How many times in life do you get the opportunity to live in a penthouse? I suppose if you are wealthy, this question is not that interesting. But, for us regular folk, these sorts of things don’t come along that often. Thus, when a family friend offered up his penthouse for three weeks, we jumped at the opportunity.
Located on the top floor of a tall residential building, the penthouse comprises two units turned into one, capturing 280 degree views of the North Sea and the town of Scheveningen (the last 80 degrees of ocean vista goes to a third corner unit). Hardwood floors, white walls, modern art and minimal furnishings give it a hardy, contemporary elegance, and the expansive windows–I’ve never been fond of the word glazing– create the regal experience of gazing down upon the heart of an old Dutch harbor town. The expression “bird’s-eye-view” becomes pretty literal, as the seagulls ride thermals right outside the windows and look down upon the city with their bird’s eye view.
Our first night, we shared the penthouse with our family friend and his three rugby playing sons. Although christened in the polite and well mannered aesthetics of cultured children, they are, nonetheless, boys; they jumped from the couch, danced wildly and engaged in a particularly arduous version of rough housing (must be the rugby training). As I watched these three brothers pummel one another, a sense of calm washed over me; our little man, a quiet mouse in comparison, would have a relatively small boy-footprint in this amazing home (knock knock).
The next afternoon, we started our solo journey in the penthouse. Learning it’s rhythm came naturally: sunrise from the East wing over the town of Scheveningen, natural light all day long, even when foggy, sunset over the North Sea from the west wing, back to the East wing for the moonrise. No walking around naked past the short hallway from the bathroom to the bedroom.
Although I’ve done my best to be tidy over the last three months as we were lodged through the graciousness of others, the simplicity of this space cultivates a desire for order. The modern art on the walls seems somehow compromised if I let the dirty dishes stand. We find ourselves picking up without effort, restoring the house to it’s sense of simplicity after each meal or study session, putting away slippers and backpacks so that the contrasting light and shadow can play upon the space unhindered. The only exception is the playroom, where legos, sticks, sea shells and cars lie still between Ezra’s frequent visits.
No clocks exist within the home. Soon, we discovered why. Out the East wall of windows you can clearly see the clock tower of the Oude Kerk, built in 1457. It feels strange to view the clock face at eye level, rather than gazing up at the clock tower from the more familiar perspective of a cobblestone lined street. I make a cappucino in the morning, frothing my milk in a special frothing machine while I look out the window to a mid 15th century building to determine when I should depart for work. Very European.
Another rather European experience is the 35 minute bike ride to Ezra’s school and my work, a 25 minute ride for Arie to Central Station. At first, I viewed this as a drawback. But the commute through Scheveningen, the Scheveningen Bos (forest), past the Peace Palace and into the international city of Den Haag is 35 minutes of breathing in cool, crisp air, cycling hard, navigating the bike paths with other cyclists and gaining a more intimate knowledge of the landscape of my new homeland.