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A ’70s-Era Stuttgart Apartment That Remains the Same

As a teenager in Stuttgart, Germany, in the 1980s, the fashion designer Tina Lutz was always embarrassed to invite friends over to her family’s home, a modern two-story rowhouse built in 1972 with a sharply angled roof in a vineyard-blanketed neighborhood on the city’s outskirts. The interiors, conceived by her now 84-year-old architect father, Hans-Dieter Lutz, felt to her too dated, too ’70s. Now 53, she still recalls wanting a “house designed in shades of black and white — like everyone else had.”

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Instead, the interiors of her childhood home felt, and still feel, like living inside a Modernist kaleidoscope. Throughout the ground floor, the walls are painted an organic-egg-yolk yellow, punctuated with an eclectic collection of small drawings and paintings, many of them by local artists (Lude Döring, Jörg Dieterich, Robert Förch) inspired by the Bauhaus. The floor is a frenetic surface of contrasting brown and white tiles that run diagonally across the hallway and into the main room, with its Saarinen-inspired dining set in matching white fiberglass with chocolate-colored cushions. Upstairs, there’s wall-to-wall carpeting and teak-and-pine-wood cabinetry in the same rich hue, and the two levels are further linked by a 26-foot-tall tower-cum-storage-cabinet: The bottom of it contains several closets and drawers, while the top transforms into the second-level mezzanine, with a tangle of green leafy plants and Noguchi paper lanterns. Aside from a pair of classic midcentury lounge chairs upholstered in orange wool and a Danish 20th-century cast-iron wood stove, most of the top floor’s furnishings — from the wooden sideboards and benches to the window alcove that doubles as a daybed — were designed by Lutz himself and built by a local manufacturer.

When the family bought the 1,700-square-foot home in the early ’70s, Tina was a toddler, and her father was designing schools, apartment complexes and other municipal projects throughout Stuttgart. He had trained as a city planner, and his blocky aesthetic was rooted in the neo-Modernism that rose to prominence during Germany’s post-World War II reconstruction. In those years, Lutz was a member of the so-called Second Stuttgart School, a radical movement inspired by the Bauhaus and spearheaded by the architect Richard Docker, whose work was motivated by the era’s prevailing socialist philosophy: In the 1920s, Docker had been the construction manager on Stuttgart’s iconic Weissenhofsiedlung (Weissenhof Estate), 60 homes within 21 buildings master planned by Mies van der Rohe, a utopian experiment that was later denounced by the Nazis for its “Bolshevik depravity.” After that, Docker became a biologist, only to emerge after the war as a leading architectural academic at the Stuttgart Technical University.

Lutz was one of Docker’s students, and in the 1960s, he established his own firm, Lutz & Partners, which focused on reinvigorating public spaces in towns throughout southern Germany. One of his defining projects was the 1989 redesign of the center of Freudenstadt — a small 420-year-old city in the heart of the Black Forest that had been destroyed during the war — where Lutz installed a grid of playful, geyser-like fountains that children still run through on hot summer days. “Water adds an element of movement,” he says. “Designing space, whether public or private, is about the flow of movement.”

THESE CITY-PLANNING PROJECTS often took years to complete and were always tainted by small compromises. But in Lutz’s own home, no one — not even his wife, Gudrun — could question his choices. Although he still wishes he’d been able to design the actual building, he instead delineated space by creating architectural shapes within the predefined rooms, the central tower being the most obvious example. There’s also the adjacent wide-open staircase, which originally included chrome banisters, until Lutz hired a carpenter to reorient the steps into a compact C shape, the two flights facing opposite directions, each obscured by a waist-high wall. Like a sculpture, the angled wall that follows the stairs and the horizontal wall that hides the landing form new shapes depending on your vantage point; this optical illusion is exaggerated by a bright yellow panel of paint that mirrors the grade of the white metal railing, creating the effect of a Sol LeWitt mural. The windows and sliding doors in the nearby kitchen are likewise decorated with geometric lines and curves, this time in a translucent off-white paint that Lutz chose to add privacy because, he says, “he hates curtains.”

Though such decisions may at first sound eccentric, the apartment starts to seem more practical, even downright functional, when explained by its architect. Lutz chose the diagonal tile pattern, for instance, because it was easier to lay within the dimensions of the irregularly shaped, 540-square-foot downstairs room. He picked yellow for the walls because it’s “the color of the sun,” he says, and in the absence of windows in the back of the apartment, he “wanted to simulate light in some way.”

Decades later, even his once-skeptical daughter has come around to the space’s inherent logic. Having co-founded the cultish early aughts knitwear brand Lutz & Patmos, Tina returned from New York to Germany two years ago to launch the handbag line Lutz Morris; its fall 2019 collection was inspired by the apartment, from “the geometric shape of the stairway to the primal colors of the walls to the strong philosophy of form following function,” she says. “I have come to respect the fact that my parents never changed their vision over the past four decades.” (Lutz Morris’s recent ad campaign was also shot at the apartment.) A few years ago, the ground floor was in need of renovation, and Gudrun says she and her husband debated whether they should replace the dark brown and white tiles with something that seemed more contemporary. “And finally we said, ‘You know what we should do?’” she asks. “The exact same thing we did before.”

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