Wake up to the smell of the salty sea air, the sound of the waves and views across the dunes. As you awaken you suddenly realise: you’re at one with nature here. So, throw on your deck shoes, grab a bath towel and enjoy a short walk through the dunes on the vast beach. Start your morning with a dip in the sea, a prelude to a day packed full of possibilities. Welcome to Terschelling, where tranquillity embraces you as soon you set sail from the mainland with the Doeksen shipping company, cross the Wadden Sea where the seals are basking in the sun, and head towards the island where the air is clean and pure.
This holiday villa really is a hidden gem. ‘Muis’ is a one-off, set in an idyllic location in the dunes, where the views from this sturdily-built property are so unique and panoramic that even the heaviest winter storm is an amazing experience. Here, you won’t see any neighbours or meet any tourists, but you’re never far away from where it’s all happening. Why not go beachcombing along the North Sea coast after a north-westerly storm? Or take a four-wheel-drive across the beach towards Boschplaat, the vast nature reserve at the end of Terschelling? Or perhaps enjoy a beer and traditional bar snacks as you end your day at the beach pavilion, just a five-minute walk away... Then it’s straight home in time to watch the sun set against a cloudless sky. In the summer, after a great day on the endless beach next to Paal 8, you can watch it from the balcony just next to the living room. Or in winter from the sofa, in front of a crackling fire in the hearth.
Welcome to the world where there is no such word as ‘hurry’, where traffic lights don’t exist and where you cycle home between the lakes in the dunes to reach Muis, a holiday villa dating from 1992 with a name (meaning mouse in English) that is really very much an understatement.
This holiday villa was designed in concert with nature. It’s the brainchild of an extraordinary architect and a prime example of rational simplicity. Renowned architect Abe Bonnema (1926-2001), originally from Friesland, built it in 1992, many years after following in the footsteps of the great modernists Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Charles Eames. From an early age, Abe Bonnema was convinced that modern methods of construction were capable of creating iconic buildings, ideal for contemporary living or working. De Muis is a very special example of just that.
Even the story of how his client T.C. Braakman (1926-2003) managed to persuade Abe Bonnema to build his holiday home on Terschelling is compelling in itself. “We already had a house on the island of Terschelling when this plot came onto the market”, explains Braakman’s son. “It was one of the last undeveloped plots and my father saw huge potential in it. He seized this opportunity to make his dream a reality.”
Mr Braakman was not only a member of the Dutch Senate, but also CEO at the insurance company Nationale-Nederlanden. It was in that capacity that he met architect Abe Bonnema, who’d been chosen to design the company’s head offices in Rotterdam, which would ultimately be the Netherlands’ tallest office building until 2010. “The two men hit it off. They clearly saw eye-to-eye.” This was also why Bonnema allowed himself to be persuaded when Braakman asked him to design a holiday home for him and his wife, as his son fondly recalls.
He still has good memories of the architect visiting Terschelling to decide on the position of his first ever holiday home, one of very few he would design in his career. “He wanted the North Sea to be visible from the living room. On entering the property, all of the focus had to be on the nature outside.” This is why the spacious living room is located upstairs. It’s here that the interplay of open and enclosed surfaces begins, with a lot of glass on the south-western side and a more enclosed north-eastern side, mainly featuring natural wood and brick in an inconspicuous colour. The holiday home then gradually spreads across two levels, tiered against the dunes. Everything was deliberately designed to capture the views of the surrounding garden, a design by mother nature that’s the size of a small park.
“My father was very much involved in the design”, his son explains. “My parents were starting to get older and wanted to be able to live at ground-floor level.” That meant having the master bedroom located at the highest level, with plenty of wardrobe space, bathroom and toilet. But it is the spacious living room, with open fireplace, that forms the real centrepiece. From the seating area, the balcony is just a few steps away. Slightly further along, the dining area is connected to the open kitchen. This is a kitchen complete with plenty of storage space, but almost invisible behind the bar, which is a great place to spend time. “From the kitchen door, it’s just a short walk to the terrace at the rear. You’re completely protected from the wind there. It’s perfect for barbecues and outdoor dining.”
