Black Pearl House Zecc

It was easy to overlook this boring gray building, shorter and duller than its more cheerful neighbors – a series of classic Dutch two-to-three-story townhouses. What starts with a few small-but-critical design decisions on the exterior turns into an illuminating series of simple lighting and material strategies on the interior.

A pop-out box window makes for a classy modern replacement to the second-story opening on the front facade, while old garage doors gave way to a large sheet of solid glass with a simple new residential door on one side.

Black Pearl House Zecc windows
Black Pearl House Zecc livingf

On the inside, recessed lighting animates remnant vintage brick walls along one side of the main living and dining areas, while rustic wood ceiling slats and heavy-timber riser-and-tread blocks bring warmth against a minimalist lack of decor.

Black Pearl House Zecc dining
Black Pearl House Zecc levels

White, black and steel can be found throughout, but these colder materials are continuously offset by a series of warm- and cold-colored lights in bathroom, kitchen and other frequent-use spaces.

Black Pearl House Zecc staircase

It would be an understatement to say that Studio Rolfe (images by Frank Hanswijk) were forced to make the best out of a bad situation. Who knew a garage/warehouse could convert so well into a contemporary living space? Perhaps now the neighborhood jealousy will reverse. Then again, one comes to expect these kinds of creative conversions of bland buildings from Zecc.

Black Pearl House Zecc cutout window detail

“The renovation of the Rotterdam ‘metier house’ is turned into an architectural spectacle, where was experimented with time and space,” the architects say. “The 100 years old facade of a dwelling in a closed housing unit, is totally painted black. Both masonry, frames and “windows” are covered with a shiny black oil. This creates a kind of ‘shadow’ of the original facade. In some places the new transparent windows pierce through the historical facade. The new windows announce a time with a very different way of living. This creates a relationship between the original facade and the new interpretation which become readable. All floors and small rooms behind the old windows run into one spatially contiguous entity.”