The Sonneveld House Recipe

A visit to the Sonneveld House in Rotterdam, built in 1933 by architect Leen van der Vlugt (Brinkman & van der Vlugt).

The Sonneveld House

Amsterdam in February. There is nothing quite like it. Rain, mud, freezing temperatures, and winds that have the unique ability to slice through twelve layers of clothes. Doesn't seem to phase the Dutch a bit. In fact umbrellas don't even seem that popular here. Wipe the puddle off your bike seat, hop on, and suck it up.

Yesterday we got an early start. We hopped the train to Rotterdam which coasted breezily through the Dutch countryside for 45 minutes or so and then dropped us off in central Rotterdam. We had a full day of museums, exploring, and umbrellas being blown inside-out. Just next door to the Netherlands Architecture Institute we stumbled on a real gem (and the highlight of the day for me) - the Sonneveld House.


The Sonneveld House was built in 1933 by architect Leen van der Vlugt (Brinkman & van der Vlugt). When you walk through the museums in Rotterdam you see examples of Van Nelle packaging and products around. Here's how it all ties together - Van der Vlugt also built the Van Nelle coffee, tea, and tobacco company - Sonneveld was one of the directors and commissioned this house.

Nook inside the kitchen

If you are interested in seeing what Dutch modern living was like circa 1933, this is one of the best surviving examples. From the front yard the house doesn't have a whole lot of curbside appeal, but as you enter the front door, your entire perception changes. The house is built in the Nieuwe Bouwen style, also known as New Realism or Functionalism - basic shapes and traditional forms were in, over the top ornamentation and monumentality, out. Airy rooms batched in light branch off the central hallways.

Young French family caught in the bathroom mirror

It is interesting to see how the modern building techniques of the time were put into practice in a residential Dutch setting. Steel columns, and the abscense of load bearing walls allowed for the stunning sweeping swaths of glass windows. I remember being a kid and walking through one of the old Eichler houses on the Bay Area peninsula. I loved the big windows and the natural flow between indoor and outdoor spaces. The Sonneveld house is similar in spirit. Many of the rooms open up onto the garden or various balconies - the outdoor becomes a natural extension of the overall living space. Not really practical in say, mid-February, but I appreciate the sentiment all the same. (Sidenote: I think I read somewhere that Harold McGee lives in a restored Eichler on the peninsula.)

Master bedroom, two phones

This house came as a full package. The architect also designed the interior and furnishings. Legend has it that the Sonnevelds moved in and left all of their previous furnishings behind - Persian rugs and all. They chose the tubular steel furniture you see in the photographs because - well, you can imagine how bad old heavy wood furniture would look. The furniture they chose is perfect - light, open, and modern - complimenting the design of the structure and treating the vision for the house as a whole.

Corkscrew staircase

One of the things you notice as you explore the house is the phones. There are everywhere. Some rooms have two. When you run the tally, there were twelve phones in the Sonneveld House - two outside, and then ten house phones. Think of these phones as the plasma screens of the time. Equal part status symbol and modern convenience.

Model of the Sonneveld House

I'm off to my first Amsterdam farmer's market. Will try to post more highlights soon.

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Hi Heidi, My husband and I are going to Amsterdam this April for a week. We are in our 50's and are not into smoking dope or spending time in the Red Light district, but we do like good food! Did you have any great dining experiences? or sites to see in and around the city? We are staying on Herengracht. My husband is a steak and potatoes kind of guy(boring), I like almost anything,- just not exclusive ,cold, overpriced restaurants. Seeing your wonderful photos were exciting. I can't wait. I hope it's a little warmer! I will try the stroopwafels! Thanks for any suggestions, Laura in Kentucky


As always, I love your photography. What a lovely and intriguing building, and what beautiful views of it.


I like light and air, but the house seems kind of cold and unwelcoming to me. Maybe because my own personal tastes in colour tend to darker, richer tones, and softer edges.


this site provides exactly i wanna to achive to built new house thanks


Gado-Gado, We made a bee-line to the stroopwafel place you recommended. Delicious! We had the coffee caramel flavor. I am going to go back and load up before we head back to the states. Thanks for the tip! Meike, I missed the Luxor theatre in Rotterdam, but we did visit Cong's Corner near the Sonneveld house for a quick tasty lunch - the place ranks low on atmosphere, but high on taste and the owners are really friendly and helpful. Thanks to Debra at for the tip.


Heidi, I was going to recommend that you be sure to try some stroopwafels while in the Netherlands, preferably from a vendor in a streetmarket, but another one of your readers beat me to it! So I second the notion! My next food suggestion is that you try a typical dutch "fast food" that you can buy from a fish vendor at a streetmarket. I don't remember what it's called, but I think it's cod dipped in batter and then fried and you eat it with this white sauce. So tasty... Or do I recall you being a vegetarian...

Lisa M

Have you ever seen the 1966 film version of the book Fahrenheit 451? If you didn't already watch it in school as a supplement to the book, then I suggest you do so. The bright colors accentuating the crisp, clean-lined architecture of the Sonneveld House reminds me of similar color schemes chosen for the movie sets and backdrops. It's like stepping back into the chic 60's. Open-air markets are the best! I don't have to say enjoy yourself, I'm sure you already are.


great photos, especially like the one of the french family in the mirror.


So beautiful, thanks for the photos! (Except they made me miss my lovely, modern Eichler home in San Francisco a bit...)


I so wish I could be there now! I'll definitely check this place out on my next visit. If you head back through Amsterdam, make sure to get some stroopwafels at Banketbakkerij Tearoom Lanskroon (see link to post with details below). They're like no others you'll find in Amsterdam.

Gado-Gado Misha

Hej Heidi! you made my day! memorys from an excursion in 2002 came up. we were in rotterdam to see the architectur center, and "found" the sonneveld hous too, a beautiful archtectural treasure! Rotterdam is full of interseting architectur. did you see the luxor theater?


If you like this kind of houses, where interior, exterior and furniture are designed by the same person to exist in harmony, you should consider passing by Brussels. There you can find Victor Horta's house, inside the Horta museum.


I love the clean lines and unclutter look. I can see myself living in a house like that.


This reminds me of the Neutra VDL 2 house in Los Angeles. The funds for the house were donated by a Dutch industrialist, interestingly. It was such a cool house to visit because the feeling of being in the house -- like being in a giant treehouse, full of light -- was something I couldn't capture with photos. It was just an incredibly peaceful place. It seems like the house you visited was like that too.


Hi Heidi - your beautiful pictures remind of me when I took an 'architectural tour' of Rotterdam a long time ago. Have a lovely time!


San Francisco is no joke in the rainy season either... But I guess you wouldn't do much biking, at least!!!!

Three Layer Cake

Hm. I saw this post and wondered if said house was named after Dic Sonneveled, one of the premier puzzle designers in a country that has a disproportionate share of top-flight puzzle folks (i.e., the Netherlands). No such luck I guess :)

Derrick Schneider

Enjoy your time in the Netherlands. It's a shame that we won't have the chance to meet. Maybe next time....


love the soft colours and clean lines. more local interests please! (this is kinda like being there!)


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