The residence of the German Ambassador to Indonesia, His Excellency Dr. Georg Witschel, is safeguarded by two stone Chinese warrior statues standing on guard at the front door. Opening the heavy wooden double doors decorated with Oriental metal trimming, one might expect an exotic home filled with decorative pieces acquired from the Far East or Africa, yet behind the dark wooden doors, a surge of light overflows from every corner of the house, revealing the elegant and inviting home inside.
The ground level of the two-storey 600sqm residence with three bedrooms is centred around the white-washed living room. A grand piano stands in the middle of the expansive space, while golden light pours in from the skylight above. In the seating area alongside the piano, H.E. Dr. Georg Witschel shares his story on how he discovered the residence. “The official house of the German ambassador is located in the Kebayoran Baru area. It is currently undergoing a full renovation,” expounds the ambassador. “We were searching for a temporary residence that would fit my family while the house is being restored, and after meticulous search, we finally decided on this house.”
The living room, furnished with monochromatic ivory-hued sofas and chairs, is reflective of a simple minimalist design, with warm touches of wood on the sidelines and around the skylight. “We’re influenced by the Bauhaus, the modern interior design with simple lines and minimal decoration. It’s very important for our house to have plenty of light and transparency,” states His Excellency. “We’ve noticed that in Indonesia, people are drawn to highly decorative pieces and lots of dark wood. Our style is somewhat different.”
In the living room’s adjoining serving area, two ornately carved Indonesian wood decorations adorn the high windows, juxtaposing a minimalist design with an elaborate pattern. Other ethnic pieces are found throughout the house. An antique Chinese armoire and Colonial Dutch China cabinets stand in the formal dining area and living room, creating a contrast between the modesty of modern design with the antiques’ decorative patterns. “We incorporated furnishings from the owner of this house that fit our style,” states Madame Sabine Witschel, drawing attention to the painting of a Chinese woman hanging in the living room. “Although she seems to have a completely different style than we do, there are still interesting pieces that work well with our simple, modern aesthetic.”
A house is very much a reflection of its inhabitants, and the pieces within it reveal more about its dwellers than a thousand words could divulge. Neatly displayed in the China cabinet is the quintessentially German Meissen porcelain dining ware adorned with a red dragon pattern, telling a compelling story of the diplomatic couple’s home country. The Meissen porcelain dates back to 1740. The first porcelain producer in Europe outside of France, Meissen’s red dragon pattern seen on the couple’s China is an homage to the company’s golden era, when Asian ornamentations were very much in fashion.
Other German decorative pieces include three bear statuettes perched on top of a table in the living room. “This is the Berlin bear, the symbol of the city,” elucidates Madame Sabine Witschel, affectionately picking up a statuette of a bear sitting on a luggage. “We have a song in Germany with lyrics that say ‘I still have a suitcase in Berlin,’ meaning that one will always return to Berlin. This bear reminds me of that song.”
Walking the path back to the front door along the foyer, a painting of a woman swathed in red hangs imposingly above the guest book. The self-portrait of German postmodernist artist, Elvira Bach, sums up His Excellency and Madame Witschel’s aesthetics, serving as an evidence of the couple’s shared endearingly quirky sense of humour. “You can see from this painting that this is a lady who knows what she wants,” explains His Excellency about the painting. “Her gaze is imposing and penetrating. I purposely hung this painting above the guestbook to intimidate my guests,” concludes the ambassador with a chuckle