176 Criș, Judetul Mures,
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This month we are celebrating the work of Austrian interior designer Stefanie de Castelbajac and German designer Melanie Etten-Rüppell, with an exclusive interview in which they share their thoughts on our interiors at Bethlen Estates, and what makes them distinctive.
As the beginning of April brings the highly anticipated opening of the Corner Barn, we sat down with the illustrious pair to get some insights into the “classical country style with lots of contemporary influences” that is deeply infused in every detail of every house.
Before pursuing a career in interior design, Stefanie de Castelbajac trained at Van der Kelen Logelain Institute in Brussels to master decorative paintwork for interiors and eventually co-founded an event decoration company in Austria. From her early childhood through to adulthood, she has traveled the world gaining inspiration in far-flung places like Indonesia, China, and America. Fascinated by the beauty of things, she is an avid collector of precious items from different countries.
Melanie Etten-Rüppell is an interior designer from Germany who studied economics at Oxford. She initially started her career in consulting, but her passion for art and design – she paints and makes her own ceramics too – eventually led her to launch an interior design practice.
De Castelbajac has a supreme sense of color and organizational skills, while Melanie has an encyclopedic knowledge of fabrics and design, which she uses creatively to make new designs of furniture and to create interiors. Today, the pair have their joint Amsterdam-based interior design firm called Rueppell/Castelbajac and they work internationally.
‘Nikolaus Bethlen – the founder of Bethlen Estates – saw work we had done in a countryside house and was inspired by it. When we came for the first time, we realized that the whole estate was a far-away place, stepped out of time, not known to many people. It was like a sleeping beauty that looked like it had the potential to become the magical place it is today.’
‘For us the challenge is to have one concept and signature style for all the houses while, at the same time, making each house stand out from the others. As a guest, you should be curious about renting a new house every time you come.
We also loved designing the restaurant, drawing from influences as far as New York City and as nearby as Transylvania! For example, in the bathrooms from the Kitchen Barn, we used wallpaper from Mind the Gap, a now internationally known company from Transylvania. It was also a novelty to plan a professional kitchen fit for high-level cooking.
Caretaker’s House: We love the mix of classical elements (the beds, the kelims) with more contemporary elements, eg mid-century furniture, Tom Dixon lamps, etc. The cosy TV lounge with ottoman elements. And to have a pool is fantastic!
The Deppner House has a salon with beautiful berry tones, mixed with other gentle hues. The bedrooms are very romantic, really like in a pretty dollhouse with beds inside wardrobes. There is a lovely built-in library that has a fireplace which also, practically, doubles up as a tea and coffee bar.
The Corner Barn probably has the most stylish bathrooms with terracotta tiles, zelliges, and brass taps. We also have mixed more fabulous prints and patterned fabrics this time. Everything is a little more colorful than before. This will give a new twist to the theme of refined, serene, and effortless luxury which is at the center of Bethlen Estates Transylvania.
Classical, country style with lots of contemporary influences. There is nothing showy here, everything is refined. It is incredibly luxurious in a new way. This was achieved by attention to every detail, using very good craftsmen, very high-quality materials, most things are custom-made by hand. Apart from the colors and design elements, the quality of everything also “makes” a style.
Absolutely everywhere. Large cities, nature, other great interior designers, and our travels. Also, we do in-depth research before each project to understand the design elements, architecture, and history of an area. We draw on this heavily. Of course, inspiration is important but then you need to have your own signature.
The beauty of Saxon-style villages and the scenery, but from a distant past where time has stood still. Also, when we went to some old castle for a literature festival celebrating Transylvanian literature. Many people from the UK. So many fans of Transylvania! A whole new world opened up. Also: The level of craftsmanship that still exists – maybe because the place is so remote.
A bit more patterns and colors which we also mixed. There has been a revival of this recently and so now is the moment to do this. Also, very “earthy” materials and finishes in gentle colors, i.e. Herringbone Terracotta and Zelliges, both full of beautiful imperfections, plus brass elements we will allow to patinate. We believe to have created this unique mix where materials might come from different places in Europe and local craftsman have worked with them and also local products, e.g. the tiles ovens typical for Transylvania, hammered windowsills and rain pipes from copper, all made locally. So important to us.
The founder – N. Bethlen – is planning to convert the old school into a hotel with a restaurant and a spa. Here again, we need to think about how this fits and yet has a different twist, something new to it relative to the other buildings.
176 Criș, Judetul Mures