explore rotterdam's iconic 1930s sonneveld house through the lens of francesca pompei

explore rotterdam's iconic 1930s sonneveld house through the lens of francesca pompei

Sonneveld House, an emblem of Dutch Functionalist style


Rotterdam‘s Sonneveld House is one of the best-preserved villas in the Dutch Functionalist style. Designed in 1933 by architecture firm Brinkman and Van der Vlugt for Albertus Sonneveld, a director of the Van Nelle Factory, the residence-turned-museum follows the Bauhaus style, with basic shapes and airy rooms basked in natural lighting. Together, these elements emphasize how architecture, interior, and furnishings perfectly coordinate and reinforce one another. Before its restoration and public opening in 2001, the villa enjoyed a long history and was home to various residents. Today, visitors are welcome to glimpse how the Sonnevelds lived there at the time.

explore rotterdam's iconic 1930s sonneveld house through the lens of francesca pompei
all images © Francesca Pompei (unless stated otherwise)

first image courtesy Het Nieuwe Instituut



The benchmark for the restoration was, therefore, the condition of the house when it was completed in 1933. Alterations made to the house while it was occupied by the Sonneveld family were also regarded as authentic. All alterations made after the family’s departure have been reversed,’ shares the museum team. The Sonneveld House is also part of the Iconic Houses Network, which promotes and honors this Modernist landmark still little known outside the Netherlands. Discover the uplifted spaces through the lens of architectural photographer Francesca Pompei.

the unveiled beauty of the sonneveld house 1
the Sonneveld Museum House | a view of the dining room with an oriental handmade carpet



Francesca Pompei captures the fully restored 1933 interiors


 A striking aspect of the house is the way Brinkman and Van der Vlugt designed not only the architecture but the complete interior too, rearranging iconic Le Cobusier pieces or using luxurious details like the handmade Moroccan carpet and the French palette. Almost all items of furniture and lamps in the house museum were made by the firm of Gispen, some of them specially for the Sonnevelds. This customization reveals the family’s appreciation of luxury and comfort. Sonneveld House is therefore not a dogmatic example of functionalism, but a personal environment.

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a glimpse of the original bedroom



how the archives enabled a near-complete preservation


One can trace the original condition of Sonneveld House almost entirely from records held in the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut, including those of architects Brinkman and Van der Vlugt. The records include a series of detailed interior drawings of all rooms. Moreover, the personal Sonneveld family and business archives of W.H. Gispen contain vast amounts of helpful information about the house’s daily life and interior. As a result, owing to color research carried out inside the house, it was possible to preserve and reconstruct it meticulously, including the original color scheme, soft furnishings, and furniture. 

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a corner of the studio zone



Thanks to the Sonneveld heirs, almost half of the original 1933 furniture, lamps, and utensils are now part of the space. The heirs have loaned their family archive to Het Nieuwe Instituut, who is responsible for the management of Sonneveld House. This archive contains both objects and a wealth of information about the occupants in documents, correspondence, and photographs. All this material is administered by the Stichting Beheer Interieur Huis Sonneveld (BIHS) foundation, set up by Leonard Kooy, Albertus and Gesine Sonneveld’s grandchild.

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a view of the dining room facing the garden



During and after the restoration of Sonneveld House in 2001, the restoration team recreated the condition of the 1933 interior as faithfully as possible — mainly with objects owned by the Sonneveld heirs, among them items of furniture and lamps, as well as personal belongings acquired by the family between 1933 and 1955. Photographs and other historical material confirm the presence of these objects in the house, enabling as complete a reconstruction as possible of the original interior. In some cases, replicas of original designs were necessary. For example, the tea trolley in the dining room has been remade based on drawings from the archive of architects Brinkman and Van der Vlugt.



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studio zone



In addition, art and design from the 1930s, particularly glasswork, have been added to revitalize the interior of Sonneveld Museum House. Although not among the original contents of the house, these objects could easily have graced the interior, given the family’s preferences, or because they blend harmoniously with the style of the house or the spirit of the times. Examples include the canary yellow breakfast service by H.P. Berlage and Piet Zwart on the dining table, a tea service, and various vases on loan from the National Glass Museum. To keep the Sonneveld House spirit alive, Het Nieuwe Instituut decided to activate the monument from time to time by inviting an artist, designer, or architect to make a site specific installation.

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wavy staircase to the first floor

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a private corner of the bedroom in the first floor




project info:


name: The Sonneveld House | more here

location: Rotterdam
original architects: Brinkman and Van der Vlugt
photographer: Francesca Pompei | @fpompei_architecture_photos



designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

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