Eclectic Homes

Must-Know Modern Homes: The Rietveld Schröder House

In November 1918 the De Stijl group, headed by artist Theo van Doesburg, published its first manifesto, eight factors aimed at abandoning tradition in favor of the organic blend of architecture, sculpture and painting. The name De Stijl, which is Dutch for “the design,” suggests not only that the group’s members planned for something fresh, but that they prioritized the universal over the person. Both as a movement and as a publication of the identical name, De Stijl lasted until 1932, the year following van Doesburg expired. Other famous members of this group included artist Piet Mondrian, architect J.J.P. Oud and architect Gerrit Rietveld.

Easily the Best realization of De Stijl’s ideals on the scale of a building is your Schröder House (currently the Rietveld Schröder House, conducted by the Centraal Museum in the Netherlands) designed by Rietveld. The breaking of the distinctions between design, sculpture and painting occurs from the manipulation of airplanes, the flexibility of open space via moveable partitions and the use of primary colours. And like most great buildings, the house is the product of a great relationship between its architect and its owner.

Rietveld Schröder House at a Glance
Year constructed: 1924
Gerrit Rietveld
Location: Utrecht, Netherlands
Visiting information: Audio tours or guided tours accessible
Size: 1,200 square feet

More: 10 Must-Know Modern Homes

Even though the De Stijl group tried for the universal, the house which Rietveld designed for Truus Schröder-Schräder is highly private. A widow with three kids, the owner pictured the house for a means to break from the bourgeois traditions of the 19th century. This was a notion she had cultivated prior to the death of her husband in 1923, with the renovation of an apartment too by Rietveld.

Another private characteristic of the house is the collaborative effort that led from her working with Rietveld on the inside’s built-in furnishings. She’s also credited with the idea for the moveable partitions inside, among the home’s most influential features.

The house is located at the end of a block of traditional Dutch row homes. In the time the house was literally at the edge of Utrecht, looking out over polders, canals and meadows. Therefore, as the previous photo suggests, the home’s exterior is more open to the side, where the entry is also located, compared to street.

But 15 years after the home’s completion, an increased ring road was assembled, all but destroying the open view. Some view is stored only because the living room is elevated to the upper floor, an idiosyncrasy that extended by the apartment Rietveld renovated for Schröder-Schräder, located above her husband’s ground-floor office.


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When Schröder-Schräder commissioned Rietveld to design a small house for her and her three kids, the architect had not yet designed a building. He was known for furniture, particularly the Red Blue Chair; its own kind dates back to 1918, but it didn’t receive its distinctive color scheme until 1923.

The seat, which appears anything but comfy, is a graphical practice in De Stijl ideals. The all-important planes receive the red and blue paint, but the dimensional timber which makes up the arms and structure is painted black, with yellow highlights at the tips. The yellow gives the impression that the wood pieces are actually abstract lines which are cut to create the chair. It is easy to see the relationship of Rietveld’s seat to the paintings of Mondrian.

The Red Blue Chair’s composition of lines and airplanes can be similarly grasped from the Rietveld Schröder House’s exterior. Here we see the “front” of the house, which could have confronted the open meadows from the 1920s. Instead of the standard brick walls with windows such as its neighbors, your house is a layering of painted airplanes with large openings, both windows and doors. Columns, railings, nonstructural posts and even window frames are the traces left in primary colors against the airplanes.

Note the way the airplanes in the foreground are white, becoming progressively darker as they recede to the inside. A flat plane functions as a sunshade over the windows of this living-dining space, though it seems to be significant in terms of the home’s three-dimensional composition of airplanes.

Turning the corner to the back of the house, we can see how the airplanes shift relative to one another (the interlocking of this small balcony and vertical guardrail, for example) and how the airplanes extend in all directions. The exterior isn’t merely a two-dimensional Mondrian-style work enlarged to a building; it is a intricate layering that simplifies the interaction between interior and exterior, and it is no more seen as a straightforward and different separation. Yet the interior is where the home’s complex qualities actually come into play.

Before moving indoors, let us look at a couple explanatory drawings. Here is an axonometric by Rietveld that exemplifies the plan of the best floor. The central stair along with four quadrants of this rectangular plan are observable, although the strongest articulation is awarded to the colored elements, the built-in furnishings which Schröder-Schräder assisted design.

The collaborative nature of the relationship, said before, also extends to how the house was utilized. Schröder-Schräder occupied the house for six decades, until her death in 1985 at age 95. For a variety of the years, Rietveld used part of the house within an office (from its completion to 1932) and later as a residence — to the last six years of his life, after his wife passed away in 1958. For both decades Schröder-Schräder lived after Rietveld’s departure, she labored to cement the home’s important part in structure, compiling a history of the house, handing over the house to a base for public visits and arranging for the home’s restoration, which took place two years after her passing.

The flexible nature of the best floor is expressed from these two floor plans, closed (left) and open (right). The 3 spaces off the hall can be opened into one continuous space. In this aspect, it’s easy to see why the built-in furniture has been so significant; it requires an increasingly functional role when walls no more serve to define space.

This view from the hall to the living-dining space on the left and work-sleeping space on the right indicates the transformation that occurs when the walls are open. Even the glass walls at the edge of the stair retract to start up this floor as far as you can.

All the colours — white, grays, black, yellow, blue, crimson — are carefully used on the walls, furniture and flooring. The green of the trees is just another color added by character through the large windows, particularly the corner window in the living-dining location. Note the highway sound barrier observable through the window at right.

But more dramatic is that this view perpendicular to the prior set of photos. Here we are looking at two living-sleeping regions that become a single space.

The Rietveld Schröder House is open for visits with reservations. In 2000 the house was made a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Banham, Reyner. Age of the Experts: A Personal View of Modern Architecture. Harper & Row, 1975. Conrads, Ulrich, ed. Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture. MIT Press, 1994 (first published in 1964).
Curtis, William J.R. Modern Architecture Since 1900. Prentice-Hall, third edition, 1996 (first published in 1982).Overy, Paul. The Rietveld Schröder House. MIT Press, 1988.
Rietveld Schröder House, Centraal MuseumTrachtenberg, Marvin and Hyman, Isabelle. Architecture: From Prehistory to Post-Modernism. Harry N. Abrams, 1986.
UNESCO World Heritage Centre
More: 10 Must-Know Modern Homes

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