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Publication date 22 June, 2022

Iconic Houses in the Netherlands – Berlage’s Masterpiece

Country Residence/Museum Jachthuis Sint Hubertus, H.P. Berlage, Otterloo, 1920. Video still. 

Country Residence/Museum Jachthuis Sint Hubertus - Icon of De Hoge Veluwe

Photography | Jan Bartelsman and Roottwins.com

Natascha Drabbe takes us to the most iconic houses from the twentieth century in the Netherlands. In this episode we visit Jachthuis Sint Hubertus by H.P. Berlage. Where the architect usually guaranteed rational, business-like designs, such as the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, he showed an excess of attention to detail and craft with the Jachthuis, the country residence of the Kröller-Müller couple.

Hosting and impressing guests in their Jachthuis, that was the goal of the wealthy couple Anton and Helene Kröller-Müller. They commissioned Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1856-1934) for this. The architect designed the mansion in early 1915. Construction was completed in 1920.

Anton and Helene
Anton Kröller (1862-1941) was a born and raised Rotterdammer who today owes his fame mainly to his wife Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939), but who was a phenomenon in his own time. He started working in 1884 at Wm H. Müller & Co in Rotterdam, a company that transported iron ore from Bilbao by ship to the iron and steel works in the German Ruhr area. The company was owned by Helene's father and Anton's ten years older brother Willem. When Anton's brother became seriously ill, Wilhelm Müller asked Anton in 1888 to marry his daughter. Father Müller died completely unexpectedly a year later, leaving Anton in charge of the company at the age of 27.
In 1907 Anton Kröller moves the head office from Rotterdam to the Hague. Helene started collecting art at that time and Anton started investing in estates in the Veluwe region. He buys an adjacent building on the Lange Voorhout in the Hague for Helene's art collection. In 1913 the Museum Kröller is opened there: the first modern art museum in the Netherlands.

The Legend of Saint Hubertus
In the hall of the Jachthuis (hunting mansion), the stained-glass windows by the German painter and lithographer Artur Hennig immediately catch the eye. The artist was commissioned to portray the legend of Saint Hubertus, the patron saint of hunters. According to the story, Hubertus fully enjoys the lavish, frivolous court life and especially the wild, boisterous hunts in the forests of the Ardennes without caring for God or the commandment. When Hubertus goes hunting with his crossbow in the forests of the Ardennes on Good Friday - the anniversary of Christ's death - in the year 683, after a long and gruelling journey, a deer with a shining cross between the antlers appears to him. Hubertus seems to be struck by lightning. Legend has it that after this event, Hubertus converted to Christianity and retired to prayer and seclusion. Helene intended to convey this message to visitors to the hunting grounds: wisdom and discretion must prevail over earthly pleasures and desires. The moment of repentance is depicted in the middle window.
Shortly after the installation of the windows, Helene had them removed again, because they let in too little light into the hall, so that the architecture did not show well. The second series that Hennig designed was considerably lighter and was allowed to stay. The original rejected series has always been preserved and has been given a new place in the foyer on the first floor of the Park Pavilion that opened in 2019.

Stained-glass windows by Artur Hennig with the legend of Saint Hubertus. 

Dining room ceiling. 

The dining room clearly shows how Berlage used bricks. The walls are of white-grey glazed brick. The ceiling consists of masonry cassettes in the colours blue, yellow, red, and white. The space is not very big because Helene did not like large groups. 

Gesamtkunstwerk
Where Berlage was usually only commissioned by his clients to design a building, he designed the complete interior for the Jachthuis - even down to the cutlery. He also designed the immediate surroundings, the park with a large pond, just like the bridge over a spur of that pond. This bundling of many art forms makes the Jachthuis a Gesamtkunstwerk. The natural stone elements, glazed tiles, coffered ceilings, paintings, sculptures, pottery, and integrated applied art have been worked with extreme geometric precision. In addition to Berlage, a hoist of artists and designers contributed to the result, such as Chris Lebeau, Bart van der Leck, Joseph Mendes da Costa and Henry Van de Velde.

Berlage designed a Gesamtkunstwerk for the Jachthuis

Helene and Anton at the time of their engagement, 1887-1888.  

Portrait of architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage. 

The walls in Anton's study are made of glazed brick, mainly in green colour.  

Anton’s room is decorated with hunting trophies. 

The fireplace has a built-in clock. 

The Jachthuis also had many modern inventions: there was central heating, a central vacuuming system, the electric clocks were centrally controlled and the cigars of the master of the house were kept in the right condition in a special cabinet, the so-called 'humidor'.



Helene's office was also called the Blue Room. The floor is blue and the ceiling cassettes yellow and blue. The Chinese rug has a blue border. Her desk is in the bay window that was not in Berlage's original plan. Helene demanded that the bay window be built. 

