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CLEVER DESIGN AND A GOOD IMAGINATION BROUGHT LIGHTNESS AND BEAUTY TO A BUILDING THAT WAS ORIGINALLY A CAR PARK.
WHAT WAS ONCE AN OLD car park building in the centre of Amsterdam has been transformed into a unique home for designer Irene Mertens, 41, her husband Gabriel, 43, and daughter Juul, two. The owner of stylish homewares store Sukha Amsterdam has turned an old and decrepit garage into a light, sustainable and spacious house.
“I love how open this house is,” says Irene. “When Juul is taking a bath and I am busy in the kitchen, I can still talk to her through the old wooden window between us.” Open areas are a key element throughout the house. All the rooms are visible to each other. “We wanted to be able to see the trees in the backyard and the water in the canal outside from the inside. When I am working in my studio in the front of the house, I can keep an eye on Juul playing somewhere else. And when I take a bath in the evenings, I can see the stars through the skylight above me. There are also areas for privacy, such as in the wooden teepee filled with cushions or the room for our bed. There’s enough space for everyone to sleep, meditate, work, play or read.”
Irene and Gabriel already owned a house in Amsterdam but the family wanted a more open-plan home where they could live and work. Although the old garage met their requirements, it wasn’t love at first sight.
“Animals had been living in the building and there were holes in the walls and roof. Yet Gabriel saw that the building had potential. We wanted an ecologically built house and to use natural materials, including mud for insulation,” explains Irene.
Over two years, with the help of an architect as well as a building biologist who monitored the health of the home’s environment, the broken-down garage was transformed into a large open home with two skylights and a new roof.
One of the biggest surprises during the renovation was when wooden beams appeared after the old concrete ceiling was removed. “We restored all the beams; it was a huge job but the ceiling really has become eye-catching. In the living room you can still see the iron beams from the building’s previous incarnation. >