Barend Koolhaas creates a minimalist gem on a small budget.

Not long after Barend Koolhaas left OMA, his uncle Rem Koolhaas's architecture firm, to open his own practice, a relative asked him to design a family weekend retreat in the quaint Dutch town of Almen. The budget was small—roughly $150,000—and Koolhaas had to figure out a way to keep out views of a neighboring house. The architect's ingenious solution was to design the floor plan as a right angled triangle that opens up on its long side to private garden views.

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The house's triangular shape effectively blocks sight of a large wall that stands nearby. "The form of the plan really follows out of making the best for the garden and the views," Koolhaas says.

In keeping with Scandinavian building traditions, locally sourced Douglas fir clads the exterior. "The clients like the simplicity of [local] barns," Koolhaas says. The black paint also helps draw in heat, which is important in the region's cold climate.

The house's "traditional" feel, Koolhaas says, is "only as thick as the layer of wood on the outside." When entering, the eyes travel straight back through the massive windows to the green yard beyond. "It appears as though there is no house behind the facade, like the houses on a movie set," he says.

The 57-foot panoramic window was inspired by traditional "Engawa" houses in Japan. Koolhaas preserved its minimalistic aesthetic by camouflaging the supporting wood beam in white laminate and nestling it in the space just beneath the ceiling. He also kept the beam small by installing a tree-like column to help carry the weight of the second floor and roof. "The actual tree that was used for it came out of the garden," the architect says. "In this way, the small forest in the garden continues into the house."

In the sparse living area, two gray Gispen chairs designed by Wim Rietveld sit around a standalone wood stove. A Slow Glow Lamp designed by Aura Luz Melis for Droog Design hangs at the room's center.

The architect minimized costs by keeping the detailing relatively simple. That naturally led to simple shapes and clean lines that enhance the home's minimalist feel.

In the upstairs bedroom, a square skylight opens to a patch of sky.

At night, residents can draw the curtains closed for privacy.

  • Barend Koolhaas