How wallpapers helped turning a medieval tower into Germany’s House of the Year 2023

After the Katzenturm project clinched the prestigious “German House of the Year” award, we were curious to delve into the creative mind behind this breathtaking transformation. Thorsten Heyer, the ingenious designer behind the project, had chosen our wallpapers to decorate various rooms in the tower, so we sat down for a long chat about the secrets of integrating modern design elements into a medieval structure. Thorsten graciously accepted our invitation for an in-depth conversation, offering us a glimpse into the innovative process that married historical preservation with modern aesthetics, and explaining how our wallpapers played a pivotal role in this award-winning renovation.


Congratulations on winning the German House of the Year award for your remarkable project, the medieval Katzenturm in Oberwesel! We are big fans of your work. Can you enlighten us about the initial inspiration behind transforming this historical property into a contemporary masterpiece?

The original inspiration came from my professional experience as an event and interior designer, stretching over twenty years. I love creating spaces that reflect my clients' individuality and emphasise their style. However, although I am often given substantial creative freedom, reality requires compromises, especially as clients are sometimes reluctant to agree on design decisions that appear too bold.
This project was different as my husband Micha and I were our own clients. This allowed me to work without restrictions, explore unconventional ideas and let my creativity run wild. It was both inspiring and liberating, and ideas just kept flowing.
My goal from the start was to make sure each room of the house expressed our personality and unique style, that’s why we themed them to reflect and celebrate different aspects of our life journey together.

How did you approach balancing the preservation of its medieval heritage with the introduction of contemporary elements in the “Katzenturm”?

We fell in love with the property the first second we laid our eyes on it and immediately knew we wanted to make this unique property our home. Historical buildings, be it an old villa or a vicarage from the Wilhelminian era, have always fascinated us, and the “Katzenturm” instantly captured our hearts. We loved its Medieval feel, but at the same time were keen on ensuring that our own colourful and lively contemporary style would be incorporated into its design.
Preserving the tower’s historic charm while introducing modern elements and design accents turned out to be a real balancing act. We started by conducting a methodical inventory of each room, retaining original fixtures and elements such as customised cupboards or the historic staircase. All later additions such as the seating area in the bay window, the terracotta tiles on the ground floor and the suspended ceiling in the kitchen were removed. Having restored the interior to its original state, we started to gradually implement our interior design concept, combining historical and modern elements. Guests entering the tower for the first time are dazzled as they don’t expect interiors such as these in a building dating back to 1350 - and I love that!

We were thrilled that you chose our wallpapers! How did you come across our shop, and what convinced you to select our wallpapers for this particular renovation?

Oh, we absolutely love your wallpaper! As the walls of our tower are round, it is impossible to hang large pictures, therefore we were in search of something special, that is to say wallpapers that would stand out from the ordinary and function as a work of art. I came across your shop and was immediately hooked by the amazing selection of models. The colour recommendation on which hue works best with which wallpaper was extremely helpful and inspiring. We ordered some samples first and the quality won us over. I can honestly say your shop enabled us to realise our vision.


Can you elaborate on the significance of the wallpapers chosen for different rooms in “Katzenturm”? How did they contribute to the overall narrative of the design?

The choice of wallpaper for each room reflects our connection to nature and our new home in the Middle Rhine valley. On the ground floor, in the bay window room, we opted for a design entitled 'Pure Nature' as a homage to our love for country life after many years spent in the city. With its variety of blooms and colours, the floral wallpaper introduces an invigorating natural feel into the room, while the pastel shades allow other decorative items to still have an impact.
For the TV room we wanted to pay tribute to the Rhine valley, our new home and the romance associated with living by the river. We chose a dark-coloured wallpaper enhanced by shiny copper elements which creates fascinating reflections and gives the room a powerful energy. We used fuchsia as an accent colour to create an impressive chromatic wave that embraces all visitor entering the room. In combination with an antique swingboat, now repurposed as a gin bar, and a few Romantic paintings of the Rhine from the 19th century, it provides an exciting contrast between the modern colour concept and the classic elements.
On the top floor of our cat tower, there’s a very special room - we call it the “sheep room” - which serves as our bedroom. Four years ago, I became passionate about sheep farming and every year I spend some time in the Swabian Alb, travelling with a herd of hundreds of sheep. Those peaceful days with no electricity or running water, sleeping under a starry sky, left a powerful impression on me and I wanted to transfer this feeling of serenity and grounding into our bedroom. We deliberately chose signal red as a colour accent, the strong contrast symbolising the energy and life force of nature. I then adapted our old blue bed to match the theme, building a headboard from a wooden panel, padding it with soft foam and covering it with high-quality felt made from sheep wool to emphasise the shepherding theme. Overall, every room in the “Katzenturm” is unique and reflects a coherent colour and style concept achieved by repainting objects to match the wallpaper’s primary colour.

What drew you to these specific patterns and designs? Any specific features or qualities of our wallpapers that made them stand out among other options you considered?

The specific patterns and designs of your wallpapers immediately appealed to us. With a living space of just 48 square metres and several challenges to overcome, such as the round walls, high ceilings ranging from 300 cm to 420 cm and a vast number of steps that had to be cut out with exact precision, it was important to us not to compromise on the quality and durability of the wallpaper. Robustness and high-quality finishes were what set them apart from other options, and they impressed us not only with regards to aesthetics, but also in terms of their functionality and adaptability to the unusual conditions of our tower.


As the winners of the “German House of the Year” award, your work serves as an inspiration to many in the design community. What message would you like to convey to fellow decorators and designers about the creative potential of incorporating wallpapers in interior design projects?

Personally, I would like to encourage other decorators and designers to explore their own creativity and not just follow current trends. It's important to listen to your own inner voice and do what you personally like rather than being guided by the opinions of others. Be brave and experiment! As I often say to my clients: 'Let's just try it. Nothing bad will happen'. I'm not a doctor - a design mistake is not the end of the world, it's a learning opportunity. Wallpapers offer enormous creative potential and can give rooms character and depth. They are a means of expression that is worth exploring and utilising in all its facets.

Based on your experience with the Katzenturm, are there any key considerations or tips you'd have for selecting and integrating wallpapers in order to effectively coordinate them with furniture, lighting, and other décor elements?

When designing the “Katzenturm”, I deliberately disregarded the conventional rules of interior design. I questioned the conventional wisdom that no dominant patterns or dark colours should be used in small or dark rooms; instead, I let passion guide me and allowed myself, in interior design terms, to swim against the tide. The result? Rooms that are both functional and cosy despite their size and colour scheme. My recipe for success is simple: passion instead of rules!
When selecting materials, I let myself be limited by nothing but my own creativity. I make extensive use of flatlays and moodboards as they allow me to combine and match different materials such as floor coverings, upholstery fabrics and wallpapers in advance.

Are there any future renovation projects involving wallpapers in the pipeline?

Oh yes, as a matter of fact I have several renovation projects in the pipeline where wallpaper will play a central role. I have been tasked to modernise and redesign the rooms and suites of the Art Nouveau Hotel Bellevue in Traben-Trarbach - a task that never gets boring. With all the enquiries about renting out the “Katzenturm” as a holiday flat, you might think we've mixed a secret ingredient into the wallpaper paste - but that’s not the case, it's just a pinch of creativity and a hint of 'home'!
Joking aside: due to the enormous number of accommodation requests for properties featuring my style of interior design, we have acquired a 1920s house close to the “Katzenturm”. We plan to lovingly renovate this gem and transform it into stylish holiday flats, featuring a unique interior design concept in each of the rooms. In one of them I plan to set up my summer studio, honouring my most important client – myself! ;-) I am very excited about the creative possibilities that will arise from integrating wallpaper into these projects. And from autumn 2024, guests will not only be able to admire my works of art but also stay in them.

More information about Thorsten’s work