Art Culture

Utrecht: inside Rietveld-Schröder house

Utrecht: inside Rietveld-Schröder house | Your Dutch Guide

It is hard to believe that a small house like the Rietveld-Schröder house in Utrecht is listed on the UNESCO Worl Heritage list. But once you see the iconic house amidst the traditional 19th-century buildings of a quiet, stately neighbourhood, you start to understand what a miracle this house is. I took a look inside Rietveld-Schröder house.

Truth be told: I have cycled and run past the Rietveld-Schröder house dozens of times since moving to Utrecht. And whenever I did, I kind of thought: this is it, really? What is all the fuss about? The Rietveld-Schröder house is built at the end of a block of houses, kind of tucked away against a highway overpass. And it looks so small. But since learning more about De Stijl art movement (as De Stijl is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year), which Rietveld was an active member of, I’ve started to wonder if there was more about that quirky house at Prins Hendriklaan, Utrecht. And yes, there really was.

‘I loved this little house’

This is what Truus Schröder remarked about the Rietveld-Schröder house at the end of her life. She had the house designed and built in 1924 by Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld. Her husband had introduced them earlier and the remarkable cabinet maker had started to give building and architecture a go, since joining De Stijl art movement in 1917. After becoming a widow Schröder wanted Rietveld to build her and her 3 children a house that was functional, felt free and where outside would become inside, and the other way around.

Must-see in Utrecht, The Netherlands: Rietveld-Schröder house | Your Dutch Guide

Must-see in Utrecht, The Netherlands: Rietveld-Schröder house | Your Dutch Guide

Utrecht: inside Rietveld-Schröder house | Your Dutch Guide

Utrecht: inside Rietveld-Schröder house, kitchen of Rietveld-Schröder house | Your Dutch Guide

They decided on a plot at the edge of the city, surrounded by fields: Prins Hendriklaan. Since they were looking into nature on three sides Rietveld decided that the house had to be as open as possible. Therefore, every space has an outdoor option, like a balcony or a door to the garden. And, so very clever, the windows don’t have corner support, so when Truus would open all her windows, she would have a 270-degree view. And, per typical Dutch tradition, the house didn’t have any curtains, they would use wooden shutters (that were black on the outside and a primary colour on the inside) to darken the house at night.

Open plan miracle

When entering the house, I immediately spot the typical Rietveld lines and colours: vertical black and white lines, so bright blue on the steps and Rietveld lamps on the ceiling. The house has a lot of black on the outside, but mostly white on the inside. It’s actually quite a small place, with that typical feel of a Dutch 1920’s house with boxed chambers that could be heated individually. The kitchen has some amazing Rietveld designed features and furniture, and Rietveld’s workshop was also downstairs.

A revolutionary house

The real surprise is upstairs, which is a completely open plan. Coloured rectangles and squares mark which space is used for what and cleverly hidden panels are able to close off the spaces, creating a bedroom for the children, a study, a dining room and a small master bedroom with a tiny bathroom. But since the entire space is surrounded by glass and has a massive skylight, the upstairs floor feels much larger than it is.

Must-see in Utrecht, The Netherlands: Rietveld-Schröder house | Your Dutch Guide

Must-see in Utrecht, The Netherlands: Rietveld-Schröder house | Your Dutch Guide

Utrecht: inside Rietveld-Schröder house | Your Dutch Guide

Form follows function

This house is pretty remarkable today, so I can only imagine how revolutionary it must have been at the time and Gerrit Rietveld and the eccentric Truus Schröder, who later lived as lovers in the house, were also met with quite some resistance when building the house. Even Truus’ children didn’t always like living in a house that was so different from all the other houses in Utrecht and one of the daughters even confessed to lying about where she lived regularly, as she couldn’t face being bullied about living in ‘that weird house’.

Of course, you are met by many specially designed Rietveld furniture, like the famous red and blue chair and the zigzag chair, but I really liked the less obvious objects better. Like the beds that could also function as sofas by simply turning up a wooden board and both sides, or a seemingly mismatched collection of brightly coloured boxes that were actually used to hide the film projector and the radio, as Truus didn’t like to have those ‘fancy’ things on display. The house should be ‘form follows function’ like she and Rietveld had planned it to be.

Extensive renovations

Truus Schröder lived in the Rietveld-Schröder house until her death in 1985. But by that time a lot had changed: the freeway and adjacent new built neighbourhood had taken away their clear view into nature, something that had troubled and saddened Rietveld deeply. ‘Since the house had lost its original purpose, to stand free with a view into nature, and the materials he used for building the house weren’t meant to last for centuries, he felt the house should’ve been torn down. And I agreed’, Truus admitted a few years before she died. But by then the house had become a local monument, and after 1985 it was extensively renovated and opened to the public.’

Inside Rietveld-Schröder house: book a tour

Since the Rietveld-Schröder house was an actual house that people lived in, things have been left more or less untouched since Truus Schröder passed away and everything is in its original and delicate state. That’s why you can only visit on a guided tour (there are audio guides available in many languages) and the guide will show you all the quirky characteristics of the house. On the website, you can book tickets and watch a short introduction of the house.

