An ode to the maids of the Sonneveld family: that is how you can sum up Natalie Konopelski’s graduation project for her master’s degree in interior architecture at the Piet Zwart Institute. In the archive of Het Nieuwe Instituut she went in search of missing information about their lives in Sonneveld House. In general terms her work is a critique of how house museums such as Sonneveld House present a reconstruction as reality.
The maids played an important role in the life of the Sonneveld family. Two of them even lived in the house and were available day and night. But the interpretative texts in the museum provide little information about them. This spurred Natalie Konopelski to uncover their hidden story. She carried out extensive research in the archive in Het Nieuwe Instituut and spoke with the family’s grandson. Her research has resulted not only in texts and images but also in three-dimensional objects.
The wire construction of the plinths refers to the ‘gilded cage’ that Sonneveld House was for the maids. Mrs Sonneveld was, by all accounts, a strict employer and the maids felt constantly under observation. The mirrors represent the many mirrors in the house in which the maids checked that their aprons were straight. Konopelski has also drawn a new floor plan of Sonneveld House that places the maids centre stage and she has designed a rug to cover the linoleum floor in their bedroom. The presentation is predominantly white, a reference to modernism and to the white pages in the archive. It also stands for the whitewashing of history, which is represented in the panel in the Study Centre in which all the documents from the archive are printed but the information has been erased.
Konopelski’s project is entitled 732 – 0006. 732 – 0000 is the number of the Sonneveld House archive in the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut. The archive is housed in five boxes; her project constitutes a fictional sixth box.