When Roland Manders and Hanne Caspersen asked their friend and frequent collaborator architect Marnix van de Meer, of Zecc Architecten, to help convert a 1900s garage in the Wittevrouwen neighborhood of Utrecht into their dream home, they didn’t know the end result would be as much a sculpture as it is a house.
Roland, a steel artist at Staalstudio in Utrecht, and Hanne, a designer, searched the city for more than a year, looking for an affordable property they could tailor to their needs. "The garage was in a poor condition, but we knew we could make it what we wanted," Roland says.
The couple maintained the garage’s ground floor, and the brick walls on either side. Above the ground level, they added two additional floors, framing them with timber. They recreated the rear facade with cement boards, which they finished with pale gray plasterwork. And when it came to the front facade, they looked to van der Meer and Zecc Architecten.
Van der Meer wrapped the front facade in striking orange-brown Cor-Ten steel that both stands out and blends in with the architectural fabric of the neighborhood. "The choice to use Cor-Ten steel was made out of love for the material, as Roland is a steel artist," the architect says. "It contrasts with the brick of the neighboring buildings, but it also keeps with them beautifully because the discoloration refers to the patina of the archetypical Dutch brick."
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The front facade’s features are also in line with historical elements that define the surrounding buildings. According to van der Meer, during the mid-19th century, the small streets of Wittevrouwen were lined with working-class houses that give the neighborhood its characteristic appearance.
"I revamped the stylistic features of a working-class house," the architect says. "The residence stands out in abstraction and material, but through form, composition, and details, it’s in keeping with adjacent buildings." The architect clad the roof cowl, the dormer, the chimney, and the cornices in Cor-Ten steel, too, so that the entire front facade appears as if it was carved out of a single sheet of steel.
Roland and Hanne built the interior architecture themselves with the help of vof de Bouwmaat. "We wanted an unconventional and highly personal living space, because we like architecture and design," Roland says. "We’re very inspired by materials and texture, and we used materiality as our starting point."
Much like the Cor-Ten steel facade, a massive staircase and various built-in furniture pieces look as if they were carved from massive chunks of oak, lending continuity and an artful quality that anchors the interior space.
Roland and Hanne arranged the rooms so that the public space, including the kitchen and the dining area, lies on the ground level. There’s a private living room with a wood-burning stove and a bathroom on the second level. A bedroom, a bathroom, a balcony, and a cozy reading nook set within a dormer are tucked away on the third level.
"I like to chill on the base platform of the staircase," Roland says. "It’s a bit protected from street views by a large, steel wardrobe. And from that position, I can communicate with Hanne no matter where she is in the house."
More from Zecc Architecten:
Construction: Roland Manders and Hanne Caspersen, Staalstudio, and vof de Bouwmaat
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