Reclaimed wood may have become a design cliché, but not in the poetic realm of designer Katrin Arens, who specializes in “awakenings” (translation: she takes castoffs—window frames, shutters, doors—and transforms them into furnishings while “maintaining a sense of their past”).
Born and raised in Germany, Katrin has spent the past 20 years in Northern Italy, where she lives with her family in a converted 15th-century monastery on the Adda River, nestled between Bergamo and Lecco. Living in the Lombardy region, she has a ready supply of materials and skilled artisans to work with. And, fittingly for someone who is all about stylish sustainability, she and her crew work out of a rescued old spinning mill that also serves as her showroom. Come browse with us.
Above: “The spinning mill was built in the 19th century, and the industrial windows and concrete floor came with it,” says Katrin. “We ground the concrete to make it shiny, a nice contrast to our furniture.” The main floor is her display room and the workshop is downstairs.
Shown here on the left, her signature Terracielo bookshelves of scrap wood and waxed iron, first made 20 years ago, and, on the right, prototypes for new burned designs. She initially made her pieces, she told us, from one-of-a-kind parts; she now often uses scaffolding, so she can create multiples. Her finishes are the result of years of experimentation and she keeps her formulas secret.
Above: One of Katrin’s specialities is designing custom kitchens using salvaged wood and often the clients’ existing appliances. See her compact solution for a restaurateur couple in Kitchen of the Week.
Above: Katrin’s Zen table, Siesta folding chairs (in natural and whitewash finishes), and Ara Pacis sideboard. Of the latter she says, “This was one of the first pieces we made at the mill. I got the idea for it while I was traveling in rural Thailand. The door panels are old shutters and its branch had a past life in wine production.”
Katrin’s wood pieces are all made to order, and prices are on request.
Above: Ponentino closets have wooden shelves and are often used in bathrooms for holding toiletries. The cushions are by Katrin’s friend Cecilia Proserpio, a kindred-spirit designer based in Milan.
Above: Katrin’s collection of white-glazed Terracotta Dishware is made by Bottega Ceramica Fasano of Apulia, “in the hands of the same family,” she says, “since the Middle Ages.” The pieces are inspired by classical Italian forms and many are detailed with “a mouse-tooth edge.”
Above: From Katrin’s series of wardrobes and closets, the freestanding Vento is made out of balcony windows and can be accessed from two sides.
Above: The Ho Sognato di Te (I Dreamed of You) bed features a pallet-like base inset with a handmade cotton mattress stuffed with virgin wool. (See more photos of it in our post A DIY Bed Made from Reclaimed Wood.) Mattress maker Amando of Val Brembana, Italy, comes to Katrin’s workshop “carrying everything he needs with him, his laboratory strapped to the roof of his old Fiat 500.” See him at work here.
Above: Cube storage doubles as steps for a bunkbed.
Above: An ensemble for Katrin’s youngest customers. The chair with the exposed wire frame is by Cecilia Proserpio.
Above: An overview of the showroom, including a changing table, walking toy, and cradle. See more at Katrin Arens and our posts: