchasing some of their products than to get something at a large retail chain.” To afford the next, she sells her castoffs on Instagram @Mamoesjka_shop, a word-of-mouth private account worth discovering.

 A midcentury sideboard gets continually moved around the living area: &#8
Above: A midcentury sideboard gets continually moved around the living area: “I I love vintage in the house. Not a complete grandpa and grandma interior, but a single box or a beautiful vase give the interior so much feeling.”

The curved beechwood design on the floor is another piece that makes the rounds: It’s a Wobbel, €89, a balance board and more.

The kitchen is open to the dining area, which Ilona set off with a panel of wallpaper. The wide floorboards are white V-Groove Laminate from Vtwonen.
Above: The kitchen is open to the dining area, which Ilona set off with a panel of wallpaper. The wide floorboards are white V-Groove Laminate from Vtwonen.

“I scraped off all of paint splashes from the floor with a spoon and scrubbed it with a sponge like Cinderella,” she writes. “Note to myself: Fill in all the holes next time.”

The wallpaper is from Motiflow, a site featuring patterns by indie designers. Ilona hung it herself—and is likely to change it soon. The wall-mounted clock came out of an old school.
Above: The wallpaper is from Motiflow, a site featuring patterns by indie designers. Ilona hung it herself—and is likely to change it soon. The wall-mounted clock came out of an old school.

The plywood Aki Low Stool, €79, is by husband-and-wife Dutch workshop Woodchuck. On Instagram, Ilona has become part of an international community of creatives, such as Woodchuck, who cheer each other on and display each other’s work. Thanks to her popularity, she’s now asked to cover products, but says she “only writes about items where I am literally jumping with enthusiasm.”

Ilona continually swaps out the artwork and objects on display (compare the pieces on her Ikea chest here and above). &#8
Above: Ilona continually swaps out the artwork and objects on display (compare the pieces on her Ikea chest here and above). “I quickly get a full feeling with too many posters on the wall,” she says.
The all-white kitchen with polished &#8
Above: The all-white kitchen with polished “nature stone” counter is from Bulthaup’s B3 line. It and the hall are currently painted Farrow & Ball’s Light Blue: “Despite the name it’s a subtle mint; I added one third white to make it fresher.”
The stoveside storage is a Fency Kitchen Rack, €
Above: The stoveside storage is a Fency Kitchen Rack, €217.95, a steel frame that comes with wooden shelves and hooks in different configurations.
Dishes are stacked in two wooden boxes by Orgalux. Ilona notes that wood accents in her kitchen keep it from feeling too chilly.
Above: Dishes are stacked in two wooden boxes by Orgalux. Ilona notes that wood accents in her kitchen keep it from feeling too chilly.
Ilona writes her blog, Mamoesjka (translation: Mamushka), from her dining table just outside the kitchen. The Thistle Lamp is an origami-inspired design made of folded paper by Studio Snowpuppe; €0. The wooden wall hanging is the Taki by Woodchuck; €79.
Above: Ilona writes her blog, Mamoesjka (translation: Mamushka), from her dining table just outside the kitchen. The Thistle Lamp is an origami-inspired design made of folded paper by Studio Snowpuppe; €230. The wooden wall hanging is the Taki by Woodchuck; €79.
Ilone designed and built the bench herself using wood from a building supply store: &#8
Above: Ilone designed and built the bench herself using wood from a building supply store: “I couldn’t find the bench I pictured in my head. The ones I did find weren’t sleek enough,” Big projects, she says, are her thing: “I don’t like making tiny decorations, I want to get sweaty and feel my muscles aching when I’m working on something. We have all the tools in our garage and my husband helps.”
The bench is currently painted Farrow & Ball&#8
Above: The bench is currently painted Farrow & Ball’s Setting Plaster. Peruse her feed and you can also see it in bubblegum pink and royal blue.
Ilona has recently been in the midst of a minimalist phase and with her older son&#8
Above: Ilona has recently been in the midst of a minimalist phase and with her older son’s help, redid his room, which had been patterned with wall-hung vinyl records. It’s now Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue. The Piled Side Table is from Loof’s Stackable Collection; €175.
Lillagunga Gymnastic Rings in oak; €9, hang in Fender&#8
Above: Lillagunga Gymnastic Rings in oak; €139, hang in Fender’s room. The buttoned cushion is from By Alex, a Dutch line of pillows and play mats for kids, and the Wild Animals print, $50, is by Marta Abad Blay.

For tips on kids’ room design—and more swings—see Living with (Four!) Kids: Ideas to Steal from Tessa Hop’s Organized and Serene Home.

The bathroom has a large angled tub—from a building supply store—and stone-tiled floor. The bench is the same Woodchuck Aki Low Stool seen in the living area.
Above: The bathroom has a large angled tub—from a building supply store—and stone-tiled floor. The bench is the same Woodchuck Aki Low Stool seen in the living area.
The master bedroom has a hanging peg rail, both horizontal and vertical, that Ilona put together herself: &#8
Above: The master bedroom has a hanging peg rail, both horizontal and vertical, that Ilona put together herself: “Easy job; it’s just simple wood.”

She made the hanging hoop from parts found at a hobby shop: She stained the wooden beads by “rubbing them like meatballs in my hands” with a dark oil. The hanging oak light is The 25Lamp, €225, from the Kovac Family.

The room is currently white but has had many incarnations: &#8
Above: The room is currently white but has had many incarnations: “I gave it a different look three times in one year,” says Ilona. “Secretly, I love to mess with paint so I can peel the leftovers off my nails at night.”

Here are three kindred spirits and fellow Instagrammers:

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