For its latest project, emerging Dutch practice Bláha Architecture + Design has completed a four-storey designed-to-rent townhouse in the city of The Hague, the Netherlands. The project was commissioned in 2014 by a private client that wanted to redevelop an existing property for investment purposes. 334 Sumatrastraat is located on a typical nineteenth century street of middle class housing in the historical neighbourhood of Archipel in the centre of The Hague.
The project transforms a dilapidated 1880 terraced house into an ideal home that can either be let out as a whole house for a young family, or as two separate apartments for young professionals with their own front doors. To create an attractive and generous space Bláha has made a number of key moves, including converting the roof space into a bedroom, adding a courtyard garden, and extending the property by an extra 2.5m across the rear on every floor to create further floor space and external terraces, as well as a completely contemporary rear facade.
From the front, the main facade has been restored very much true to its original design, with a side front door next to double garage doors and two floors with double bays. The only modification is the additional two dormer windows on the roof. The original brickwork has been repointed, and the timber windows and roof replaced.
Inside however, the house has been completely renovated, with only a handful of existing elements retained because of the poor state of the building upon purchase. Rather than replace these elements with replicas, Bláha has turned the inside into a contemporary living space that juxtaposes old with new. From the outside, visitors will expect a historical property complete with small rooms. However, on entering they will find light-filled, expansive spaces, characterised by clean lines, neat storage solutions and a calming palette of whites, greys and natural materials.
This surprise begins on the ground floor, which occupies the entire 28m-deep plot. Designed as a ‘big loft’, the continuous 102m2 space can be let out both as a garage/workshop to tenants taking the whole house, or as an additional separate live/work studio. An exciting move has been to claw back some of the previously filled in ground floor at the rear of the plot to create a walled courtyard, which has access to the terrace above via a small steel stair. This new courtyard brings light and outdoor views into the ground floor.
Upstairs, the contemporary theme continues. Bláha has created a new core in the centre of the northern party wall. This core contains an open stairwell and acts partially as a cloakroom on the first floor, complete with closets and a WC, then as a landing on the second floor. On the first floor, this core opens onto a long double aspect living space, with a living room area towards the front elevation, and a kitchen and dining area to the rear of the house that in turn opens onto a large terrace through full-height glazing. This open space can then be sub-divided by sliding walls on either side of the core to create more intimate spaces as required. The kitchen is a pared back design focused around an impressive and sophisticated Carrera marble island – a material that continues throughout the house for fire surrounds, as well as in the bathrooms and WCs.
Continuing upstairs, the upper two floors are for sleeping. On the second floor is a central marble bathroom sandwiched between a bedroom to the rear with a new terrace that looks over the surrounding back gardens, as well as a room to the front of the house that has access via a white steel stair to a mezzanine bedroom on the third floor in the converted attic. This ante space can be either used as a home office or dressing area. The sleeping area on the floor above, meanwhile, also has full-height glazing and doors opening onto another generous new terrace.
From the rear, the house is again a tale of contrasts between old and new. Whereas the front is historical, the rear has been transformed into a spectacular ziggurat of terraces projecting out from the original building line on every level. A bold architectural statement, it is unexpected and surprising, as well as makes the home fit for modern indoor/outdoor living.
Overall, the house has been designed to be spacious, flexible and is finished with high-quality, bespoke materials and elements. The restrained palette of materials continues inside and out – using, for example, the steel balustrades painted white inside but black outside to create contrast. The success of the design was reinforced as the house was let out for a five-year contract as soon as it was put on the market earlier this year.