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Less is more in industrial family home | Milkbottle

Less is more in industrial family home

A home on the water was a top item on Boudewijn Smit’s bucket list. His partner Odette however wasn’t so keen on a houseboat on the canals or a boat-only accessible home. So when the For Sale sign went up on a house in the old steamship workers canteen in the harbour of Eastern Amsterdam, it felt like the perfect compromise. ‘We used to live in the middle of picturesque downtown Amsterdam. We had a place on the canal, shops to our left and restaurants to our right.’ Odette loved the city lifestyle and didn’t want to leave, but when a smart business decision and Boudewijn’s wish to live at least close to water came together, she knew leaving was exactly what she needed to do. ‘Not that it was easy,’ she laughs. When the family of four was able to move into their new home unexpectedly fast, they had to delay the planned renovations. Odette: ‘Those were six pretty crazy months. We had one of the coldest winter recorded in Dutch history and we had no rooms – just one large open space. Also, the canteen was built on pillars and the cold air that blows underneath it, came straight through our old tile floor.’ Odette also recalls buying a second-hand garden shed to create a ‘bedroom’ for her youngest. ‘I put it together and plunked it right in the middle of the room. “At least he has a room now”, I thought. The older one slept in an improvised hut with something that is best described as a crow’s nest at the top of a not-so-stable ladder. ‘The previous owner was an artist and she left this ‘art piece’ when she moved out, it was the most exciting ‘bedroom’ he’s ever had.’ Odette and Boudewijn put their own mattress on the entresol. To say it wasn’t ideal is an understatement. ‘The place smelled like old books, closets were crooked and stairs and corridors were made of metal latticework that were painful to walk on if you didn’t wear shoes.’ After a long six months, the joke wasn’t funny anymore. They had to do something. A small silver lining was that the past months helped determine where and what their most immediate needs were. Odette: ‘We needed rooms, rooms with doors. Some privacy, not just for us, but also for our sons. And that’s where we started.’ Boudewijn was the one with the vision. He sketched out something quick with his contractor friend and got to work. With complete, nearly manic discipline and determination he started working. Odette: ‘He was a maniac. He just worked and worked and worked. I’ll never forget watching him whitewash plank after plank of wood till perfection. His willpower was tremendous. And the renovations were completed in five months.’

The wooden table was already there only it had wonky legs. The welder used all the scrap metal from the home to make new support for under the tabletop. We can sit at the table with 15 people, but also with the 4 of us. We looked for chairs for a long time; they had to be comfortable, because we sit at the table long after dinner too. Design: Faas van Dijk. Leather boxing ball: bought online. The plastic ball is used for back exercises.
left The wooden table was already there only it had wonky legs. The welder used all the scrap metal from the home to make new support for under the tabletop. We can sit at the table with 15 people, but also with the 4 of us. We looked for chairs for a long time; they had to be comfortable, because we sit at the table long after dinner too. Design: Faas van Dijk.
right Leather boxing ball: bought online. The plastic ball is used for back exercises.
Kitchen was our own design and made by a carpenter. Counter top is made of Beton Cire. The zebrawood is rough, but that’s the look I wanted. Oven and stove by Smeg. 
Olive wooden cutting boards were a birthday gift that I use daily. 
Wooden bowl is a souvenir from South Africa. Large terra cotta pots are great for cooking, all the flavours remain in the pan. I bought them in a store locally, but they are from Columbia.
Kitchen was our own design and made by a carpenter. Counter top is made of Beton Cire. The zebrawood is rough, but that’s the look I wanted. Oven and stove by Smeg. Olive wooden cutting boards were a birthday gift that I use daily. Wooden bowl is a souvenir from South Africa. Large terra cotta pots are great for cooking, all the flavours remain in the pan. I bought them in a store locally, but they are from Columbia.

Images: Hotze Eisma via Taverne Agency. Producer: Anja Koops. Text: Renske Werner

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