Among Dunes: Schoorl House

WORDS AND PRODUCTION Marc Heldens STYLING Lisa van der Kolk PHOTOS Alan Jensen

Nestled behind the dunes of an expansive nature reserve is a spectacular family home that not only honours but also adds to the surrounding landscape.

In terms of windswept coastal beauty, it doesn’t get much better than this 7 300-hectare dune field in Noord-Holland – one of the largest nature reserves in the Netherlands. And it’s here that Harmen Lodewijk and Julia Fagel chose to build their home, on a slightly elevated location where dunes merge into polder landscape, with the house and its garden forming a connection between the village of Schoorl and the dunes.

Given the landscape, the choice of architect was a key consideration for the couple – they needed a discerning design that would accommodate their need for tranquillity, space and functionality, along with a sensitivity to the surroundings. Paul de Ruiter of Paul de Ruiter Architects in Amsterdam was commissioned – and the result is a home with an elongated black volume, large glass sections and pointed shed roofs, with part of the building hidden underground. “The flowing transition to the green rural environment was the most important starting point for this design,” says Paul. “The subtly hidden house has been built with as many natural materials and sustainable techniques as possible.”

The greenhouse shape of the three-part roof catches the eye from afar, its appearance the result of both the desired orientation towards the sun and local building aesthetics. “The surroundings of the villa are characterised by historic allotments, watercourses and roads, mills and farms,” says Paul. “There are few contemporary homes in the empty polder landscape, so we needed to incorporate the house’s appearance into the wider environment.”

The materials used in this architectural design are therefore sturdy, but refined. The concrete finishes will age beautifully and, from a functional point of view, the three-part sawtooth roof blocks the bright sunlight. Volume is created by floor-to- ceiling windows and vertical black columns mounted between two steel bands. The sharp steel lines define the height differences in the garden, reinforcing the contrast between nature and architecture.

An added benefit of the exterior’s dark-grey tones is that they accentuate the surrounding greenery, and the way the garden embraces the landscape is an essential part of the project. The house sits on a hill, so in the kitchen and living room, you are elevated above this landscape. Expansive glass walls afford long lines of sight, and the garden appears to continue past the property’s boundary and into the meadow.

While the living spaces are above ground, the bedrooms are below it, with a centrally located patio over two levels providing natural light. “With the main part of the house just below ground level, its visual influence on the landscape is limited,” says Paul. “The original empty polder landscape still exists here, so it was essential that our design was synchronous with the natural context, but that it could also transcend that context in an authentic way.”

Xander Vervoort and Leon van Boxtel of X+L Studio in Amsterdam were briefed to create interiors that embraced the structure’s landscape-focused lines of sight while still evoking warmth and intimacy. All interior elements – from the living room and kitchen to the dining area and patio – are therefore elongated, with clean straight lines that reference the Schoorl horizon. The colour and materials palette includes black-stained wood, sturdy grey concrete and warm wooden accents.

Located behind wide dunes, the home allows its owners to both experience the sea and feel the proximity of the horizon. “In the evenings, the light of the descending sun on the dunes projects a kind of aura over the dark forest,” says Julia. “It illuminates any open landscape space. It’s almost magical. We wanted to connect the house to the environment, but the internal spaces have themselves become connected – and through them, our daily family life.”

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