The merchants house of
In 1742 the house at the Singel 224 in Amsterdam, originally built in 1638, was bought by the widow of Tamis van Grootheest. The young widow, Martha de Kleijne, is a wealthy merchant who obtained her wealth mainly through her trade in tea. In Europe the drinking of tea starts in the 17th century and becomes extremely popular in the 18th century. From 1728 onwards, the VOC (United East-India Company) starts sailing directly to Canton (China), which gives the Dutch tea trade an enormous boost.
The bell-shaped gable is decorated with a richly ornamented top in Louis XIV style, with slightly indented spring stones, a curved, richly decorated fronton and an elegant vase on top. The house is enlarged by building an 'achterhuis' or 'backhouse' and a garden house. An elegant high 'stoop' is added to the house, with the servants entry below the front door. The front door has a monumental surround topped by the Amsterdam coat of arms.
The drawing on the left gives an impression of how the house must have looked around 1743. The drawing shows two shuttered attic windows, indicating the house actually had two attics for storing the merchants' goods.
Martha invests her money in houses and gives out loans which in turn give her more huge profits. Martha has three children from her marriage with Tamis van Grootheest, all of whom inherited the smart business sense from their mother. Upon Martha's death in 1797, the three children inherit a considerable fortune. The house on the Singel remains family property, but it is no longer inhabited by the family. In the course of the 19th century a few minor changes to the faÃ§ade take place; new windows are put in and the lower shuttered attic hatch is replaced by a window. The whole house is now in use as living-accommodation, thus losing its function as merchants' house.
Almost a century later, in 1893, a fierce fire destroys part of the top floors. The van Grootheest de Kleijne heirs decide to sell the property. The new owner, Mr. Leo Rickx, spends much of his time in England and has become very interested in the English 'Arts & Crafts' style. As he has the building restored , he himself designs a large library and study at the front of the house in the style of the Arts & Crafts. He also includes the staircase in the new design. His English wife Emma is delighted with all the rococo detail still present in the house and has a few 18th century pieces of family-furniture shipped over from England to decorate some of the rooms in the house with.