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Home visit: the art of lean living

Three floors up in an old railway station building that used to be the end of the line between West and East Germany, a young couple have hand crafted a beautifully simple home, based on the idea that having less can lead to a richer, happier life. Take a closer look…

Living room with beige sofa and green cushions by a wall of pictures, A-frame timber beams and plants separate off workspace.
Living room with beige sofa and green cushions by a wall of pictures, A-frame timber beams and plants separate off workspace.

Uncover hidden gems

“There was wall-to-wall carpet and shiny wallpaper, it hadn’t been touched for 40 years,” says Cosima of the apartment she shares with husband Mel and rescue dog Appa. “These things can hide treasure. The living room was two rooms. We knocked the wall down and found beams hidden beneath. I love them! They’re a gentle divider, one of us can watch TV while the other works but we’re still together.”

A cosy corner

Cosima works from home so space to switch off is vital. “We wanted this part of the living room to be a separate area you have to step into. Once you step in here you think: ‘OK, no more work, I’m here to relax’.” The couple’s SÖDERHAMN sofa is the heart of this off-zone. “I got three covers for it,” says Cosima. “Textiles give you freedom to experiment with colour and make an old sofa feel new.”

Natural style

What difference does a sense of style make? For Cosima it’s helped keep her home uncluttered. “Our style is natural colours and materials mixed with flea market finds and modern Scandinavian furniture. It’s minimal, organised and simple. I’m glad we’ve landed on this style. It’s right for us right now and understanding our own taste helps keep the space calm as everything we buy works together.”

Cosima bought the limited-edition high-back version of the SÖDERHAMN for her old apartment. “I got three covers for it!” Changing the covers has been cheaper and more sustainable than changing the whole sofa.

Our new, old kitchen

When it came to space planning, Cosima had insider knowledge. “I used to work at IKEA! Part of my job was to find solutions for people’s needs. This time, I was the project! For the kitchen, I used an online tool. I could draw the whole room out and test out the arrangement. We brought these cabinets with us from our old home and just needed to buy two extra ones to fit the new space.”

The armchairs are our most treasured possession. They were Mel’s great-grandma’s. He found them buried away in this house and we sat on them during our wedding ceremony. Now we sit here together and have breakfast.


Streamlined storage

“We had an old BESTÅ cabinet here before – white on a white wall! It was sturdy but not designed to have wide crates on a shelf, pulled out every day to see what you have in for dinner. This new open unit is really amazing. You walk into the room and see all the stuff but it doesn’t look crowded. And the cabinets underneath are perfect for storing all the things you don’t want to look at.”

Clear space

For Cosima and Mel, newer and bigger doesn’t mean better. “We made our table five years ago, it was our desk in the old flat. When we were moving here we talked about swapping it for a big table so our families can have Christmas dinner together. But Christmas is one day! The rest of the time, we’d have a big table to clean. And we would probably start dumping stuff on it. So we kept what we had.”

Being organised lets me be more creative. I read about ‘decision fatigue’ and try to remove it from my day. My morning is a routine – I know exactly how it will run up to breakfast so I don’t need to think! After breakfast, I think.


Calm retreat

For a long time, the bedroom was not a haven. “We lived in here during the renovation. It was always messy, we didn’t have the right length curtains and it was very white and clinical.” To create a space they’d enjoy ending the day in, they used plants and textiles to add warmth. “And we hung two shelves to create a display that tells a little about us but isn’t distracting when we want to sleep.”

Dress up corner

When planning storage use all your space, including the full height of a room. “The IVAR is a flexible solution – you can customise it to suit your needs. We don’t have lots of clothes but we want to be able to see what we have so we have plenty of open hanging space. We know what is in each drawer. And having all the storage space at the top makes it easy to pack away out-of-season clothes.”

I’m not bold and brave, I don’t do crazy wall colours, but there are small things you can do to make it personal. Pictures are an easy way to do it. So are plants. And textiles. Want to try red? Get a cushion. It’s easy to change.


Recycle, repurpose, enjoy!

When the couple were looking for affordable bathroom ideas, Cosima found inspiration for the washstand on Pinterest. “I got a secondhand desk for 20 euros, sanded it and made it waterproof then put the IKEA basin on top, which was quite easy.  It gives the whole room a super cool vibe. Before buying new, it’s worth seeing if you can hack something old and make it new and cool,” says Cosima.

Meet Cosima and Mel

“We tried to be conscious when we set up our home. Most of the furniture travelled with us from the small loft we rented in Magdeburg. It took eight months to turn the place into our home,” says Cosima. “My parent’s home is quite cluttered, everywhere you look there’s something to see. Mel and I wanted the opposite of that. Our approach has been minimalistic. To make a calm space that feels zen.”

For us home is not a location, it’s a feeling. It makes it easier to live with less. If we had to move tomorrow and leave all these things behind, we would be OK.


We love to see our customers get creative with our products. Go for it! But please note that altering or modifying IKEA products so they can no longer be re-sold or used for their original purpose, means the IKEA commercial guarantees and your right to return the products will be lost.

Made by
Interior designer: Ashlyn Gibson
Photographer: Benjamin Edwards
Art director: Jules Rogers
Writer: Helen Bazuaye
Illustration: Meerkat illustration, Dieter Braun,
Follow Cosima @ricemilkmaid