Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The first time I heard about Villa Augustus, I was sitting in Studio Aandacht’s studio in Amsterdam’s IJburg neighborhood getting recommendations for a story I was writing about Dutch design. Ben and Tatjana pointed me straight to this playfully designed hotel, promising the most all-encompassing creative experience in the area. I was strapped for time, so I didn’t make it, sadly– but I’ve been following the progress and dreaming of getting back there ever since. I’ve looked at the website so many times, it feels like I’ve stayed there. At the risk of sounding overly praiseworthy and breathless about the place, Villa Augustus represents everything that is right and good in the travel world. It is so inspiring to see such creative care applied to every possible detail: walls with whimsical illustrations and geometrical prints hand-painted by the owner; fresh baked loaves of bread; handmade chandeliers that change every season; custom dinnerware emblazoned with the hare logo; and eclectic, mismatched furnishings handpicked for every room. In place of the typical hotel shop, there’s a flower and vegetable market, which makes perfect sense because the four acres of lush growing grounds surrounding the repurposed 19th-century water tower are dedicated to organic gardens, beautiful flowers, an orchard, and an Italian renaissance garden. There’s even a lemon tree greenhouse.
A testament to the creativity the place fosters, blogger/designer Ingrid Jansen, who makes the coolest wool-covered stools, spends three days a week manning the market shop and raves up and down about the magical design wonderland that owners Daan van der Have, Dorine de Vos and Hans Loos created. “I’m in love with my workplace and feel privileged to work in such a wonderful place.” There are 37 rooms total–20 in the tower and 17 in garden building–and they’re all different. The interiors were designed by Dorine d Vos, who’s also an illustrator, responsible for the walls as well as a Villa Augustus garden and cookbook. To see some of her work and get a feel for the Villa Augustus aesthetic, check out the website she illustrated. Ingrid tells me there’s a room next to the greenhouse with a secret garden that’s “like a fairytale,” and I think that’s where I’d like to stay. Prices start at $165 and include breakfast, served in the restaurant, which is, of course, located right in the garden.
[Photos: via designskool.net (top, three and five); by Walter Herfst for Villa Augustus; and lilimsadventures.blogspot.com (images four and six)]
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
One of the many things I love about the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam is that it’s always changing. I was just poking around on the site and noticed they have a new exhibit featuring ceramic keys by artist Anama Ponce Vazquez, who has been intrigued by keys since she walked into a room full of them in an Andalusian house as a child. “For me, keys don’t have to do with locking up, but with opening doors,” she says. This collection of keys was made specifically for the Lloyd–with a color scheme to match–and in order to get the color saturation deep enough, she had to bake some of them up to three times. As evidenced by the logo for Honor & Folly, I also have a thing for keys–really beautiful old skeleton types. Mine were hand-drawn by the talented Detroit-based illustrator Michael Burdick, and I love them.
Friesland, The Netherlands
Ben Lambers and Tatjana Quax of Studio Andacht keep us updated on their travels, which are always interesting and always stunningly photographed. Their latest excursion was a farm stay in Friesland, where they relaxed at Spekpolle, before heading off to Spain in search of the authentic Moor spirit. The historical house (amusingly, named after a food poisoning outbreak that spread through the a few of the households in the area many years ago) is simple and rustic–“nothing fancy,” assures Ben–but the surrounding Frisian landscape is pretty idyllic. You know, if you like things like bright green pasture teeming with galloping horses, wild gardens, orchards and a meandering river that cuts through farmland.
A couple years ago, I was in the Netherlands on assignment for a story about Dutch design. I’ve written here about the Lute Suites and The Lloyd, but really, design is everywhere you look in this country. I’m a gigantic fan of the clever-meets-kooky Dutch design aesthetic, and it was the trip of a lifetime. I got the chance to tour Marcel Wanderss Westerhuis cultural center and studio; meet Marjise Vogelzang at her Rotterdam cafe; visit Maarten Baas’ studio where they were building some fantastic wooden ship and burning furniture; and saw pieces like the Droog bench (at the Droog store) and a one-off porcelain series by Hella Jongerius (at the Frozen Fountain) in person. If you get the chance, GO. Even if you’re not a design junkie, it’s impossible not to be inspired by all that playful creativity, charm and out-there innuendo. And, of course, the gorgeous canals and flower markets! Most of the hotels offer complimentary bikes and almost every restaurant has an outdoor eating area, making it a perfect spot to spend a week in the summer.
