Not many people can boast that their home price was in single figure digits. However, Flint van de Gronden, a high school principal, and Linda van Dijk, a dance teacher and choreographer, only paid one euro for their home in 2017, which had a previous life as a high school gym, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Dutch couple acquired the out-of-the-ordinary home when the Rotterdam city government initiated a plan to convert outdated schools into residences. As a result, the 20th-century former school building was converted into seven units in total of varying sizes, from townhouses to smaller apartments. Residents also formed a co-op for the complex in order to fund upgrades to the building’s foundation and other structural costs.

Rather than go with a home layout proposed by the city, van de Gronden and van Dijk enlisted architect team Jenny Eklund and Dominique ter Beek to create a custom design that cost $565,000 and was 18 months in the making. Because of the unique space Eklund and ter Beek were given to work with, certain constraints guided their design.

“[The] starting point for the design was the limitations of the site in terms of light and privacy, and the exceptional dimensions of the main space,” Eklund and ter Beek state on their website.

“The ceiling height of more than five meters offered possibilities for adding new intermediate floors and more intimate areas,” the design description continues. “Due to the preservation of a large existing mural on the facade opposite the entrance, the possibilities for adding windows was limited, and with two facades facing the street, privacy was an issue. The spatial organization is largely determined by the decision to situate the main living area by the large front facade windows, while at the same time realizing a direct connection to the garden through a series of new openings and placing bedrooms where it was possible to add windows.”

The transformation that took place was fairly dramatic.

“This was essentially a giant shoebox,” van de Gronden told the Wall Street Journal.

The original gym was a 2,000-square-foot room with one large wall of windows. The renovated apartment, however, now contains two stories, 2,700 square feet and 16-foot-ceilings in the first floor sitting room.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the renovations is the floating grand staircase that contains wide-steps running the full length of the living room and leading to a “stage” at the front of the apartment, where van de Gronden and van Dijk’s children might perform a play, according to a “daydream” of their grandfather, Mr. van de Gronden’s father.

The stage also serves as a work and storage space, not to mention a playhouse (within one of the pillow-lined cupboards) for the family’s youngest child, who is nine years old.

Because of the home’s distinctive high ceilings and ample natural light can overwhelm other decorative features, van de Gronden and van Dijk have kept other decorations fairly minimal. The few other decorative touches here and there throughout the home are relatively simple, yet elegant, including original woodwork cabinets, a Carrara marble island and an Italian Flos hanging lamp in the family room.

Email Lillian Dickerson

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