A cloud-shaped chair made from thousands of discs of Kvadrat fabric in 100 different colors. A drinking cup with double handles reminiscent of Dumbo the elephant. A table and chair made entirely of stacked books…No one would accuse the Dutch multidisciplinary designer of all these objects – 53-year-old Droog alumnus Richard Hutten – of being incapable of having fun.
So, you wouldn’t expect the Rotterdam-based Hutten to live in a Dutch Colonial home either – with its gambrel roof, curved eaves and tidy layout of interior rooms. Instead, Hutten resides with his girlfriend and three children (age eight to 21) in a loft-like space he carved out of a circa 1938 car garage. “The trusses are the only original detail,” he says of the framework that offers practical support for the ceiling. From there down, however, Hutten’s aim is clear: “Playfulness is the core,” he explains. “I built this house to play in – not only for me, but for my kids.”
The structure also happens to be eco-friendly. When Hutten bought the garage over a decade ago, it was heated with gas. He ripped up the floor and installed radiant heat using water pumped from 450 feet underground and warmed by electricity. “Back then I was crazy,” he recalls. “Now I’m a visionary” (the Netherlands recently outlawed gas for new builds, requiring they be heated more sustainably). Ample fenestration and an enormous skylight ceiling also allow the harvesting of passive solar heat.
The Droog design collective arose out of the cheeky Memphis movement in the 1990s and distinguished itself not only with pragmatic designs often incorporating recycled materials, but also by its “droog” (Dutch for “dry”) humor. “Playfulness is the essence of my work,” admits Hutten, whose insouciant humor pervades his prolific industrial and interior designs, which have earned him inclusion in prominent museum collections around the world.
But Hutten’s ethos does not solely arise out of Droog’s manifesto. He is enamored of Dutch cultural theorist Johan Huizinga’s writings, specifically Homo Ludens, the 1938 treatise in which Huizinga postulated that play is an essential condition for the generation of culture; one that expresses freedom, that is not necessarily ordinary or “real,” that has its own creative order and civilizing function, and from which no monetary value can be gained. It is play as culture.
The large main room of the 5,400-square-foot home is segregated into distinct areas in a few ways. Hutten’s own colorful Skyline Rotterdam Cabinets zone off the “living room,” where a custom carpet by CS Rug (he’s the firm’s art director) anchors a space that brings together Golp ven Lieshout sofas, an appropriately kinetic Thomas Heatherwick Spun Chair, a red chaise by Ineke Hans, a Jürgen Bey Chair and, on the periphery behind his own limited-edition desk, Marcel Wanders’ Knotted Chair.
At this point we should probably explain that Hutten is, yes, obsessed with chairs. He has so many that they crowd a small mezzanine hovering over another lounging area. Here, an enormous work by Dutch artist Anouk Griffioen keeps company with Gerrit Rietveld’s famous Der Stijl Chair (“He is my hero,” says the designer, who has sometimes been hailed as “the new Rietveld” by the Dutch press), Bertjan Pot’s Random Chair and Jerszy Seymour’s denim Muff Daddy Chair. Around the corner is Tejo Remy’s Rag Chair and his Chest of Drawers, “You Can’t Lay Down Your Memories” – both iconic designs – which stand near Hutten’s own Cross, a combo table-seat.
No two chairs around his Layers dining table (Gispen’s industrial version of the Book Table mentioned above) are alike, except that they are all black. There are specimens by Hutten, Wanders and Pots as well as Luca Nichetto and Michael Young.
Rugs are another way of defining separate spaces within the main open plan, as with the one grounding the living room and another under – what else? a Foosball table. Above it is Hutten’s own Dandelion Lamp for Moooi. Hutten also used color to demarcate the kitchen, which he describes as a black “cockpit” that he based on a similar design he did for Amsterdam’s Lloyd hotel. “It’s important to have contrast in a space this large,” he explains.
The playful ethos extends right into the master bath, where a bathtub is arbitrarily sunken into the middle of the floor. His explanation? “I did it for fun, no other reason.” Well, naturally.
Photography by Filippo Bamberghi.
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