The Minch-Heyman family wanted to live with horses and be at one with nature. And seven years ago their dream came true when they discovered Gøngehusfarmen.
Photography BIRGITTA DREJER Text MARLENE TOLDBOD JACOBSEN / The Horse Rider’s Journal No.3
Gøngehusfarmen is a 20-minute drive from Copenhagen and sits in the midst of a tranquil landscape dominated by pine trees and green fields. In the past this estate has been home to a mink farm and an apple orchard, but a clue to its current purpose comes in the shape of the black wooden stables that sit to the left of a long gravel road leading to a pale grey farmhouse covered in trellises. Surrounding the house are a number of pens, each containing at least one horse, and a couple of riding tracks, while at the back a little creek gurgles its way through the greenery.
The house is owned by Charlotte Minch, 58, a designer and interior decorator and Pedro Heyman, 63, a retired fruit merchant whose ancestors founded the Danish brewery Tuborg, and who now dedicates all of his time to running what he describes as “our very own horse hotel”. “By hotel I mean that people can keep their horses in our stables,” he explains, “and then we’ll take care of the basics. We give them water and feed them three times a day, and let them out into the pens,” he explains.
The house dates back to the 1930s and has been rebuilt several times, and Charlotte and Pedro completely renovated the interior of the 550 square-metre house when they bought it nearly seven years ago. But some aspects of the estate still remain in their original state, such as the tiny wooden stable with a thatched roof and space for two horses. In total there is room for 25 horses at Gøngehusfarmen.
“About half of the horses we house are owned by hobby riders, and the rest by teenage girls who compete, and who come to ride every day after school,” says Pedro. He loves how mixed the clientele is: it means there’s always something happening around the stables, he remarks. Pedro himself has been riding since the age of 13, and horses have always played a part of his life. He currently owns a 10-year-old Danish warmblood called Unikat, whom he shares with his youngest daughter, 18-year-old Marie. “I take Unikat out for rides in the forest and my daughter rides her twice a week, alternating between jumping and dressage. That way Unikat gets the best of everything.”
Living with horses had been a life-long dream for the family, which includes Charlotte and Pedro’s 26-year-old daughter Adelaide and a one-year-old Labrador called Soya. And that dream finally came true seven years ago when they bought the farm. “We instantly fell in love with the area,” says Charlotte, “and I could see tremendous opportunities in turning the house into our home. And Pedro had always wanted a place where we could have horses.”
With 25 years’ experience in design, Charlotte decorated the house from top to bottom. Both the horses and the beautiful natural surroundings seem to have made quite an impression on her choices: there are aspects of outdoor living everywhere. In general it’s a home of contrasts. The colours are mainly either black, grey and various earth tones, or white. The furniture throughout the house is huge, and yet the house is filled with little knick-knacks. Charlotte describes her decorating style as laid-back, and emphasises the practical considerations of being able to move around and use the interior. There’s also a healthy mixture of old and new. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved going on treasure hunts for things in second-hand stores, antiques and flea markets,” she says. “And I guess I’ve decorated our home in the same way. For me, when you create a space for a family it’s not about being trendy, but about following your heart.”
Her favourite room is the kitchen, which is usually the gathering point for family and friends. An informal dining area is situated in one corner with a black leather sofa, a concrete table and a couple of Eames chairs. In the middle of the room is a game of table football, which comes in handy when deciding who’s doing the dishes, Charlotte says. The kitchen is also home to the entire collection of ceramics Charlotte has amassed over the last 20 years while travelling abroad, and several pairs of antlers, from both gazelle and deer, which hang on the wall.
The dining room is dominated by eight white chairs arranged around a long black table, on which two huge horse skulls are placed as a centrepiece. Hanging on the walls are ancestor paintings that date back to the 18th century, inherited from Pedro’s family. The window in this room gives you a glimpse of a little red hen house which is currently empty: Charlotte says she plans to buy chickens when spring comes. “I love the thought of being self-sufficient. During the summer I grow vegetables and herbs, and the entire property is filled with wild raspberries and blackberries and all sorts of different nut bushes.”
From the dining room you enter the living room. The floors and bookshelves here are made from African teak; there’s a rustic coffee table made from ancient Chinese tile, while a further cluster of small wooden tables holds quirky porcelain figures, along with more books. The large fireplace is flanked on either side by ceramic vases containing bulrushes, and over the mantelpiece hangs a pair of bull horns, which the family jokingly refers to as ‘Ferdinand’. The only bright colours in the house come from the amazing collection of art works and the bookshelves, which stretch from floor to ceiling and are packed with books. “I’d like to think that we keep our home open and always have room for family and friends,” says Charlotte. “That’s what matters the most to me.”
Previously the family has lived an almost nomadic life, moving house every five or six years; Gøngehusfarmen is one of the places they have stayed the longest, and they definitely don’t plan on moving any time soon, they explain. “It has always been my dream to have this kind of place, and three years ago I quit my job to work solely with horses,” says Pedro, as he is greeted by a neighing horse that he is about to lead from her pen to the stables for lunch.
“There’s no doubt that living with horses is hard work and a big responsibility,” adds Charlotte. “But being around living creatures is very fulfilling. They become a part of your everyday life, and a part of you.” •