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Christie and Rosanna Wollenberg: It’s a Family Affair

Words by LUCY SIDDALL.

The responsibly minded co-founders of Otiumberg on building mirroring homes from scratch and the steps they took towards sustainability during the four-year process.

Christie and Rosanna Wollenberg, sisters and owners of certified B Corp London-based jewellery brand Otiumberg, inherited their aunt's home following her passing almost ten years ago. Unsure of how to proceed, the creative pair boldly decided to start from scratch, removing the original structure and opting for a complete redesign fuelled by earth-friendly choices rather than renovation. The subsequent build took place during rapid growth in their business, a global pandemic and the birth of children. However, the result is two elevated and timeless yet distinct homes, each a profoundly personal reflection of their lives, both shared and separate. Here, the sisters talk to the Condo about the creation of their homes and the ways they sought sustainability throughout.

The Condo: What does the word ‘home’ mean to you?

Christie Wollenberg: Comfort and a sense of total relaxation. It’s hard to achieve calm with three young children, but from a building and aesthetic perspective, this is what I aim for—the opposite of hectic.

Rosanna Wollenberg: ‘Home’ for me is a welcoming space where you can host your family and friends. I want my home to feel communal and open so we can entertain and feel comfortable. It’s also the little personal touches that remind me of my life. I have two photographs in our bathroom of our favourite beaches. They make the space feel like home because they remind me of significant moments in my life.

TC: What was it like designing your homes from scratch?

CW: It was overwhelming, as neither of us had any experience, yet we wanted to ensure we got it right. It’s the first and only time we will do this. It took a lot of patience and thoughtful decision-making. However, it was incredible to have the opportunity. We wanted functional, modern, open and spacious environments, so we worked with the architects for a long time to get the space exactly right.

RW: It was an interesting and educational experience, but we never saw it coming. We wanted to ensure we got it right because it was a massive, expensive project. I never expected the many things we’d need to consider, too. Where do you want your sockets? What about the light fixture or the skirting boards? Things you don’t realise need your attention, but that significantly impact the feel of the house. We took our time and did endless research. It was time-consuming, but it paid off and was absolutely worth it.

TC: What role did sustainability play in the project?

RW: Proper insulation was a key consideration during the build. As a result, we have underfloor heating but no radiators. The luxury of building your own home is you can think about these things. We took our time with everything and really considered each decision, selecting durable, long-lasting materials we knew would stand the test of time. The wood for our kitchen was responsibly sourced, and Christie used reclaimed tiles at the front of her house.

CW: We shared the same floorboard, kitchen, and joinery people as it made sense to do it that way. We also have electric charging points at the front of the houses and solar panels on the roof. Regarding the design, I have Marble by St Leo on my walls. St Leo is a sustainable brand from Denmark making environmentally friendly and responsible paint. We intentionally used the same people for much of the build, meaning we weren’t doubling up on things or wasting people’s time.

TC: Your homes don’t feel as new as they are; how did you create the feeling of an older home in a building so new?

CW: We spent a lot of time on material selection and achieving a feeling of warmth rather than anything too sterile.

RW: Materiality played a considerable role. We took time to choose details that added touches of history, character and personality, such as sash windows, wooden floors and weathered bronze. We also exposed the back of the stairs to give a more converted, industrial feel.

“We spent a lot of time on material selection and achieving a feeling of warmth rather than anything too sterile.”

TC: How are your interior choices similar, and how do they differ?

RW: We share quite a similar aesthetic, including an appreciation of neutral colours and undertones. Neither of us has wild tastes in terms of colour or prints. The focus was to create a timeless, contemporary, calm base that we could build on and evolve. Our houses have differences, but overall, the ethos is very similar. Additionally, I’m a massive fan of photography, and Christie favours painters.

CW: I agree with Rosanna. We are similar. The central point of difference would be our basements. I wanted to make mine quite fun and inject a bit of colour as it’s where the kids hang out and spend a lot of time.

RW: We shared a lot of references during the build, both from an appreciation of something and from a financial and negotiation point of view. We didn’t try to force it, but it became a very collaborative, lovely experience. We evolved in a way that meant we almost matched, but slight individual touches mean there are subtle differences. We opted for different floor styles; mine is lighter, whereas Christie’s is darker. My bathroom sink is from Huguet but Christie used marble.

TC: How would you describe the colour palettes in your homes?

CW: We worked with materiality more than colour. Colour is present but more importantly, there’s a celebration of texture. Similarly to how we design our jewellery, we sought to create tactile, timeless and considered homes we will still love in ten years. We didn’t aim to design ‘fashionable’ homes.

RW: We spent a lot more time thinking about textures than colours. We considered the grain of the wood, the marble, and the stone variation. There’s beauty in the subtlety and gradual changes of the natural materials throughout the house. Colour can come in the future if we want it to, but at this stage, we focused on keeping a consistent gradient of warm, natural colours.

“The focus was to create a timeless, contemporary, calm base that we could build on and evolve.”

TC: How did you turn your houses into homes?

CW: I have taken the time to think about making my space personal, but it takes patience. I have four palm trees in my garden because I have an early memory of climbing one as a child, but adding details like this is a slow process. Once I added the soft furnishings and my paintings, it definitely started to feel more homely, but it took a long time to feel complete. There are still big spaces, but I didn’t want to buy everything at once. I think it’s important to sit and live somewhere first.

RW: Slowly and surely rather than rushing. That’s the beauty of having a home: We add the basics and then slowly layer on top. My husband just made us a lovely yellow Formica table, which is a fun injection of colour into the kitchen. Adding little touches like this over time makes a space feel like ‘home’ and adds a sense of character.

TC: What are your favourite parts of the house?

CW: We have a big, beautifully deep, well-stuffed sofa from Maker & Son in the kitchen. We all spend so much time in that part of the house, so it’s become a real hub for interaction and family time. It’s incredibly comfortable but also a great place to socialise. It’s a bright part of the house that looks out onto the garden, and with the trees, it feels like I’m not in London. I really love it.

RW: I love my bathroom! I’ve never had a bathtub as big as the one I have now, which is very relaxing. Along with our photography of memorable places we’ve visited, it feels very calming and special.

TC: What are your most cherished pieces at home?

CW: I gave myself a very strict budget when sourcing art for the house, looking specifically for young up-and-coming artists, and I found some amazing ones that I love. I bought a piece by Joshua Perkins from a wall in Mallorca. It’s of a woman sitting in a white Mediterranean house, and it’s incredibly calming.

RW: One of my favourites is from Wondering People. It was a wedding gift and was the first piece of proper art we owned, so it meant a lot. It’s called ‘The Dancer’ by Edwina Longe, and I love it.

Visit Otiumberg here to explore the full collection.

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