From Heemraadsingel to Jongkindstraat
The Sonneveld family consisted of Albertus Sonneveld, a director at the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam; his wife, Gésine Sonneveld-Bos; and their daughters, Puck and Gé. The family lived in the house from 1933 to 1955. They had previously occupied a grand mansion on Heemraadsingel, which was dark with a traditional layout and old-fashioned furnishings. When they moved into their new, modern home, they took with them only books, clothes and a few personal possessions, replacing everything else.
The American influence
Albertus Sonneveld was a self-made man who had worked his way up at Van Nelle from a junior clerk’s position to become business director of the tobacco division. He took frequent work trips to the United States, travelling on large ocean steamers and staying in luxurious hotels. The United States influenced his tastes, interests and penchant for efficiency and modern convenience. He was interested in technology – cars, photography, film and wireless telegraphy but also machines like lifts and telephones. He loved practical gadgets and new inventions.
Gésine Sonneveld-Bos was a practical, frugal, tidy woman. The technical novelties in the house were primarily meant to help her run things as efficiently as possible. Modern living was also a question of status for her, though. She was conscious of her social position as a director’s wife and considered it important to live in a manner befitting her status. The new house gave her an entrée with members of the cultural elite, among whom she could express her social identity.