thatched brick 'nieby crofters cottage' transformed with modern glass renovation

thatched brick 'nieby crofters cottage' transformed with modern glass renovation

breathing new life into an abandoned house


In a collaborative effort between Copenhagen-based architects Jan Henrik Jansen and Marshall Blecher, an abandoned cottage in northern Germany is given a new life. The structure had punctuated the vast marshlands it was built by farmers, or ‘crofters,’ in the 1800s — a heritage which lends the Nieby Crofters Cottage its name. Left abandoned for more than a decade, the small building had fallen to disuse, its roof partially collapsing and its ceilings hanging low.


The current owners called on the design team to renovate the cottage, restoring the original brick structure and thatched roof through a contemporary lens. The result stands as a thoughtful hybridization of the historic, rural, and modern architecture.

nieby crofters cottageimages © José Campos | @josecamposphotographer



the renovation by marshall blecher and jan henrik jansen


Occupying a small triangular plot within the endless barley fields of Germany’s Geltinger Birk Nature Reserve, the Nieby Crofters Cottage is a retreat amongst nature. The design team comprises Jan Henrik Jansen and Australian architect Marshall Blecher, founder of maritime architecture studio MAST (see the studio’s recent innovations in floating architecture here). recognize the importance to preserve the dwelling’s historic appearance, noting the prevalence of such similar buildings in the area which have been ‘renovated beyond recognition.’


Keeping the traditional architecture largely intact, the street-facing facade is maintained with only a ‘black steel dormer window belying the more substantial alterations which open onto the private rear yard.’ The most notable addition takes shape as a subtle, glazed volume with a black frame and oak interiors. this glass box is tucked beneath the restored thatched roof, and opens onto a sunken terrace. Meanwhile, large windows cut through the existing brick walls at their most damaged areas, flooding the interiors with soft light.

nieby crofters cottage



inside the nieby crofters cottage


Injecting a contemporary layout into the cloistered Nieby Crofters Cottage, the duo introduces an open floor plan. What had once been divided between fourteen small rooms is now opened into one large kitchen and dining space with a lofty, chapel-like ceiling. The design team explains the process of renovating the interiors: ‘A six metre long concrete plinth standing at the centre of the room which doubles as an island bench and dining table, had to be lowered into the house by a crane while the roof was being reconstructed.’


‘The interior combines historic elements including small mullioned, timber windows and exposed oak rafters with sharp, minimal and modern interventions. The walls of the house are finished with a textured, chamois plaster while joinery, doors and furniture are custom made from German oak to match the floorboards. The house now meets german sustainability standards; it is highly insulated, features under floor heating and custom triple glazed windows.’

nieby crofters cottage
a black-framed, glazed volume is nestled beneath the restored thatched roof nieby crofters cottage
what was once fourteen small rooms is now a large, open kitchen and dining space nieby crofters cottage
a six meter-long (twenty foot) concrete island occupies the center of the room


the glass living area opens onto a sunken timber terrace

nieby crofters cottagelarge picture windows cut through the structure to replace the most damaged sections


the cottage is surrounded by vast barley fields and marshlands

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