A Glass-and-Stone Aerie in Rotterdam With Design to Match the Views

Gay Gassmann

When architecture firm Powerhouse Company cofounder Nanne de Ru decided to build a new home for his family some six years ago, he aimed for the sky—literally. “[Our headquarters] was located in an old, abandoned office building, in what is called an empty squat—a way to prevent squatters,” says De Ru, looking back. The building was in terrible condition, constructed in the 1960s, with low ceilings installed in the 1980s and walls seemingly everywhere. After a while, he poked around a bit and discovered that much of the building actually had relatively high spaces, behind dropped ceilings. “And sometimes on Fridays, we would all go up on the roof and have a beer, and there was this amazing view of Rotterdam,” De Ru adds. “That’s when I said to my wife"—who also works at the firm—"that it would be amazing to build our house up there.”

The Powerhouse Company signature spiral staircase connects the top floor of the existing building with the newly created penthouse. The stair is made of champagne-colored stucco and oak steps.

Two years later, following a change of zoning, they ended up with the entire five-story building and began painstakingly carving out 20 individual apartments within, keeping the roof for themselves. (They also used part of the preexisting top floor for their three children.) Ultimately, De Ru designed a sleek and elegant structure that sits on the building, giving deference to its panoramic views of the city, the harbor, and the skyline. “The sun moves around the house all day,” he says of the striking contemporary structure. “The glass sheets [enclosing the house] are quite large—one is slightly curved to give it elegance and not be too boxy. The [apartment’s] roof rests on the glass, the largest example of load bearing glass in Western Europe.”

On the main level, there is a living room, kitchen, dining room, master bedroom suite, and music room. “This room is crucial, as we all play instruments and sing,” De Ru shares enthusiastically. “And they have a shared space on the fifth floor and their own little balcony to play soccer,” De Ru says of their kids. “We have a lot of fun.”

A Glass-and-Stone Aerie in Rotterdam With Design to Match the Views

The two floors are linked by a generous, signature spiral staircase, by which visitors arrive in the living room, surrounded by glass and jaw-dropping views of the River Maas and the city skyline. The floor is a light gray resin and the basketball artwork in the background is by Daniel Arsham.
The dining room is backed by a dark-painted American walnut wall to avoid glare in the panoramic glass façade. The wall is designed around the large charcoal drawing by Rotterdam-based artist Renie Spoelstra. The dining table, on a Saarinen Tulip base above a Wool Studio carpet, is custom; the chairs are by Henning Larsen for Fritz Hansen, 1980s.
The kitchen has a red travertine floor, which complements the silver travertine used on the hallway floor. The bar light fixture has semicircular elements, referencing the large curved windows of the façade. The bar stools are vintage midcentury pieces.
The kitchen is an homage to Rotterdam’s midcentury-modern architecture of the post-war reconstruction era. The counter is made of Italian green serpentino stone, the cabinets of Mahogany wood, and the black backsplash is painted glass. The gold resin cabinets cast a warm, golden light in the kitchen.
The living room features a vintage brutalist coffee table and two rare cream-colored Eames chairs, both sourced by vintage specialists Morentz. The carpet is handmade from the wool of biodynamic Dutch sheep.
The large glass façade is not only load bearing but also ultraclear glass.
One of the bathrooms is covered entirely in silver travertine, including the custom basin.
The walls and floor of the music room are lined in walnut and oak. The ceiling is dark stucco, creating an intimate and acoustically ideal room. As all the kids love to play instruments, this is the room where most of the action occurs on the weekends.
All three kids’ rooms have mezzanine beds and their own compact bathrooms, each fitted with gold-colored fixtures. “I thought it would be great if our kids would grow up in a house with golden tabs,” says De Ru, laughing.
The children’s rooms are kept relatively compact in order to create more space for a large communal working space with a TV and gaming corner. The carpet is by Moooi / Bertjan Pot, the Revolving Chandelier is also by Bertjan Pot, the clay chairs are by Maarten Baas, and the hanging artwork is by Ron van der Ende.
The kids’ rooms are located one floor below the penthouse, on the top floor of the existing former office building. The space is characterized by its height—nearly 12 feet—and the béton brut, or raw concrete, ceiling. All rooms on this level are clad in American walnut.
The Powerhouse Company signature spiral staircase connects the top floor of the existing building with the newly created penthouse. The stair is made of champagne-colored stucco and oak steps.
See the video.

Materials are important to the mix, as De Ru wanted to incorporate ones used in post-war Rotterdam, such as travertine, mahogany, and green stone. It was important for him to pay tribute to the building historically, as well as to the reconstruction of the Dutch city itself. Other materials throughout include gold resin on the kitchen doors, adding a warm glow, and a Powerhouse signature staircase of gold, metallic-painted stucco, and oak steps. It’s easy to understand why this house in the sky—always full of family and friends, music, and parties—was, in De Ru and his family’s view, well worth any extra effort.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest