An Old Dutch Row House Is Reimagined as a Light-Filled Haven
It’s easy to see how Hidden House got its name. The home is set back 100 feet on one of the oldest streets in Rotterdam in the Kralingen neighborhood, tucked behind a fortress of greenery. Originally built in 1840 on the grounds of a castle that dated to the 15th century, the home was scooped up in 2016 by Erica Chladová and Robert van der Pol, founders of Rotterdam studio LMNL, who planted lush gardens and gave it an update.
"When we bought it, there was no insulation, single pane glass, rotten floor beams, exposed pipes, and a leaking roof," say Erica, an architect and landscape architect, and Robert, a landscape architect. They proceeded with a gut renovation of the modest 1,000-square-foot plan, using sustainable materials and strategies that maximized storage, space, and light.
The ground floor is one open room holding the dining, kitchen, and living spaces. A wood-burning stove clad in tile nests between the dining area and the kitchen, where a muted-green island topped with marble forms the nucleus of the house.A custom stair with a built-in bookcase leads to the second level containing two bedrooms, an office, and one full bathroom. Strategically placed skylights brighten the spaces.
Because the exterior is a protected historic facade, the whole house had to be insulated from the inside. The architects stripped back the masonry walls to reveal bare brick, then applied wood-fiber insulation between earth and clay plasters. "The wall is fully vapor permeable which is really important so that it can regulate moisture levels through the changing seasons," say Erica and Robert. The crawl space is also insulated and kept dry with a material made of shells from the North Sea, which is an ancient Roman technique.
Retaining the hidden feel of the home was of utmost importance to both Robert and Erica. The house is surrounded on all sides by lush, verdant gardens. Trees like juneberries, Himalayan birches, willows, and witch hazels mix with ferns, climbers, vegetable beds, and hundreds of varietals of perennial plants from the duo’s botanical collection. "There are a lot of species," they say. "We use it as a bit of a laboratory."
There are also hives of local black bees and a bespoke greenhouse that forms a link between the house and the garden. This is one of the duo’s favorite spots, as it features walls of glass and a cozy hammock that beckons on warm spring days.
14 Row Houses and Brownstones "Before & After" Their Much-Needed Makeovers
Before & After: A Century-Old Row House in Montreal Gets a Glorious Renovation
Architect of Record: LMNL Office for Architecture and Landscape / @lmnl_office
Builder / General Contractor: A.A. van Bergeijk and VIC Landscapes
Landscape Design: LMNL
Interior Design: LMNL
Get the Renovations Newsletter
From warehouse conversions to rehabbed midcentury gems, to expert advice and budget breakdowns, the renovation newsletter serves up the inspiration you need to tackle your next project.