Historic Dutch Setting for a Modern Art Collection ; Medieval Architecture in Haarlem Is Backdrop for Avant-Garde Aesthetic

Article excerpt

A couple's renovations turned a house with its roots in the 15th century into a contemporary showplace.

Church bells echoed along the red brick streets, their sound rising above the Spaarne River and spilling through the large front windows of Pieter and Marieke Sanders's home, which stands along its banks. Here and there, bicyclists paused to listen as dusk settled across the town where in the 15th century the devoted Catholic Dutch, then under the rule of Spain, began pilgrimages to that country's holy site of Santiago de Compostela.

The house was probably built around that time, or maybe earlier, said Mrs. Sanders, a former member of the European Parliament. Although its facade and inner walls were rebuilt in 1887, the original frame and beams are intact.

But the red brick house is new to the Sanderses, who moved here just a year ago from an eight-room house in the nearby town of Aerdenhout, where they had lived for 35 years. They have been traveling often now that their children are grown, making it difficult to maintain that house's large garden. Several friends and family members had also moved to Haarlem and to Amsterdam, so "it was time for a change," Mrs. Sanders said.

In June 2010, after friends told them that the Haarlem house was for sale, the couple visited and immediately fell in love.

"The location is excellent, right in the middle of town and on the river," Mrs. Sanders said. "It would have enough space for us to live and entertain and also nice high ceilings to hang art."

This last fact was critical. As avid collectors whose renowned contemporary art collection includes thousands of works, the couple required ample space for as many pieces as possible.

What also made the house attractive was its spot next to the Teylers Museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands. In fact, when the museum was created in 1778, the house and seven neighboring buildings were purchased by the Teylers Museum Foundation. It was responsible for the 1887 rebuilding and, later, selling the house to benefit the museum coffers.

But, enchanted as the couple were, the house's eight rooms needed substantial structural improvement and modernizing, both to suit their aesthetics and to create an appropriate environment for their art.

Renovations to the home, which covers 380 square meters, or 4,090 square feet, began in February 2011 and took a full 10 months to complete. Even then, the Sanderses remained in Aerdenhout to complete the sale of that house, which took an additional three months.

In the interim, they organized art exhibitions in the empty house, Mrs. Sanders said, "and celebrated my 70th birthday with lots of friends and family -- great fun." They moved into the new home, she said, on March 1, 2012.

The couple handled most of the redesign themselves, engaging Wade Schrijver, an interior architect and art historian in Amsterdam, only for advice on the kitchen and the two and a half baths. Fortunately, the house's status as a registered national landmark allowed the couple to seek government grants for some of the EUR 1.25 million, or $1.6 million, in renovations that were needed.

Landmark status also required them to preserve or to restore as much of the structure as possible, a stipulation that ultimately worked in their favor. …

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