Gerrit Rietveld: 8 facts about the house of Truus Schröder-Schräder

The Central Museum of Utrecht, dedicated to the centenary of the De Stijl movement, has published a virtual tour of the Truus Schröder-Schräder house, built in 1924 by the Dutch architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld. Why is this monument so interesting?

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1. An independent widow. The owner of the house, Truus Schröder-Schräder, at the age of 35, was left a widow with three children. Not wanting to live in the respectable house of her husband, a lawyer, with whom she radically disagreed on important issues, she decided to move. And, on the advice of a friend-architect Rietveld, she decided to build the space for her family herself.

Truce Schroeder-Schroeder.
Truus Schröder-Schräder

2. Children in the house. Truus cared about the education and upbringing of children: she wanted them to grow up in a free and creative environment, to communicate with people who were her frequent guests. All this was provided by a new house, which, by the way, cost a third more than an ordinary three-story mansion would have cost. It is interesting that in 1936 the house was rented out to the Montessori school – it was optimal for the methodology of the development of children, which is based on the independence and freedom of the individual. And Truus daughter, Johanna Schroeder, later became one of the first practicing women architects in the Netherlands and later taught interior design in the United States.

3. Declaration of love. Gerrit Rietveld and Truus Schröder-Schräder met when Truus started renovations in her old house – her husband allowed her to remake one of the rooms to her taste. The joint work on Rietveld Schröderhuis grew into a romantic affection, which was not prevented by the three Truus children and the six Rietveld’s. In the house built for his beloved, the architect himself lived for several years – he moved there after the death of his wife.

Gerrit Rietveld.
Gerrit Rietveld.

4. A customer who knows what he wants. Truus Schröder-Schräder was interested in art and supported local artists with her husband. And before marriage, she attended design lectures at a technical school in Germany. It is not surprising that she took a lively part in the work on the house, not hesitating to criticize Rietveld and suggesting bold solutions – for example, brighter facades and space without walls. She understood very clearly what result she wanted to see, it was Truuce who largely determined the appearance of this house.

Schroder House (Rietveld Schröderhuis).
Rietveld Schröder House (Rietveld Schröderhuis).

5. Scandal in the city. The unusual house provoked indignation from the neighbors since it did not fit into the ensemble of the bourgeois street. According to Bertus Mülder, the architect who restored the Rietveld Schröderhuis, for his contemporaries, Truus’s decision to live in such an eccentric house was tantamount to moving to the moon. It was obvious that the supervisor of Utrecht would not agree on the innovative structure, but Rietveld managed to bypass strict rules: he planned the first floor quite traditional – with an entrance hall, kitchen, living rooms – and declared the second an attic, which, according to the law, could be equipped as you like.

Gerrit Rietveld.
Gerrit Rietveld.

6. Floor markings. Truus preferred to live on the second floor, appreciating its flexible layout, huge windows, and abundance of air, and light. In order not to go downstairs once again, they built an elevator for serving food, going straight from the kitchen. It is possible that Truus, who was brought up in a convent school for girls, did not value privacy so much. Only the hostess’s bedroom is isolated, the children’s rooms are with sliding and folding walls and corresponding markings on the floor.

Coffee table, Cassina. Dis. G. Rietveld, 1923
Coffee table, Cassina. Dis. G. Rietveld, 1923

7. No curtains. The house is filled with unusual and yet practical details. There is a lever that opens the door leading to the second floor and a communication pipe for communicating with the milkman. The kitchen doors are partly painted black, where they get the most stains. And instead of curtains on the windows, removable panels.

Gerrit Rietveld with a model of a typical single-family house, 1941
Gerrit Rietveld with a model of a typical single-family house, 1941

8. A view that has ceased to please. The house was deliberately turned away from the street with its windows: on the other side, there was at first a garden. It was planned to build a new street there, but instead of it in 1964 a freeway appeared, cutting off the house from a beautiful view. The outraged Rietveld even wanted to demolish his masterpiece.

Tuus Schroeder in the interior of the Rietveld Schröderhuis.
Truus Schröder-Schräderin the interior of the Rietveld Schröderhuis.

Truustruly loved her home and cherished Rietveld’s memory. She lived here for over 60 years until her death in 1985. When the mansion was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1975, she took care of its future fate. She herself chose a restorer (the architect Bertus Mülder, who personally worked with Rietveld, became him) and, together with the children, created the Rietveld Foundation, to whom she handed over the house. Today it is a museum and can only be visited by appointment .

View of the girls' bedroom in the  Schröder house, phototype print painted by Johanna Schroeder, 1951
View of the girls’ bedroom in the  Schröder house, phototype print painted by Johanna Schröder-1951
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