Modern Sustainable Home Set in the Middle of the Forest

Modern Sustainable Home Set in the Middle of the Forest

Architects: Reitsema & partners architects
Project: Modern Sustainable Home
Lead Architects: Theo Reitsema, Stephanie Weitering
Design Team: Jacob Kunst, Dennis Weerink, Haroen Martens, Tim de Graag
Location: Rijssen, The Netherlands
Area: 276.0 m2
Photography: Ronald Tilleman

How do you transform a 50-year-old villa into a comfortable, contemporary, modern sustainable home? To find the answer, the architect Theo Reitsema and the interior designer Stephanie Weitering, who are married to each other, spent a year living in a 1967-built house in the Dutch community of Rijssen, looking, listening and feeling. They and their two young children settled in the villa, set in the middle of the forest but just a five-minute bike ride from the town centre. Together they explored the possibilities presented by the house and its location.

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Natural cooling
Reitsema and Weitering made discoveries during that first year in the woods that would inform the house’s transformation. For instance, the family occupied the villa through all four seasons. Living on a hill in the forest means you’re surrounded by greenery in summer. Since the thick foliage provides shade, the house doesn’t need any sun protection or air conditioning beyond an overhang on the west side. And in winter, when the trees have shed their leaves, the low sun warms the house and its occupants can see for hundreds of metres through the branches.

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Landscape-led
During the metamorphosis, Reitsema and Weitering took full advantage of Villa RR’s hilltop position. The house comprises two storeys on the east side and one on the west. The application of dark stucco to the lower floor, which contains a double garage and a home office, turned it into a sort of plinth for the floor above, where the living and sleeping areas are located. The upper storey is given a distinctive appearance by a new wooden facade, which is relatively closed on the east side and fully open on the west. The front door marks the transition between the two sections. A playful outdoor staircase gives the entrance extra appeal.

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Panoramic views
Reitsema and Weitering might not have thought of building the house lengthwise on the deep lot, precisely along the east-west axis. But they applaud the decision by the original architect, J. Abma of Amsterdam. The house’s orientation allows for views of both the north and south sides of the garden from the living room. To maximise enjoyment of the landscape, Villa RR has been extended with a glass volume at the western end. The roof is supported by four slender (38mm) chromed columns that reflect the landscape, enhancing the panoramic views from the living room.

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Two living rooms
The original floor plan was well designed. The transformation has kept the living spaces on the west side of the house and the bedrooms on the east. Between the bedrooms and the living room is the garden room. In contrast to the light, airy living room, the garden room is darker and more enclosed. The use of timber cladding continues on the garden room’s walls, transforming it into a veranda when the bi-fold doors are opened fully and creating a smooth transition between the interior and the flower garden.

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Optimum comfort / modern sustainable home
The architects have taken a number of steps to ensure that the house will continue to provide a high level of comfort in the future. They have installed a heat recovery system, triple glazing, high-quality insulation, LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances and prepared the installation for the next generation of heat pumps, making Villa RR nearly energy-neutral and ready for the next 50 years.

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