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Free Flowing Forms

Design + architecture + decorative arts 1900 – 1980

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Interior design

The Style! Rietveld-Schröder house

What a shock the Rietveld-Schröder house must have been in 1925. Built according to the ideas of De Stijl (The Style). the two storey house consists of strict horizontal and vertical lines and a sober palette of grey, white and primary colours. It leans againsr a block of traditional houses.

Would I want to live there? The question popped in my head as I entered the hall of Rietveld’s masterpiece at the Prins Hendriklaan in Utrecht, virtually the heart of The Netherlands. Surely the house designed for his client, mistress and business partner Truus Schröder-Schräder is a work of art, both inspiring and innovative. It secured its place on the UNESCO World Heritage list for a reason. But no, I do not want to live in this 3D Mondrian living machine. The rooms downstairs, where Rietveld held office, are cramped, dark and industrial. The second storey is an open plan living, but does not leave any room for privacy. You could slide walls between the spaces, but is that really what you want, a scarcely decorated room, only divided from family and guests by a panel?

Truus Schröder lived in her Stijl-house till her passing in 1985, but she made some adjustments over the years. Even the free spirited interior designer wanted more privacy and asked Rietveld in 1937 to create a third storey. They removed the attic in 1957. The lady of the house also wanted more cabinets, cupboards and beds. After 1985 the house was restored to its original condition. Rietveld’s iconic red and blue chair and Berlin chair are present, as well as his hanging tube lamp, made famous by Bauhaus director Walter Gropius, who used a slightly different model in his office.

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Cosy great Danes

When it comes to furniture and lighting, Danish and Dutch designs are my favorites. The latter is by no means a matter of chauvinism, being a Dutchman and all, but I admire the functionality and sharp look of the creations by designers as Cees Braakman (Pastoe), Martin Visser (Spectrum) and Willem Hendrik Gispen (Gispen). Of course the ‘great Danes’ from the 50s, 60s and 70s have a wider appeal. Architects and designers like Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton and Poul Henningsen are world-renowned.

The Danes and Dutch are the only ones who have a proper word for a feeling that is hard to describe. We say gezellig, the Danes use hyggeCosy does not quite grasp it. It’s a feeling you may find in company, sharing dinner, but you can also experience it on your own, sitting comfortably on the couch, hearing the sound of rain. A third possibility is a well-designed space. And by well I mean inviting. In The Netherlands we have the strange habit to use diminutive grammar for such places. ‘Een leuk hotelletje’ literally means a nice little hotel, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the hotel is small. It is just description of a warm feeling. Gezellig!

After dark my living and bedroom are not gezellig, they’re hygge. Most of the lamps in those rooms are Danish made. Long autumn and winter nights inspire the Danes to create lighting that is functional and beautiful at the same time. My Danish lamps all have one thing in common: the innovative design of indirect lighting. The widely acclaimed ‘flower pots’ by Verner Panton (the orange-red ones are original from the 70s, the chrome pieces by Innovation Randers in the early 00s) use a semicircle to shield the light bulb. Panton’s VP Globe consists of a smart cylinder and scales. Poul Henningsen is the absolute master of indirect lighting. His beautiful designs (PH5 and Henningsen inspired PH80) are directing light through the different components. Norm 69 lamp by Normann Copenhagen uses the same principle, but it’s a lot more affordable. The trick is, you have to put the 69 pieces of Norm 69 together by hand. Some patience is required, but it can be a hygge activity on a cold winter’s evening.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright in Tokyo, Japan: Jiyu Gakuen Girls School

Another blog about Frank Lloyd Wright? Well, what can I say, the man was and still is an inspiration to many.  My wife and I visited Tokyo in March 2015 and we could not pass up on the opportunity to visit FLW’s Jiyu Gakuen Girls’ School.

It’s just a 5 minute walk from Ikebukuro station, one of the busiest train stations in the world. You walk easily by it’s site in the narrow streets of Toshima, but when you find the Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan, the House of Tomorrow, you know it is undeniably Frank Lloyd Wright. The five large windows of the main building are a dead give-away, as is the symmetry. Inside you find the original furniture and lighting designs of the school building, that was completed in 1921.

Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright

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Frank Lloyd Wright stainde glass

My house, a typical Dutch suburb row house, was built in 1987 and the first owners immediately replaced the window above the door that separates the living from the stairs to the first floor, with wired glass. Fire proof, yes, but also a very disturbing look in a cosy living room.

So I thought: let’s replace it with a beautiful piece of glass and drew inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Clerestory Windows’ for Avery Coonley Playhouse in Riverside, Illinois. I simplified the design from 1912, replaced the colours with the ones I already have in my kitchen window and asked a professional to make it. Above you see the result and the original from FLW. Quite pleased with it.

Inschepen op De Rotterdam

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Early blogpost in Dutch about the beutiful restauration of SS Rotterdam, 2010

Het kostte wat tijd, geld en miskleunen, maar nu ligt ie ‘r appetijtelijk bij, stoomschip Rotterdam. Het voormalig pronkstuk van de HAL is een ware exhibitie van toegepaste kunst en modernistische meubels. Nederlandse kunstenaars tekenden voor de glas-in-loodramen aan de trapzijden in het hart van het schip, wand- en leuningversieringen, de xe2x80x98bubbelsxe2x80x99 in het verlichte plafond van de balzaal en de schilderingen in de passagiershutten. De zalen en hutten bezitten tevens een internationale uitstraling, passend bij een omgeving waarin passagiers aller landen zich lieten, en laten, fxc3xaateren. Eames, cocktailstoelen, blinkende bars en dito armaturen. Koningin Beatrix, toen nog prinses, liet extra verlichting in de Smoking Room aanbrengen. Men moet natuurlijk comfortabel kunnen lezen tijdens een lange trip.

Foto’s: Martin Neyt

Posing for Viva



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Blogpost about my own home, article and photo’s published in Dutch magazine Viva, 2010

De eerste stappen op weg naar een succesvolle kijkdoos bestaan uit het verkrijgen van een:

a) Stevige schoenendoos;

b) Voldoende licht in de stevige schoenendoos.

Kijk, daar heeft een kind iets aan. Informatie die een mensenleven stand houdt.

Aldus paste ik het kijkdoosprincipe op m’n tussenwoning-met-zonnige-tuin toe. Van de buitenkant just another Vinexhut, van binnen een smaakvolle mix van meubelontwerpen uit de jaren 1920 – 1975. Dat mijn interieur  smaakvol is, weet ik gewoonweg zeker. Damesblad Viva wilde er immers foto’s van nemen. Nu ja, eigenlijk was er sprake van een vriendendienst aan een ex-collega.

– “Zeg, jij hebt toch zo’n jaren zestig inrichting?

– ‘Moderne retro.”

– “Mogen we daar foto’s van nemen voor een Madmen Special?”

– “Mijn interieur is meer Scandinavisch en Nederlands van aard.”

– “Whatevva, we komen langs.”

De fotografe bracht radijsjes, aardbeien en appels mee en creëerde naar hartenlust stillevens met geëmailleerde schalen van Herbert Krenchel. De rode Womb Chair van Saarinen ging van achter naar voren en weer terug en in de schappenkast van miskend talent W. Lutjes kwam een lichtblauwe klok, oorspronkelijk achterin de keukenkast verstopt, te staan. Toen was het onze beurt. Mijn vrouw kwam er speciaal voor terug van haar werk. Op onnatuurlijke wijze hield ik een Martiniglas, gevuld met water, in mijn linkerhand, zij lachtte de tanden bloot en de foto’s waren blijkbaar zo onbruikbaar dat ze de final cut niet haalden. Viva koos voor een plaatje op postzegelformaat. Een afbeelding die eruit ziet alsof de camera per ongeluk flitste. Ach ja, niet iedereen kan fotogeniek zijn.

De meubels zijn dat in elk geval wel. De Vivareportage, die uiteindelijk begin juli werd gepubliceerd, is een parade van kleuren en vormen, een carnaval van gevierde ontwerpen. Ook het artikel, geschreven op basis van een twee uur durend telefonisch interview, mag er wezen. Alleen de vermelding van die kringloopadressen, was dat nu echt nodig? Alsof mijn kijkdoosvulling daar verkrijgbaar is. Tsss….

Foto’s: Jeltje Janmaat

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