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Exploring a set designer’s old-meets-new apartment

Exploring a set designer’s old-meets-new apartment

There’s a unique elegance in the old and forgotten. Case in point? Florine van Rees’ apartment in Rotterdam’s Delfshaven district. The neighbourhood’s filled with beautiful examples of pre-war architecture – an interesting contrast to the city’s otherwise modern image. It’s here that Florine knocked together two run-down properties to create her first home.

After ripping out the kitchens and bathrooms and unearthing some original features, the set designer turned her attention to the little details – filling every corner with vintage treasures and interesting objects from projects she’s worked on. We caught up with Florine to find out how she transformed her place into a colourful fusion of old-meets-new.

Hi Florine, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I consider myself a colour composer. It’s a term that applies to all of my creative work – my set design, photography and floristry. Someone once pointed out that I mention colour in almost every conversation, and that’s when I became aware of the importance of it in my life, both personally and professionally. I went to art school in Rotterdam because I felt that the city had great opportunities for young people and artists, and I’ve lived here ever since.

Why did you decide to buy this particular property?

As a freelancer, every day is different. I used to feel the need to keep all of my options open, but I realised that some stability would be better for my energy and creativity. I wanted to go for a larger property so that I could live here for as long as I wanted, without the need to move on if my circumstances changed. I was extremely lucky – I found this place on the day I decided to look for something to buy!

Merging two apartments sounds like a lot of work. How did you tackle it?

It looked horrible at first, but it had loads of potential. The bathrooms and kitchens needed to go. Although I had a lot of help with the demolition, everything took way longer than expected. But it was all worth it. What I would say is that it’s not always necessary to do a major renovation; if you just take down some dividing walls, it’ll already feel like a different place.

What original features did you keep?

Laminate flooring covered the original parquet floorboards, which were a real treasure to unearth! I also kept the original brick wall that was hidden behind some old plasterboard. The marble fireplace looks like it’s been there for decades, but it’s actually newly installed. It is old though – it came out of another house nearby that was being renovated. I love mixing these kinds of elements, it gives a space character.

How have budget limitations impacted your choices?

Well, take the parquet floor I was just talking about – three square metres of it in the living room were completely ruined, but instead of buying a brand new floor, my dad took some wood out of the kitchen and covered the bad parts. Budget limitations aren’t necessarily negative – they make you come up with creative solutions.

Any more tips on the budget front?

See what can be done with the existing features before you start ripping them out. If you really take your time, you can also find items that originate from the same era as your house. The tiles in my bathroom came from an old château in France, and I found the taps and shower on a Dutch buying-selling website. And do most of it yourself, with some help from family and friends. (Just make sure to provide snacks, drinks and tunes!)

What was the most challenging part of the whole renovation?

My biggest project was definitely the bathroom. It’s unrecognisable compared to what it used to look like. I was inspired by Moroccan architecture – everything’s covered in polished concrete, and the sink and radiator are ultramarine blue, just like some of the accessories. It’s one of my favourite spots in the house.


How would you describe your style?

I tend to combine lots of different styles, but ‘more is more’ is definitely my design philosophy. Although I do get jealous when I see minimal interiors, (they’re so peaceful and easy to keep clean!) I adore objects and trinkets because they represent certain memories. I also love colour, flowers, and mixing together vintage and modern elements. The clash makes a real statement.


How did you end up creating this overall look?

A lot of it was a coincidence, really – I’ll find an item on the street, or I’ll place a broken object on a shelf which makes it look even more interesting. I also stack pieces on top of each other to create new shapes, and paint objects to give them a different look. I work on intuition, rather than making conscious choices. I just try stuff out and have fun with it.

Tell us about one of the things you’ve found on the street?

Me and my friend found out that the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam was throwing away all of these glass display cases because they were about to do a huge renovation. We were allowed to take a couple of them in different sizes. I love how they play with height but give the space lightness at the same time.

Your boyfriend moved in with you recently – what input has he had in the renovations?

I’m pretty good at making decisions based on aesthetics, while my boyfriend’s all about function. Right now he’s designing more storage for the upper floor, which will make the space look lighter and cleaner. When combining two households, it’s important to think about what you both need to call a place ‘home’.

Want your home to look as good as this, but need a helping hand? Check out our interior design service to find out more.

Article written by: Gwen Gassler
Photography by: Florine van Rees | Art Direction by: Laura Cumming

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