Architect Leen van der Vlugt designed the studio as a combined study and leisure space for the Sonnevelds’ teenage daughters that was ahead of its time.
Before Sonneveld House, Leen Van der Vlugt had designed the Netherlands’ first modernist workplace: the Van Nelle factory. He took his innovations for the Van Nelle Factory’s modern offices and applied them to the villa he designed for the Sonneveld family. The resulting studio still meets contemporary standards for a healthy working environment, with ergonomic office furniture in a comfortable, atmospheric space.
The first design for Sonneveld House, from 1929, had a separate library and studio. The ground-floor library with its adjacent office was for Albertus Sonneveld. In this design, the studio for his daughters Puck and Gésine was on the first floor, with access to the roof terrace. The definitive design omits the library and provides a more informal workspace for Albertus in a corner of the living room. His wife was also given a small desk in the living room, positioned prominently in front of the window of the main façade with a view of the Museum Park.
A healthy workspace
Van der Vlugt designed a separate study space on the ground floor for the daughters, which he called the studio. Although it is not completely closed-off – its steel and glass door is accessed directly from the dark entrance hall – it is a considerable distance from the other rooms, thus providing the teenage girls with their own space in the house.
Modernism is often associated with an architectural style, but it was first and foremost a highly functional approach to a design brief. What are the demands of a study for two teenage girls? In keeping with the principles of Functionalist architecture, the space must be a healthy worksplace. The studio is therefore bathed in light and has sliding doors that lead to the garden. It has a built-in washbasin and tap for washing hands, or for taking a glass of water into the garden. Van der Vlugt fitted the room out with the same kind of Gispen desks and ceiling lamps that he had used in the Van Nelle Factory.
Relaxation and entertainment
The studio has a hybrid character, with the formality of a modern study and the informality of a space for relaxation and entertainment. The room has two visual identities, embodied by the two identical black Gispen desks and a large colourful sofa, which Puck and Gésine used when they had friends over to visit. Surrounding the sofa are all the amenities required for modern relaxation and entertainment, including a cabinet containing a radio and gramophone. Leisure activities were also legitimate functions within the Functionalist idiom. Combining a study with leisure amenities, the studio in Sonneveld House is a fully-fledged home-working space avant la lettre.
Text by Hetty Berens, curator of the Sonneveld House.