Rietveld in Utrecht, The Netherlands: Rietveld, Het Nieuwe Bouwen, Erasmuslaan | Your Dutch Guide

Rietveld in Utrecht, The Netherlands: Rembrandtkade | Your Dutch Guide

Rietveld in Utrecht, The Netherlands: self-guided walking tour | Your Dutch Guide

More Rietveld in Utrecht

If you are impressed by the Rietveld-Schröder house (and you will be, even though it’s small), you will enjoy the Rietveld designed apartments across the corner in the Erasmuslaan and the chauffeur’s building along Rembrandtkade, a 10-minute stroll away.

The Rietveld-Schröder house is part of the Utrecht Centraal Museum where you can see the largest collection of Rietveld furniture in the world. With your Central Museum ticket, you can also book your visit to the Rietveld-Schröder house, and you can take a free rental bike from Central Museum to cycle to the iconic house. Or you can take this free self-guided walking tour. The red line will take you along the important Utrecht Rietveld landmarks, and following the dotted line on the way back, you will discover a lovely Utrecht neighbourhood with some really nice cafés and shops.

Use my complete city guide Utrecht to plan your visit.

Read more about De Stijl

What’s the most spectacular residential building you’ve ever visited?

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  • Reply
    October 5, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    What a cool house. It immediately reminded me of works by Mondrian – not surprising! Utrecht looked like a great place to explore when we stopped by briefly last year. We went to the Miffy/Nijntje Museum instead – a big hit with the kids!

    • Reply
      October 5, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      Since Mondriaan and Rietveld belonged to De Stijl movement, that’s no surprise. And never apologise for visiting the Nijntje Museum, that is súch a great place to visit! Good choice!!

  • Reply
    October 5, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    I particularly love the way the house is so open to those wonderful views of the outside. I love that in a house. And I’m rather taken with that bright red and blue chair – although it doesn’t look all that comfortable! Thanks so much for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • Reply
      October 6, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Ha indeed! When I moved to Utrecht and heard people in awe of Rietveld’s furniture I thought ‘but they are so uncomfy’. But since learning more about his deep beliefs of form follows function, I am beginning to understand. Thank you for stopping by!

  • Reply
    Rhonda Albom
    October 7, 2017 at 4:55 am

    It’s hard to believe that this house was built in 1924. It is ahead of its time. Many of the features of this house style have become popular in New Zealand over the last decade.

    • Reply
      October 7, 2017 at 8:26 am

      I know, right! It does have the features of those typical Dutch pre-WW houses (boxy small rooms downstairs, lots of wood instead of concrete etc) and I really can’t believe that 4 people actually lived there (it’s not a big place) but a lot of features really were ahaead of their time. Thank you for stopping by!

  • Reply
    Sally's Tips 4 Trips
    October 8, 2017 at 3:13 am

    I was kinda confused at the start – why is this modern looking house protected by UNESCO.
    But then to discover it was built in the 1920’s WOW. So modern and now with much of its open plan concept. You can see where modern day architects get their inspiration.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2017 at 5:39 am

    Well, it is doesn’t look that small when you get in! I think the use of space and lines gives a sense of extension. Plus, the big windows help to diffuse the barrier inside and outside. I really like to visit little gems like this!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Indeed, the Rietveld-Schröder house doesn’t look like much from the outside. I find it fascinating how modern it looks for a house built so long ago.

    • Reply
      October 8, 2017 at 11:52 am

      I know, right! It’s just so oddly fascinating!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2017 at 9:50 am

    This architecture and style is so strange but it certainly looks fun! It’s hard to imagine 4 people living there as it looks kinda small!

    • Reply
      October 8, 2017 at 11:54 am

      Haha, I really could not imagine Truus bringing up 4 kids on the first floor while the maid lived downstairs and Rietveld had his studio downstairs. But then again, at the beginning of last century poor families shared smaller houses with even more people, so what do I know 😉

  • Reply
    Paul and Carole
    October 8, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Wow what a funky house so modern in some ways and so surprising it is so long ago!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    This is amazing – very impressive architecture! I especially like the fact that every space has an outdoor option and no corner support for the windows to allow for a great view. I didn’t know about this house, but will think about it next time I’m in the area.

  • Reply
    October 9, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    I’m amazed that the house was built in the 1920’s. Looking at it, I thought it would have been built a few decades later. It must have really stood out when it was first built! That’s too bad that a highway was built nearby, encroaching into their view. I’d like to see it for myself.

    • Reply
      October 9, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      Yes, it was truly ahead of its time, yet it also has some extremely old-fashioned features that made me giggle.

  • Reply
    Catherine (Cultural Wednesday)
    October 11, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    I so wanted to go here this summer but left it too late to book tickets! Now I’m even more regretful, great post!

  • Reply
    October 12, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    The house looks nothing like the rest of the houses around it – I can see why the children were embarrassed to admit they lived there! Of course, today with the benefit of hindsight we get to admire it for being ahead of its time. Very cool house! Glad that it’s been preserved and is now open to the public! I especially like the idea of a 270-degree view 🙂

  • Reply
    October 13, 2017 at 6:04 am

    What a great design showcase. Would love to take that tour – it’s exactly the sort of art and architecture we enjoy touring.

  • Reply
    October 19, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Wow, what a sleek house! I would totally live there if I could, haha!

  • Reply
    Janine Good
    October 19, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    I like the look of this house! An amazing UNESCO Heritage site that is for sure! I would love to see it for myself 🙂

  • Reply
    October 25, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    That certainly is a modern old time house… Such an unusual story.

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