Zecc Architects and Roel van Norel show just what can happen when great minds work together.
Fine craftsmanship underlies this collaboration between Zecc Architects and designer Roel van Norel in the quiet forest north of Utrecht. Bert Oostenbruggen planned the home's basic structure, including its unusual shutters, while van Norel handmade its bespoke wooden interior. The result is a thoughtful, versatile cabin that Oostenbruggen says lets the owners "flee daily life" while taking in as much or as little of nature as they like.
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Building atop the foundation of a previous greenhouse was a cost-cutting measure; it allowed the project to be considered a renovation and thereby qualify for a temporary tax reduction. Its traditional, gabled form also pays homage to the original structure.
The house may appear conventional at a glance, but a closer look shows how Oostenbruggen has pushed the boundaries of the traditional gabled typology. It has an asymmetrical roof, with slate shingles that extend down the eastern side to close it off completely.
With one side of the house closed off, views are directed through the glazed south and west facades to the grassy clearing beyond. "We planted tens of thousands of blue bells and lots of rhododendrons," Oostenbruggen says of the green space. "The setting developed over time."
The west side is clad with six shutters made of horizontal, western red cedar slats that can be opened or closed with a single movement. "We wanted it to be able to feel cozy when needed," Oostenbruggen says.
The house's open plan is neatly divided into public and private spaces, with the front containing the kitchen and living areas and the back holding the bedroom and bath, overhung by a small mezzanine. A hidden wooden panel can be drawn closed between the two sections for greater privacy.
Fine wood craftsmanship defines the dwelling's interior, where all the facilities—from the kitchen cabinets to the fireplace to the bathroom—are integrated into a single oak wall, handmade by van Norel. He also made the dining table, which is paired with Philippe Starck master chairs—the only ready-made items in the space other than fixtures and appliances.
Light breaks through the bedroom's north wall through a vertical window that cuts from the floor up past the second floor mezzanine to the roof's ridgeline. The bed is custom.
In the bedroom, a door opens directly to the stainless steel shower. A half-bath sits just outside the bedroom, allowing guests easy access to it when the wood panel dividing the bedroom from the main area is drawn. The sinks are by Duravit and faucets by Grohe.
The house's ceiling was hewn from Douglas fir, which gives off a warm glow. The rafters were designed to emulate the look of strong ceiling beams.
When the shutters are closed, the house assumes an introverted character.