On a glorious July day, Klaus and Beatrix Nienkämper serve champagne and charcuterie to their guests on the veranda of their 100-acre farm near Creemore.
The couple purchased the property in 1981 as an escape from their busy lives in Toronto where Klaus, Canada’s king of modern furniture, has guided his iconic business, Klaus by Nienkämper, for more than half a century. He has set the standard for furniture manufacturing in Canada and is still going strong with his exquisite taste and style.
Glencairn Farm is the family’s happy place, where Klaus and Beatrix – married 52 years – their three children and grandchildren gather for a frolicking good time all year round. It’s also where Klaus stables the last of his prized Friesian horses.
“We always drove past this area to our cottage on Georgian Bay and one day, when visiting a friend, discovered the fascinating landscape,” Klaus recounts. “We searched for two years and found the right property in 1981.”
When Klaus and Beatrix purchased this estate, it had an old farmhouse and a second small prefab home. “We moved into the prefab with the intent of renovating the farmhouse,” Klaus says. “We discovered that the prefab was at the best location on the property and we decided to use it as the core and expand it to the south, north and east.”
Today, their 2,700 sq. ft. home sits high on the property, surrounded by incredible views of the vast countryside. There is a guest cabin, a large tree house, pergolas, a horse barn and a carriage house.
Klaus has spent a lifetime steering his Friesian-drawn carriages in competitions throughout North America and at local events. At one time Klaus and Beatrix owned 11 Friesians, many born at Glencairn. They still have two, 18-year-olds Thomas and Nanook. In the carriage house, dozens of horse brasses hang on the walls amidst a large assortment of saddles and other horse tack. There’s also a prominent portrait of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The carriage house is also the obvious place to keep the large whimsical Moooi Horse Floor Lamp (without the lampshade) that came from the famous Klaus by Nienkämper Toronto showroom. The space at 300 King Street East, ground zero for modern furniture in Toronto, is now simply Klaus – a bespoke modern furniture store run by his son, Klaus II.
Back in the barn, Klaus sits in a chair from the Beatrix Destinations line. They were asked by future Ontario Lieutenant Governor Hilary Weston to create the leather chair for Prince Charles’ 40th birthday. “It was designed as a folding chair to be used during polo games,” Klaus explains. “I liked it so much that I made some for myself.”
The exterior of the home has weathered beautifully. Inside, it’s full of extraordinary folk art, antiques and sophisticated contemporary furniture Klaus has either imported, commissioned, designed or manufactured over the past 50 years. “Our love of folk art started after visiting a famous designer in Santa Fe, Alexander Girard,” Klaus says. “They created a wonderful museum there to house his collection. This defined the look of our house.” Klaus and Beatrix found and brought pieces back from travels to the Arctic, Quebec and areas in the U.S. southwest.
During a walkthrough of the cottage, the couple pay homage to the fine furnishings in each room. Each piece, including designs by Alvar Aalto, Eero Saarinen, Richard Schultz and Charles Eames, has a story and is part of the evolution that is Klaus, the man who arrived in Canada from Germany in 1960 with no money but full of ambition, style, grace and a sense of humour. He met Beatrix when he returned to Germany in 1965 for his sister’s wedding. They fell in love right away and Beatrix followed Klaus to Canada to help take the North American furniture design world by storm, and they did. Klaus and Beatrix have three children, daughters Ottilie and Rebecca, son Klaus II, and seven grandchildren. The grandkids love the farm and play and stay in an old Airstream that sits across from the guest cabin with the red bull’s head over the front door.
The farm has hosted many celebrations and reunions, including both daughters’ outdoor weddings.
Klaus and Beatrix travel around the farm in a John Deere Gator. Klaus steers the Gator like a pro, up and down the trails to the property’s highest point, where the couple love birdwatching from a new pergola built with spruce logs from the property. The roof is covered with a Sunbrella shade over a deck with a built-in propane fireplace. The pergola was built by Jentry Chin and his brother Colby Chin. Jentry, a stylist, has been working for the couple for over 20 years.
“Sustainability is big around here,” says Beatrix as we approach the tree house, also built from leftover materials on the property. It has benches topped with zebra print and gnomes designed by Philippe Starck. Klaus has always been a purveyor of sensible, functional design and products beautifully made with little waste.
One of the more striking scenes at the farm is the red Spirit House Chair sitting in a field of grass. The chair, named after an area in the Royal Ontario Museum called Spirit House, was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind and manufactured by Nienkämper.
At the end of a glorious day at the farm the always generous Klaus presents each guest with a personally signed copy of Nienkämper, 50 years of Excellence from Design to Delivery. The book tells the story of Klaus and Beatrix, their business and their family. Klaus places it in an elegant green felt book bag with a brown leather handle that he designed. “Cheers,” Klaus exclaims as his guests clink their glasses. “Thank you for all your good work.”