Look upwards and you can see how the sense of space is accentuated by the tall ceiling. Made of wood, the ceiling panels meet at the tallest point in an unusual asymmetric design. Wherever you go, the dunes serve as your backdrop, seen through the many windows. The darker-coloured floor tiles were deliberately selected for that holiday feeling. “And, of course, to prevent the need for too much vacuum-cleaning. Any sand that you accidentally bring in can easily be swept up.”
A playful spiral staircase subtly divides the seating area from the place where the large dining table is. If you open a little gateway and head downstairs, you find two guest bedrooms (with fitted wardrobe space) connected by a shower room. The garage is also located on this level and not only has plenty of space for bikes, but even for a Landrover-sized car. “If you drive the car inside, you’re immediately indoors.” Behind the garage is a storage area, accessed from the central portal, and the toilet is also located here. The other door leads to the corridor, from which all the bedrooms can be accessed and where the spiral staircase leads to the living room. Walk upstairs and you’ve completed the circle. This villa provides a perfect cosy residence for two without ever feeling too large. But there’s also plenty of space to have friends over for a weekend or a holiday with the children or grandchildren. No one will get under anybody else’s feet here.
Everything has been honed down to its essence, but the carefully-designed floor plan makes this holiday home much more than just a sophisticated consumer object. Its setting within the landscape and its sculptural form make this an appealing and intriguing home that never ceases to surprise. One particularly special feature is the fact that the villa offers three different ways of welcoming you. But first, you need to walk across the romantic path made of shells. The guest accommodation is accessed via the garage. On the top floor, the villa entrance is via the front door, but the door to the utility room can also be used for access. Very useful if you’re returning home with sandy feet. Downstairs, there’s also a handy tap near the entrance to prevent you bringing the beach any further inside.
The terms villa and master bedroom were not ones that Mr Braakman or his wife would have been likely to use. “My parents didn’t like luxury in excess. They were keen to focus on the holiday home’s character.” The bathrooms have been kept very simple. The kitchen is also basic, but includes everything you need. People who love Terschelling like the simple things in life and, above all, nature.
According to Braakman Jr, the family has been visiting the island since the 1960s. “Growing up with the effect of Terschelling on your DNA influences how you are as a person”, he says. “After stormy weather, my sister and I used to go beachcombing. Our parents were not always very pleased with all the things we brought back with us.” Of course, that included messages in a bottle, carried onto the island by the sea. “We used any wood we found to build huts in the hollows in the dunes. We also searched for cranberries, which my mother used to make sauce to serve with the Christmas turkey.” Even when he and his sister both had children themselves, the family always spent the Christmas holidays together. The whole family circle, complete with children and grandchildren. Recessed spotlights in the ceiling cast a gentle light. “My father often lit the open fire. It’s a house that feels warm and cosy. The wooden ceiling is all part of that. It almost embraces you.”
The house is also let out, based on the idea that it is better if the house is ‘in use’ and able to offer a great time to holidaymakers. His sister has coordinated the letting process for years. Coordinated? “It doesn’t really involve much work”, she says. “We use op-terschelling.nl and it all works almost automatically.” The entries left by holidaymakers in the guestbook, highlighting all the things they appreciated, make amusing reading. “Some come here for the Oerol festival, while others come for the beach.” Virtually everyone mentions nature. ‘Typical Dutch weather, from bikini to raincoat’. ‘Spotted some rabbits hopping around in the garden’. ‘Rising early in the morning to see the sunrise and then cycling to the bakery to fetch some fresh bread rolls’. Or: ‘Superb dining at the West aan Zee beach pavilion’. “We’ve been fortunate enough to find a married couple from Terschelling who were willing to take care of the management. They genuinely take all the work off our hands and are worth their weight in gold”, confirm the Braakman siblings.