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Groningen, The Netherlands
Extraordinarily well-designed museums have a history of turning otherwise virtually unknown cities into design junkie paradises (see Bilbao, Spain, thank you Frank Gehry). And I have to admit: It’s not a terrible idea for encouraging tourism. In fact, Groningen was just bumped from obscurity into candidate for my Small European Towns I Would Someday Like to Visit Tour, because it’s the home of that crazy, candy-colored, post-modern, strangely medieval contemporary art and design museum that recently reopened after serious ($10 mil-plus) renovation by a gang of Euro uber-designers. The museum’s collection sounds interesting enough–De Ploeg paintings, silver collection, post-modern Italian furniture by Memphis, contemporary art from the Netherlands, UK, US and China–but the building and its interior spaces are the real draw here: an entrance hall and lounge by Studio Job, a futuristic-looking info center by Spanish artist/designer Jaime Hayon (tricked out with his BD Showtime chairs and Copa Cabana lights), the Mendini restaurant by Dutch designer Martin Baas (made famous by his clay series), and an over-the-top, pastel patchwork tile exterior of the building by Italian designer Alessandro Mendini. There are two other architectural portions designed by Philippe Starck and Coop Himmelb(l)au.
[Photos courtesy of the Groniger Museum, first spotted on Designboom]
These days, Dutch design superstar Marcel Wanders is the name behind massive hotels like the Mondrian in Miami and Germany’s Kameha Grand Bonn. But I actually prefer his first overnighter, the Lute Suites–a pinprick of a project in comparison–that he designed in a bucolic little village outside Amsterdam five years ago. A massive undertaking of unnerving scale and audacity, the Mondrian lets Wanders’ show off his design chops with rooftop topiary cabanas and a laser-cut spiral staircase, but the Lute feels more intimate and personal and accessible. Scuffed-up luxury–the kind of place you go to eat, hide and relax, not see and be seen. Plus, I like the backstory: After dining at Peter Lute’s famed Lute restaurant on the Amstel River, Wanders was so inspired, he asked the chef to collaborate on the neighboring row of 18th-century worker cottages.
Two summers ago, I dedicated three hours of a perfect sunny afternoon to a seven-course lunch on the outdoor patio at the Lute, and afterwards, I was lucky enough to score a tour of a few of the cottages. It felt like walking through Marcel Wanders’ design psyche. Filled almost exclusively with Wanders (and Moooi) furniture and accessories, there’s hardly a square inch that isn’t touched by his kooky-playful-yet-somehow-still-startlingly-beautiful aesthetic–custom wallpaper, floor stencils, Bisazza mosaics, textiles, and even a loft-style sleeping cocoon made from an iron flower pattern of his own design. All seven suites are completely different, and while they look super slick and over-perfect in photographs, they have a sort of rustic/old-meets-new/cozy vibe in person. Bonus for foodies: breakfast is delivered from the restaurant every morning.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A former immigrant hotel and youth prison, The Lloyd hotel in Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands is part hotel, part cultural embassy (and part architectural marvel with its transformation by MVRDV). It’s been around for seven years, but design like this doesn’t get less interesting with time. In a country that truly respects and fosters innovative design, the hotel’s interior line-up reads like a who’s-who of the most clever, kooky and talented Dutch superstars. Rugs by Claudy Jongsta in the café lounge; a bar and custom light fixture designed by Richard Hutton; furniture by designers ranging from Piet Hein Eek to up-and-comer Christopher Seyferth; the Rag Chair by Tejo Remy sitting inconspicuously in the hallway (it really is comfy); a rocking horse by Ineke Hans; ceramics by Hella Jongerious. Even shutters, drapes and architectural details, like staircases, are commissioned as art installations. I have admired so many of these pieces online, where they sometimes feel intimidating, but in person—where they’re mixed and matched, and can be touched and tested—the design comes to life in the playful, often tongue-in-cheek way it was intended. The 117 rooms span a star rating—from one to five, so there’s a pay-what-you-can range of possibility. One of the five-star rooms, designed to accommodate bad behavior from rock stars with an eight-person bed, more often plays host to families. Kids will also love the rooms with sprawling, peaked-roof ceilings and dangling swings.
The Lloyd is currently working on its second location to open this spring!
[Building and hotel room photos by Yamandu Roos; bed detail by Dorien Oxenaar; music room by Rob ‘t Hart Photography.]