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Sonneveld House, Rotterdam

Museum house: a real 1930s attraction

An example of luxurious modernist living 1930s style, the Sonneveld house at Jongkindstraat 12 in Rotterdam was designed and built by architects Brinkman & Van der Vlugt between 1929 and 1933. After a period of disrepair, it was restored by Molenaar & Co architects to its former glory in the 1997-2001 period.

The house is named after the man who commissioned it, A.H. Sonneveld, a director of the Van Nelle tobacco factory in Rotterdam-Overschie. Almost immediately, it became an international icon of New Objectivity. After two years of inventory and research by Joris Molenaar, Stichting Volkskracht Historische Monumenten, which had owned it since 1997, decided that the villa should become a museum. In 1999, due to our experience of restoration and our knowledge of the work ofBrinkman & Van der Vlugt , we were awarded the contract to restore this listed building and to reconstruct its interior. The house is currently managed by Het Nieuwe Instituut (formerly the Netherlands Architecture Institute, NAi).

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Modelled on the luxurious residences of the French bourgeoisie, the complex plan of the imposing white-plastered villa consists of separate living and service areas that can function independently of each other. Le Corbusier would have described the villa as ‘a machine for living.’ It has three floors above a cellar, and is surrounded by the garden designed for it at the outset. With open and closed volumes and planes, and alternations between high and low, the façade is composed of verticals and horizontals; there are terraces and decking, with slender railings whose detailing was inspired by naval architecture.

With regard to the meticulous restoration and reconstruction of the interior, our objective was to recreate the original design and its use of materials as authentically as possible. The same approach was taken to the restoration of the façade with its plaster and steel-framed windows, to the conservation of the steel skeleton in the dry cavity wall, and to the reappointment of the sanitary areas.

After researching colours and textiles with various specialists, we were able to fit out the many rooms with a surprising range of original fabrics and colours, including orange and bright green, and also primary colours, bronze and other metallic shades. The Sonneveld family gave much of the Gispen furniture it had bought in 1933 to the museum in permanent loan. Thanks to other permanent loans by individuals and museums, the NAi was able to complete this with original tubular-steel furniture and Leerdam glassware, to which we added a small number of reproductions.

Project information


Stichting Volkskracht Historische Monumenten, Rotterdam


Jongkindstraat 12, Rotterdam


2001 ©Molenaar & Van Winden architecten

completed at

Schakel & Schrale, Amsterdam

photography by

Jannes Linders