MS Magdalena by Han Koning
by sabine7 / February 12, 2010

Inspiration is never lacking for Dutch industrial designer Han Koning whose studio and living space happens to be a refurbished cargo ship built in 1901. Docked on a canal in the centre of Groningen, the MS Magdalena was retired in the mid-1970s and eventually ended up in the hands of Koning, who has turned it into a 100m2 apartment with a fairly open layout.


A roof was added to the cargo bay that once carried metal and wood, following the boat's curved lines. The bay does double duty by harboring the black block that houses all the electrical equipment, as well as the master bedroom. This leads to the living area, open kitchen and lavatory.


The 70 HP Detroid Diesel engine dates back to the Second World War and is still in good working condition, which allows the studio/apartment to also act as transportation for trips.


Above the motor room is the pilot house with a panoramic view over the draaikom, a broader section of the canal where large cargo ships would make their manoeuvres. This romantic spot is used as a dining room in the evenings, but also serves as the boardroom where Koning meets his clients.


Han tells us more about this very personal project:

The difference between designing for a boat rather than a building is in the curved lines. Nothing is straight, and everything is handcrafted. At the same time there are many strange, small, unpractical areas that I had to work with. I wanted the boat's character to stay intact while adding new elements. I made a creative mix by leaving original authentic parts and adding straight minimal elements.


I bought the boat because it caught my attention. I like old things and the dock where it is situated is in one of the most beautiful and quiet parts of Groningen. Now it's all finished and I decided to stay. In the future it may become the family pied-à-terre.


All the artwork is from my family: chairs were made by my father when he was young and the sculptures are my mothers. The rest of the things are all souvenirs from grandparents or were collected on vacations.


And the miniature boat is actually for sailing, too. Since I'm a fanatical sailor, I use this boat for miniature match racing.



The mood is minimalistic. It is a specific period in life that made me design it like this. At the moment I like my products and interiors to be minimalistic. The curved lines of the boat and the flickering light that reflects off the water into the interior are what I like to focus on.


The canals are my garden. Every day is different. In the winter people may skate by the boat, yet in the summer the pilot house is the place where we all drink till late at night while the sun goes down behind the skyline of Groningen.


Photos: Duncan Wijting
Art: Betty Seggers

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