These four spacious homes will have a big problem next winter

Dennis ten Hove-HaddadPicture Jordi Huisman

Dennis: ‘You can try to heat up the building completely, but I don’t want you to. There are two wood-burning stoves, but they are only for heating when it gets a little colder, not suitable for mid-winter; Even in old churches that are still in operation, people keep their coats on for a reason. Even if you put a really good boiler on the church grounds, it is not financially possible.

“That’s why we ourselves live in the sacristy: the part of the church that used to be used for meetings and which has now been converted into housing. We see the rest of the church as a bonus. Like seawater, the temperature in this 11-meter-high room moves with the surrounding temperature: from March it slowly starts to warm up, from October it gets really cold.

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‘We see the church as a kind of summer room, a practical place and space for long tables and parties. For example, we have no more energy costs than an average household. The corridor between the church and the sacristy keeps the heat and the cold in their own place.

‘We were looking for calm and inspiration when we moved from our Utrecht apartment last year, not necessarily a big house. But the atmosphere and the vast landscape convinced us: if there is a rainbow, you can see it from start to finish here. And the light is fantastic: in the morning the sun dances through the stained glass. Because this church does not have a monumental status, you also have every opportunity to shape it according to your own taste. With a view to energy consumption, we planned to include part of the church in the living room, and to create a box construction with smaller rooms that are easier to heat.

Our plans were already 90 percent ready when it turned out that my wife has a congenital heart defect. She just had surgery. Such a major renovation is no longer possible. So we are looking for an apartment again and this church is for sale again. Unfortunately, this dream didn’t quite come true for us, but maybe for someone else’.

The Margot Pas statue

Margot Pass

WHO Evert van Bergen (35, entrepreneur), Margot Pas (38, hairdresser), Jake (6) and Lloyd (2).
Where The former second oldest cinema in the Netherlands in Geertruidenberg, North Brabant.
Surface 347 m2.
Energy bill 525 euros per month.

Evert: ‘The room to run. It pleased our eldest son the most before we moved here from our 1930s home in Breda. We were looking for something striking and immediately fell in love. This building is more than five hundred years old, until 2007 it was a cinema. Former residents have renovated it themselves: he was an artist who worked a lot with steel, the stairs and the kitchen are his own design. Yet there are also many original details: we enter through the old cinema doors and the film projector still contains the last film shown: Casino Royalea James Bond from 2006.

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We now use the former 8 meter high foyer as an antechamber; here we organize meetings, workshops and photoshoots. It is also the coldest room in the house: the hot air disappears upwards, and the three cast iron radiators in it are more decorative. We can only get nice and warm with the large, labor-intensive fireplace. Behind the hall is our living room, which we can heat via underfloor heating, but with gas.

Fortunately, we are used to not being too hot, we just put on an extra turtleneck. The bedrooms on the first floor have no heating. On the landing it was 40 degrees this summer because of the large glass walls. We don’t yet know how cold it will actually be this winter: we have only lived here for two months. But we can always run in a circle to warm up.’

Anton Hodde Statue

Anton Hodde

WHO Anton Hodde (77), retired surgeon.
Where A monumental farmhouse from 1650 (estimated) in Veeningen, Drenthe. The farm is for sale.
Surface 320 m2.
Energy bill Around 350 euros per month.

Anton: ‘When gas cost a shilling per cubic meter thirty years ago, it was still possible. I have no cavity walls, no floor insulation and a thatched roof, which always creates drafts. You can’t really isolate a monument like this very well. But when the price of gas rose for the first time ten years ago and I suddenly had to pay 800 euros a month, I took action.

‘In the old bakery I installed a new heating supply together with an engineer friend. The base is formed by two large tanks that can hold a total of 1,000 liters of hot water. I have installed four solar collectors that can heat that water, so when the sun shines you can shower and bathe with them.

‘If it’s cloudy, I light the big wood-burning stove in the same loft, burn one or two wheelbarrows of wood there every day, and the central heating is turned on again, even though it’s now 19 degrees. If I don’t, the house will be too cold. Eighteen solar panels in the garden also provide electricity. Finally, I installed a new gas installation.

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‘I think it cost me 30,000 euros in total. But the result is that I have turned off the gas tap from April this year, and I am trying to keep it that way until the end of September. I cook electric and if I have to take a cold shower once in a while, well.

“Even when the rest of the house is cold, I still have a wood-burning stove in the living room. That’s the advantage of the landscape: My neighbors never complain about the smoke. You are always working on it. When I see a pile of wood somewhere, I ask: can I come by with my cart? You have to look a year ahead, otherwise it won’t be dry. In any case, you have three times the heat: When collecting, when sawing and when firing.’

Maaike Schmeet's statue

Maaike Schmeets

WHO Maaike Schmeets (33, interior designer) and Taco Vis (36, senior communicator), Luca Mai Vis (4) and Béla Vis (1).
Where Half of an old fisherman’s house from 1869 in the village center of Huizen.
Surface 91 m2.
Energy bill 670 euros per month.

Maaike: ‘We were struck by the atmosphere and imperfection of such an old house. But when we got the key almost a year ago, we already noticed how cold it was in the winter. Our gas bill has gone from 264 euros a month to 670 euros because we were forced to switch to a new energy company.

‘I have to laugh a little when I think I was looking at bathroom pictures a year ago. We are not going to do any of that, because our entire renovation budget will first go to making the house more sustainable. It is a difficult job, because the house is a municipal monument, so any plan for better insulation or double glazed windows must be approved by the municipality. Looking back, I doubt I would have bought this house again.’

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Taco: ‘Of course you’re now answering that question with progressive insight, which makes it difficult. But I think I may have bought the house. It is a charming house, steeped in history. I’m glad my kids are growing up here and not in a Vinex neighborhood. Of course, I share the concerns about the costs. In winter, you can blow clouds in the kitchen. On the other hand, I also see it as a moral responsibility to prepare the house for the next generation. So no new bathroom, we want to make it more sustainable. Living in this house also contributes to climate awareness for me.’

Maaike: ‘We do not use more energy than necessary, and in winter we live where it is warmer. You notice that the children almost automatically start playing in the living room, under the thatched roof, where it is warmest. Béla doesn’t go yet and avoids the icy tiles in the kitchen. That way you can see how you learn to move with the house.

‘I like that about an old house, following the house through the different rooms through the seasons. We love that romance. But it must remain affordable. In any case, we’re not going to turn on the heating for a while, so we’ve been sitting comfortably at 17 degrees all morning.’

Photo: Jordi Huisman.

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