Helene's study overlooks the tea cupola

Multiple tea rooms
Next to Helene's office is a tearoom where tea was often served and drunk in a large circle with ladies. Her study overlooks a small round structure on the edge of the pond: the tea dome. The most special tearoom in the Jachthuis - and probably in all the Netherlands - is located at the top of the tower, where Helene could enjoy both her tea and the panoramic view. This tower room can be reached via a staircase, but also by elevator. This elevator was the first of its kind in a private house in the Netherlands. After Helene had been to Florence in 1913 and had seen the Palazzo Vecchio with its striking tower, her great wish was to have a tower at the mansion.

Break up with Berlage
Helene Kröller-Müller was a very idiosyncratic woman with outspoken ideas about living. She left quite her mark on the design and without her the Jachthuis would not have been there as it is today. She did not like large groups. She wanted to keep in touch with her guests, so she realized a (relatively) small dining room where a maximum of six people could sit at the table. She was sociable, she paid her staff well, but everything had to be done her way. Her private room is quite spartan and her bedroom, unlike her husband's, has no luxury. She slept in a box bed, but with a painting by Bart Van der Leck above her bed. Everything has been reduced to the essence.

Helene Kröller Müller. 

Because Berlage wanted to work on his ideas without making any concessions, there were regular disagreements between him and his client Helene. These disagreements repeatedly led to a significant delay in the construction process. Helene, for example, wanted to experience the relationship with nature by having a bay window placed in her office that offered a view of the garden. According to the architect, the extension of a bay window did not fit into the symmetrical floor plan, with the shape of antlers with a cross. The dispute about this eventually led to a rift between Helene and Berlage. Berlage left, after which the famous architect Henry Van de Velde completed the assignment. However, Berlage's decision to resign was not that difficult for him, because he had already accepted the commission for the Haags Gemeentemuseum (now Kunstmuseum the Hague).

View on one of the tea cupolas. 

View on one of the tea cupolas. 

Helene Kröller-Müller was a very headstrong woman

From 1901 it was forbidden by law to sleep in a box bed. Helene didn't care about that, she was small (1.52 m), and she liked to sleep in a box bed. She had the box bed built in her bedroom. 

Disagreements caused a significant delay in the construction process


The kitchen in the Jachthuis was ultra-modern at the time. Air vents and an extraction system have been ingeniously concealed in the coffered ceiling. There is also plenty of cupboard space and a handy serving hatch. 

Kröller-Müller Museum
Finally, Berlage was employed by Anton and Helene Kröller-Müller from 1913 to September 1919. During the crisis years of the 1930s, Anton's company was hit hard. The De Hoge Veluwe estate is part of the De Hoge Veluwe National Park Foundation. In 1928 the art collection became the property of the Kröller-Müller Foundation. The Kröller-Müller Museum, designed by Henry van de Velde, opened in 1938 in the park. In 1937 Anton and Helene move from Wassenaar to Jachthuis Sint Hubertus, where they spend their last days.

Iconic Houses Online
Every month Iconic Houses organizes an exclusive online tour in a house museum of one of its 150 members. In this series there is also an exclusive tour of Jachthuis Sint Hubertus. The live tours are part of the Inside Iconic Houses program, where directors and curators give a look behind the scenes. There is always the opportunity to ask questions afterwards. Meanwhile, 14 guided tours can be viewed comfortably from your own home, such as the world-famous Fallingwater, the Horta Museum or the lesser known, but just as special Van Wassenhove House or Casa Orgánica. The tours can be streamed via the WEBSHOP.

Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House
For those who are curious about more stories about the developments in Dutch residential architecture in the twentieth century, Iconic Houses has made a five-part thematic video series in which specialists discuss the following topics:

  • Hygiene and Health in the Modern Home by Hetty Berens, Curator of the Sonneveld House.
  • Palaces for the People by Valentijn Carbo, Architectural Historian at Hendrick de Keyser; Association.
  • A Woman’s Place: Clients and Architects, by Natalie Dubois, Curator of Design at the Centraal Museum Utrecht.
  • Experiments with Space by Robert von der Nahmer, owner of the Diagoon House.
  • Home as a Self-Portrait: Architect ‘s Houses by Natascha Drabbe, Architectural Historian and owner of the Van Schijndel House.

The video series lasts 1 hour and can be streamed with or without a keynote lecture on the same theme via www.iconichouses.org/shop.

About the author
Natascha Drabbe, architectural historian and resident of the renowned Van Schijndelhuis in Utrecht, is director and founder of Iconic Houses, an international network of managers and owners modern house museums from the 20th century. They work together and exchange information on the conservation of this modern heritage. The iconichouses.org website serves as a platform for more than one hundred and fifty Iconic Houses around the world, of which no fewer than 24 are in the Netherlands. The houses can all be visited (by appointment) and in some you can even stay overnight or spend your holiday.

This article previously appeared in Dutch Magazine Herenhuis #88, March/April 2022.

Publication date 22 June, 2022