When Florian Staudinger was 8, he was walking with his grandmother beside a stream on her property, when she pointed to her home, which has been in the family for nearly 200 years, and told him, Someday, this house will be yours.
Mr. Staudinger, 33, a freelance art consultant, now presides over the 16-room house on the family’s 593-acre estate. Ever since then, he said, I had a vision of how this house could be.
As he imagines it, the mini-castle will someday be an art and design destination, many of its outbuildings turned into studios and galleries. For now, it remains a family home – but one filled with contemporary art and design.
The house was built in 1400 as a one-room residence that grew larger as time passed. Mr. Staudinger’s family acquired it through marriage in the early 1800s, expanding it as their logging and iron empire grew. (It has long been known as the Hammerhaus, or “hammer house,” after the tools used to temper iron.)
After his grandmother died at the age of 99 in 2003, his parents, Heinz and Renate Staudinger, had just begun to restore the house when his father was injured in a car accident. Responsibility for the project fell to Mr. Staudinger, who was working in client relations at Sotheby’s in Vienna. “With everything going on in the family, I felt pretty overwhelmed,” he said. “I knew I had to make this a place where everything is magical and safe”.
The scope of the project, however, was daunting. The 5,380-square-foot building had fallen into disrepair. Mold covered many of the walls, floors were caving in and the roof leaked. The stream was not only running past the house but also through part of its foundation.
An avid cook, Mr. Staudinger began with the kitchen, which he considers ‘the heart of the house’ The 19th-century stove, no longer used for cooking, still sits against the yellow-tiled wall, but new Siemens appliances now line the facing wall, along with glossy black Italian cabinets, and Persian rugs cover the polished-concrete floor.
The rest of the house is being renovated room by room. ‘I’d work on one room for two months, when I came home for breaks,’said Mr. Staudinger, who moved to New York in 2008 to study contemporary art at Sothebyâ€™s Institute of Art, where he received his master’s degree the following year. â€œI also had to discuss everything with my mother, who doesn’t always share my aesthetic, he said.
Each room has a distinct personality. The living room is furnished with Wittmann leather couches
Mr. Staudinger found for $21 apiece at a secondhand shop in Vienna, but the parlor – the home’s original room – is lined with old masters paintings, and an antique chandelier hangs from the ornately carved wooden ceiling.
On the second floor, an airy master bedroom opens into a brightly colored salon, where an arrangement of antlers hangs on the wall over 19th-century chairs (a reference to a deer hunt held annually on the family’s land), and a wall hanging by the German artist Thomas Demand offers a critique of bourgeois values. The room is like an art installation, Mr. Staudinger said. It â€œhas an element of self-criticism.
So far, the family has spent about 500,000 euros (or $743,100) on the house, but ‘It’s still a work in progress,’ he said.
Some collectors who have seen the transformation, Mr. Staudinger said, have asked him not only to consult on their art collections but to design their living spaces. Still, he doesn’t consider himself a designer. ‘It’s more about curating than decorating,’ he said. ‘I like to challenge people’s senses.’