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Palm Tree Loft - freedom of design

Should a doormat have this typical brown or black cocos or fabric appearance?

Do you want to see the stuff on your desk, even when you are not working?

If you store things, does it mean it should always be out of sight?

Why do you have plants in your home?

Are big rooms better than small rooms?

Why are stairs in houses usually 1 meter wide?

Is perfection a measure for quality and should imperfection be rejected?

With all those questions in mind while designing, 123DV replaced conventional solutions by out of the box thinking solutions. The goal was to create a unique, more playful and adventurous home in use and experience.

Rotterdam harbour history

The Palm Tree Loft is a ground floor space inside a historic loft building, built in Rotterdam in 1949, located at the Sint Jobshaven: a small harbour along the river Maas, kept lively by water taxi and catamaran ferry services. The harbour environment still breathes the pioneering spirit of the past: in the old days, passenger ships departed from the Lloydkade nearby, to the Far East.

The Palm Tree Loft is owned by a family, whose ancestors were born in the former Dutch colony The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia.

Each apartment inside this former coffee and pulse crops warehouse was developed as one big open space, with a small closed unit inside, containing the bathroom and toilet. Because the original windows of the ground floor were quite high, the floor was heightened. The original columns were clad with stucco and the original ceiling that had a massive concrete beam structure was lowered by hiding the beams with an even ceiling.


123DV transformed this open space loft into a 2 story apartment with 3 bedrooms, a bathroom with shower, a toilet room, a tatami room, an inner garden with bathtub, a kitchen and a 90 m2 living room. The total surface has increased from 130 to 200 m2. They also brought back the historical Rotterdam harbour loft atmosphere into the interior.

Evoking the senses

By removing the heightened floor and the lowered ceiling it was possible to add another floor inside this apartment, creating extra living space and better ways to enjoy the river view. The original concrete beam structure of the ceiling that became visible adds to the industrial Rotterdam harbour atmosphere and shows the real history of the building. Also the columns were stripped of their stucco casing and the vertical patterns on the original concrete columns that the removal had left behind created an unexpected playful visual rhythm. To combine these hard and industrial materials with organic and warm materials, cupboards were coated with sheep felt. This soft and hairy felt has roughly the same colour and playful pattern of the smooth concrete columns - it evokes the senses and makes you want to touch it.

Quiet acoustics

The felt, as well as lightweight acoustic foam panels with a pyramid textured surface, placed between the concrete beam structure of the ceiling, produce quiet acoustics in the industrial loft. These pyramids create a playful rhythm of its own and here and there you will discover hidden gems: a few differently coloured pyramids are actually ceiling lights made of epoxy by designer Vincent de Rijk together with Leo Krol of Solid Lighting.

Vincent de Rijk also made the semitranslucent epoxy raisin panels of the kitchen cupboards.

Multiple height experience

The tour through the loft is a sequence of narrow and wide spaces, low and double height ceilings, unexpected level changes, wide stairs and narrow stairs like the sensation of experiencing the wide open space of an Italian square, after having walked through a narrow alley. Just standing on the doorstep of the front door, you will get all these experiences at once because of all the different views offered: you can see the upper floor with the beam patterned ceiling, you can see the lower wooden floor leading to the inner garden at the end of the corridor, you can see the wide stairs and felt cupboard expanding from the lower floor to the upper floor with the famous Rietveld buffet cabinet placed inside, you can see part of the kitchen counter covered in felt - leaving visitors dazzled at the doorstep by the visual impact.

When entering the loft, an almost 2 meter wide stairs leads you to the upper space of 90 m2.

Work-life balance

An abstract cubic volume separates the entrance and stairs from this open living room. Narrow slits like incisions in this volume reveal that this volume can be transformed into a small study room: by smoothly sliding the 3 meter wide top open, a light underneath is automatically switched on, lighting up the desk that appears hidden inside this cubic volume. Folding doors that can also turn, can be formed as a fence in multiple ways, for privacy or to focus. When everything is slid shut again, nothing that reminds you of work is in sight.

Bringing nature inside

In this Rotterdam loft without any real outside garden space, an indoor tropical garden is created with a palm tree and an ofuro (a traditional Japanese bathtub) inside a double height space. When walking through this inner garden, you get a pebble beach feeling because of the white stones that cover the floor. The sensation is a tactile one: one of being on wild terrain, but the stones also make sounds when you are walking: giving you that outdoor feeling. You can walk barefoot like the ancestors from the east. You can lounge in a cool tub under palm tree leaves, while having a conversation with someone in the living room above. Through the void the inner garden extends itself from the floor to the ceiling - spanning 5,5 meters. By placing tall trees in the garden, you can also enjoy the green garden from the top floor.

The pebbles can also be found in the shower, where stones set into concrete form walls and flooring. When you take a shower, it feels like standing outside while enjoying a sudden rain shower in summer.

The pebble theme continues in the narrow hallway behind the bedrooms: through a glass sliding door facade in the bedrooms, you enter this very narrow space with pebble flooring, that gets its natural light and ventilation from the windows above. The ceiling of this narrow space is an open metal grid. This metal grid is used as flooring on the top floor where the living room and kitchen are located. Plants in pots are placed on this metal grid, so when you stand on the pebbles in the narrow hallway below, it is like you are standing beneath green trees and the air as well as the light is filtered in a natural way. That way, this narrow space can feel very comforting and not stifling at all.

Urban jungle reinvented

Corrugated galvanized steel ceilings added to the spaces throughout the lower floor, contrast with the natural character of the materials. Valuing the industrial heritage while sticking up for nature is also typical for the city of Rotterdam - a city that has reimagined its harbors and industrial waterfront to become a more attractive and healthier city, constantly reinventing itself.

Verlichting Vincent de Rijk en Leo Krol (Solid Lighting)

Fotografie Ossip van Duivenbode -




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