When a spark of creativity hits with a ‘peng!’ (the German word for ‘pow!’ or ‘bang!’), Alexa von Heyden notes down her ideas right away. Journalist and author of the accordingly named “Alexa Peng” blog, Alexa lives in Wusterwitz, Brandenburg, in a house built in 1910. We went to visit her to chat about her style, her experiences of renovating the Peng Villa and life in the countryside. Jules Villbrandt, founder of online magazine Herz und Blut and our editor, Jana Malderle, spent the time together photographing Alexa’s home.
Alexa, your creativity seems to know no bounds: from jewellery design, to writing magazine articles and your own book, to restaurant projects with your husband – is there anything else you would absolutely love to do?
Going forward I’d love to blog about the Peng Villa and write about living in the country, home renovations and DIY. I’d still like to keep everything else going on the side, except for the jewellery. I’ve given up that project as I just don’t have enough time. But I appreciate how much freedom we have nowadays to keep reinventing ourselves, as there isn’t just one thing I’d like to do. In the Renaissance period, people idealised the concept of the Universal Man who, according to Wikipedia, was “universally educated, broad-minded and independent of religious dogma.” He was also “creative and ideally at one with nature”; I can definitely see parallels between this and my own way of life, although I wouldn’t refer to myself as a Universal Man. I’d prefer to see myself as a woman with a lot of interests and a little talent.
Wusterwitz is approximately an hour away from Berlin. What made you and your family decide to swap the city for the countryside?
Because of our daughter – we want her to grow up somewhere safe where she’s free to roam and explore. Here we’re surrounded by nature, her grandparents live around the corner and when she’s older she’ll be able to bike to school by herself.
How would you describe the style of the Peng Villa?
“Scandi boho” with a dash of country living: we combine design classics such as the PH5 lamp by Louis Poulsen and wishbone chairs with rugs from Morocco and Iran, old country dressers and milk stools.
Rich grey and white tones can be found throughout your home. What made you choose these colours in particular?
Our colour scheme is inspired by the colours of Wusterwitz Lake. It’s always changing: one day it’s blue, another it’s blue-grey, light grey, pigeon blue – when we look out of the window, we want our home to be in harmony with the nature outside.
Where in the Villa do you feel most at home?
I love every room, because we have a lot more space in this house and have been able to choose everything for ourselves down to the very last detail – you end up feeling a very different connection with the space compared to rented accommodation. In summer I love to sit on the patio and watch my daughter playing, whereas in winter the spot in front of the stove is always very much in demand. It’s the perfect place for the three of us to snuggle up together and read.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced with the renovation so far?
We completely underestimated the project. We had initially planned a building period of two months, but it’s been over a year now and we’re still far from finished. The biggest challenge was living on the building site without a kitchen; I had to do the washing up in the bath and always ended up with paint on the bottom of my feet. Decorating the bathroom on a tiny budget was tough, too, but it’s turned out well. I’m still dreaming of a walk-in shower – i’ll get one one day!
Who are your biggest style inspirations, both in terms of fashion and interior design?
For fashion inspiration I love Pernille Teisbaek, Camille Charriere and Jennifer Neyt (ELLE). When it comes to interiors, In terms of interiors, I like looking at The Apartment DK, Svenjas Traumzuhause and Herz & Blut – that’s why it’s such an honour for me that Jules Villbrandt is here today to take the photos. I also love getting lost browsing the millions of Instagram accounts and must have over a thousand pictures saved for inspiration.
We’ve just launched three new chair designs, and you opted for one of our STYNG chairs in red. What made you choose it?
I saw pictures of red chairs in a few magazines where they really complimented and enhanced pastel-coloured rooms. I thought a red chair would be the perfect focal point for our very light hallway.
You have our PYLLOW sofa in pigeon blue in your living room. What finishing touches did you decide to add to its very simple design?
We initially left the sofa bare, but gradually added silk ikat cushions. Berit Hoerschelmann, an interior stylist from Individual Interior Styling, found them for me – given how many decisions I have to make about the Peng Villa I sometimes get a mental block and need some outsider input to help me decide. We mix up the cushions every day, so that the sofa always looks fresh. It’s such a versatile piece!
As someone who is passionate about renovating an old villa, we imagine you probably have a soft spot for old interiors treasures, too. Do you have a favourite piece of furniture that you’ve had for a long time?
When I was little, my mum bought me an old country wardrobe for my bedroom. When I moved out aged eighteen, antique furniture was no longer in fashion, so I didn’t take it with me and it stayed in my old bedroom for twenty years. Now that I have a daughter and a house with more space, I really wanted it back. My mum sent it to me straight away and I’m so pleased with how nice it still looks after so many years!
Thanks very much for having us, Alexa!
If you want to find out more about how the Peng Villa renovations are going, you can see more on Alexa’s Instagram, @villapeng. To find out more about Jules Villbrandt, visit herzundblut.com.