Lage Vuursche, Utrecht, Netherlands
An estate with royal style Klein Drakestein Traditionally, the nobility always sought the peace and quiet of the countryside. They filled their days with horse riding, hunting, playing crocket or lawn bowling, and chic soirées. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, rich merchants from Amsterdam joined this illustrious company and built even more beautiful mansions, because money played no role. The elegant Klein Drakestein estate in Lage Vuursche was built for the Van Loon sisters, descendants from a wealthy family of bankers and co-founders of the VOC (Dutch East India Company).
The charming eighteenth-century home with coach house, service house, orangery (1999) and approximately twelve hectares of park and forest still stands firm thanks to perfect maintenance and a thorough renovation in the eighties. Here, you experience the grandeur and pleasures that make living on a historic estate so unique.
When the current owner bought the Klein Drakestein estate in 1985, it was actually ‘second choice’. This Dutchman, who had emigrated to America in the fifties, initially had his eye on Castle Drakensteyn, which he considers an ideal place for the annual holidays he likes spending in the Netherlands with his family. When he found out that Drakensteyn had been owned by Princess Beatrix since 1959 and she had no plans of selling it, he understood he had to try his luck elsewhere.
He did not need to look far, because on the other side of the Hoge Vuurseweg, literally opposite Drakensteyn, he discovered the contours of a similarly majestic estate: Klein Drakestein. This came very close to the royal glory that would never be his. Cautious renovation He managed to convince the owners to sell their property, thus becoming lord and master of a mansion from around 1780, built in a symmetrical, classicist style on a square 10.5 by 10.5 metre ground plan. He also got a coach house with horse stables, a charming farm-style service house and over twelve hectares of park, forest and pasture. Thanks to a thorough and very cautious renovation, the charming estate was fully restored to its former glory, whereby the three (main) entrances of Klein Drakestein were also decorated with imposing wrought iron entrance gates bearing the name in graceful golden letters. ‘Six painters spent nine weeks trying to give the interior back its authentic appearance,’ the owner remembers. ‘The beamed ceilings were panelled with scrap metal and we found the original fireplaces in the attic.’ The structure of the building was restored and improved, a new kitchen and bathroom were added, two large bedrooms and a beautiful master suite were realised on the first floor – all with private bathrooms – in the original, romantic style. The attic was converted into a full-fledged bedroom floor, with another three bedrooms and just as many private bathrooms.
The result of all these efforts is quite something. Klein Drakestein was resurrected as the elegant and intimate family residence as it was built in the eighteenth century for the Van Loon sisters – descendants from the very wealthy Amsterdam regent family (VOC) Van Loon, known from the similarly named museum on the Keizersgracht. The history and former residents of Klein Drakestein and Castle Drakensteyn are closely intertwined. In the last century, Klein Drakestein and Castle Drakensteyn were inhabited by Jhr. H.P.J. Bosch van Drakestein and his brother Frederik Lodewijk Bosch van Drakestein, respectively. The latter sold the castle to Princess Beatrix in 1959. Inhabitable and lovely It is no surprise that countless tourists photograph Klein Drakestein thinking they are looking at Castle Drakensteyn, which is once again the permanent residence of Princess Beatrix since 2014 and is invisible from the public road. Klein Drakestein is a gem of an estate, a national monument in perfect condition.
When you enter through the marble hallway, with the living rooms and parlours on the left and right, you immediately notice how inhabitable and lovely such a mansion is. The living spaces exude a distinguished atmosphere and are surprisingly doable in size. The house has a wine, storage and boiler room, and a mezzanine with a comfortable office. With 342 m² of living space, this is primarily a ‘homely’ house, where you can live comfortably with your family without feeling you are in a palace. It is situated on the edge of the idyllic village of Lage Vuursche (municipality of Baarn) and is hidden behind three sturdy wrought iron entrance gates. The main entrance is found at Kloosterlaan 4, where the gracious house displays all its beauty, located between high rhododendrons at the end of a driveway that bends around an oval-shaped lawn. There is an atmospheric service house at the front on the right (Kloosterlaan 2), which was built in the nineteenth century and is connected to the coach house, which has an independent studio apartment above it. A valuable expansion of the mansion took place in 1999. Because there was a need for space, including for receptions and concerts, a large orangery was built in a historicising style at some distance from the main house. The imposing building is connected to the mansion by means of a fifty-metre-long and almost four-metre-wide underground gallery with a marble floor, where the owner has placed part of his art collection.
The orangery has a floor surface of approximately 1,046 m and includes an actual concert hall that can accommodate up to two hundred people. Thanks to the exceptional acoustics, the hall is regularly used for professional music recordings. The dance floor hides a major surprise: it can be ‘lifted’ to reveal a heated swimming pool with jacuzzi. A large seventeenth-century fireplace, found at Piet Jonker in Braambrugge, dominates the room. There is also a chic meeting hall with beautiful wall panelling and window sills – all the oak used comes from the adjacent forest –, toilet groups and a wardrobe.
The first floor contains a comfortable apartment with spacious living with fireplace, a partially open kitchen, a lovely balcony overlooking the park and the Stulpkerk near Drakensteyn, two bedrooms with bathroom and an office. Below the orangery is a parking garage, reachable via the stairs or elevator, for at least ten cars, the technical room for the swimming pool, a heating and vacuum system and lots of storage space. The ground floor also has a garage for garden machines and a canteen with toilet space for the gardeners.
There is parking space for approximately sixty cars near the orangery. Nature, peace and quiet On the rear of the mansion, there is a beautiful lawn with a pond and the authentic tea house, that is situated slightly higher in the lee of the monumental trees – the wooden pavilion can even rotate with the sun. Unobstructed lines of sight were crucial within the landscaping architecture of that time, and even still today. Klein Drakestein has an unobstructed view on both the front and rear that reaches deep into the forest. Those lines of sight are also protected due to the status as a national monument.
The estate is just a short walk from the pretty town of Lage Vuursche, which owes its existence to Castle Drakesteyn. There are lovely shops, lots of restaurants and terraces along the Vuurse Steeg, the main street of the village. The immediate area is phenomenal with long beech lanes, dense deciduous and pine forests, the wet Nonnenland, sand dunes and vast heathlands. Nature, peace and quiet reign here. Even so, Hilversum, Utrecht, Amsterdam and all the pleasures of the fashionable Gooi and the Loosdrechtse Plassen are only a short distance away. At an estate like Klein Drakestein, you may