The daughter says it’s amazing how the tenants return on an annual basis and have almost become like friends. “They’re the real fans. They’d probably be quite disappointed if they had to go elsewhere for their holiday…”
She herself ‘block-books’ the villa for a few weeks in the summer to stay there with her father’s second wife. Despite her advancing years, she still enjoys the holiday home every summer. But the next generation are also frequent visitors, including her nephew and his wife. “We live in Amsterdam”, she says. “We regularly spend three weeks with our laptops at ‘Muis’, something that started during the coronavirus period. Working together at the dining table, occasionally enjoying the extraordinary views. If one of us has to take a business call, we move to the desk in one of the guest rooms. “And when we’re done with working? We then head off out, searching for oysters along the Wadden dyke at low tide or simply enjoying a great woodland walk near the house. Just stepping outside completely clears your head.” You then return home, always using a different entrance. “Through the main hallway, and then through the garage or the utility room. That makes it a new experience every time, giving you a genuine holiday feeling.”
Although the villa has been designated for recreational use, letting it out is not mandatory. In principle, you could stay here as long as you want, provided that you don’t make it your main residence.
All of this has been properly arranged, as Braakman Jr explains. “This villa is surrounded by the Natura 2000 nature reserve. We are leaseholders of Staatsbosbeheer, the government organisation for forestry and the management of nature reserves, and we share their passion for nature. We’ve bought out the ground lease for 99 years, until 2117. In other words, for life. Any owner will have nothing to worry about for the next 95 years. That also offers plenty of security even for upcoming generations.”
Another source of security and certainty is the tranquillity and nature that will continue to embrace the holiday villa. “When the old hotel Paal 8 had to make way for new developments, many people opposed it. My father took a different approach. He started consulting with the architect. How can we adjust the design to make sure everyone is satisfied?” According to Braakman’s daughter, this resulted in the hotel being repositioned slightly further towards the road and the entrance, featuring a terrace for hotel guests, placed on the other side. “I spend a few weeks in the house every summer and I must say: there’s never any disturbance.”
So, is there absolutely nothing that could improve this holiday home? In all honesty, it was built in 1992, one of the very first upmarket holiday homes and completely new on the island of Terschelling.
Times change and different requirements apply for construction than in 1992. But precisely because the basics in this holiday home are so perfectly coordinated, it’s easy for any new owner to adapt it to suit their needs. “Of course, modernising the bathroom fittings is simple. We’ve also had ideas about how easy it would be to slightly enlarge the bathroom and toilet area. We ourselves have never wanted a bathtub, but you could easily fit one in there.” As for what she herself would change, it’s the balcony. “I think the balcony would benefit from being bigger. Double French windows at the front would give an even more panoramic view, because you’re so high up.” It would also provide a fourth way of entering the villa. “Plus, you’d have a great view of the children when they’re playing outdoors. That’s also a nice idea.”
As for the rest, it’s up to the new owners themselves to make it exactly as they want it. Whether that includes a parquet floor, different kitchen fittings, a new kitchen top, it’s up to the new owners to decide. Perhaps they might want to consider solar panels, which many owners of properties in West aan Zee have had fitted. That would immediately improve the energy label (currently C). With just a few simple changes, this house could be completely ready for the future. Perhaps this “Muis” will also be given a new name? Now there’s something to think about….
|Asking price||€ K.K.|
|Kind of house||villa|
|Building type||detached house|
|Year of construction||1991|
|Construction Type||existing build|
|Type of roof||pent roof|
|SURFACE AREAS AND VOLUME|
|Living area||123 m2|
|Plot size||1140 m2|
|Facilities||skylight, SLAAPKAMER_OP_DE_BEGANE_GROND, BADKAMER_OP_DE_BEGANE_GROND|
|Shed / storage||inhouse|