Sonneveld House Museum
Sonneveld House Museum, situated on the edge of Museumpark in Rotterdam, is one of the best-preserved homes built in the Dutch Functionalist style. It was designed in the 1930s by architecture office Brinkman and Van der Vlugt, renowned for the Van Nelle Factory and Feyenoord Stadium. They also worked on the interior in close collaboration with W.H. Gispen. Sonneveld House shows how a prominent Rotterdam family embraced modernism, and how that choice coloured their everyday surroundings. The interior has been enriched with art and utensils acquired through donations, purchases and loans.
Sonneveld House, which enjoys national heritage status, was opened to the public in 2001 after undergoing restoration work to recreate the original condition of the house and interior. Sonneveld House has, however, enjoyed a long history and been home to various residents. Above all else, the museum had to reconstruct the house of the Sonnevelds and offer a glimpse of how they lived there at the time. The benchmark for the restoration was therefore the condition of house when it was completed in 1933. Alterations made to the house while it was occupied by the Sonneveld family were also regarded as authentic. All alterations made after the family’s departure have been reversed.
Role of the archive
The original condition of the house can be traced almost entirely from records held in the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut, including those of the architects Brinkman and Van der Vlugt. The records include a series of detailed interior drawings of all rooms in the house. Moreover, the personal archive of the Sonneveld family and the business archive of W.H. Gispen contain vast amounts of useful information about daily life in the house and about the interior. As a result, and owing to colour research carried out inside the house, it was possible not only to preserve the house but also to reconstruct it meticulously, including the original colour scheme, soft furnishings and furniture.
Thanks to the Sonneveld heirs, almost half of the furniture, lamps and utensils are originals dating from 1933. The heirs have loaned their family archive to Het Nieuwe Instituut, who is responsible for the management of Sonneveld House. This archive contains not only objects that belonged in the house but also a wealth of information about the occupants, in the form of documents, correspondence and photographs. All this material is administered by a foundation called Stichting Beheer Interieur Huis Sonneveld (BIHS), set up by Leonard Kooy, the grandchild of Albertus and Gesine Sonneveld. This foundation is also dedicated to sourcing and acquiring original items.
Reconstruction and enrichment
During and after the restoration of Sonneveld House in 2001, the condition of the interior when it was completed in 1933 was recreated as faithfully as possible. This was largely achieved with objects owned by the Sonneveld heirs, among them items of furniture and lamps, as well as personal belongings acquired by the family when they lived in the house from 1933 to 1955. Photographs and other historical material confirm the presence of these objects in the house, enabling as complete a reconstruction as possible of the original interior. In some cases replicas have been made according to original designs. For example, the tea trolley in the dining room has been remade on the basis of drawings from the archive of architects Brinkman en Van der Vlugt.
In addition, art and design from the 1930s, in particular glasswork, have been added to enliven the interior of Sonneveld Museum House. Although not among the original contents of the house, these objects could easily have graced the interior, given the preferences of the family, or because they blend harmoniously with the style of the house or the spirit of the times. Examples include the canary yellow breakfast service by H.P. Berlage and Piet Zwart on the dining table, a tea service, and various vases on loan from the National Glass Museum.
Careful restoration work and interior refurbishment has turned Sonneveld House into a magnificent monument. The danger of a museum house, however, is that it is frozen in time. After all, the residents who brought the house to life have departed. That is why Het Nieuwe Instituut decided to activate the monument from time to time by inviting an artist, designer or architect to make a 'site specific' installation. See all interventions since 2013
Sonneveld House is a member of the Iconic Houses Network. The Iconic Houses website offers an overview of modern museum houses and houses belonging to architects all over the world that are open to the public. The organisation also serves professionals responsible for looking after museum houses and aims to share knowledge and expertise on conservation, programming and public outreach. See the special focus on Sonneveld Museum House on the Iconic Houses website.
Owner: Stichting Volkskracht Historische Monumenten, Rotterdam
Management: Het Nieuwe Instituut
Restoration 2001: Molenaar & Van Winden Architecten
Refurbishment: Het Nieuwe Instituut.
With special thanks to Stichting Behoud Interieur Huis Sonneveld (BIHS) and Leonard Kooy, and to the National Glass Museum in Leerdam for the loan of objects.
Concept development, picture and text editing: Het Nieuwe Instituut
Photography: Johannes Schwartz (unless otherwise stated)
Graphic design: Marc Hollenstein
Interaction design: Thomas Bircher
Technical aspects: Hoppinger
The management of Sonneveld House and the completion of the website were made possible through financial contributions from
Stichting Volkskracht, Rotterdam
Stichting Volkskracht Historische Monumenten