Walking into Moooi, one of Amsterdam’s leading interior design shops, is like walking into a museum of the future. Spread over 700 square metres, it houses products so innovative they seem to belong to the next century rather than today. The Crochet Table, skillfully sewn by hand, defies the limits of fabric and is surprisingly sturdy. The Heracleum II, an LED lamp shaped like a series of illuminated leaves, appears to float from the ceiling thanks to an ultra-thin suspension wire. And Eyes of Strangers, an armchair and sofa cover, pops with a red-and-orange animal motif.
Take a wander
Marcel Wanders, one of the most famous designers in the Netherlands, set up the shop in 2001. His knack for identifying up-and-coming designers allows him to stock the freshest items on the market, while his design prowess helps him dream up gorgeous interiors of his own. ‘I pull together multiple ideas from many different sources,’ he said recently. ‘It is much more like making a painting. I think about many colours, shapes and form.’
Across Amsterdam designers and interior design stores are creating masterpieces with the same broad outlook. Their knack for originality and innovation stems partly from their surroundings. Amsterdam, one of the world’s most liberal cities, has a tolerant attitude toward off-kilter ideas and fanciful visions. It’s in the Dutch DNA to value quirkiness over conformity. In the past that atmosphere helped nurture painters such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Today it inspires modern-day artists who trade their designs at interiors shops like Moooi, Droog, Frozen Fountain and WonderWood. Collectively they’ve adopted an original, avant-garde approach to design, and have turned traditional interiors on their head.
In Amsterdam, interiors rarely come in one shade, nor do they elicit one response. At Moooi, for instance, Wanders believes design should embrace the light-hearted in addition to the grandiose and serious. ‘People like fun and that’s nice in design,’ he says. ‘You shouldn’t always worry about minimalism.’
This is reflected by the brands stocked at Moooi. Front, a Swedish label, offers designs inspired by living creatures. The black Pig table, and Horse and Rabbit lamps, always elicit strong responses and bring a touch of whimsy to any room. Studio Job, a Belgian company, combines traditional craftsmanship with edgy ornamentation. Its Altdeutsche furniture collection playfully reinterprets classic grandfather clocks, cabinets and chests. Solid pine furniture is painted white and then embellished with intricate graphics of skulls, bottles, belts and animals in yellow, red, green and black.
The explosion of colour continues at Droog. The design shop has earned a global reputation for its collaborations with designers from around the world. Its owners select inventive designs that span accessories, lighting, furniture and textiles. A simple steel cabinet, for instance, comes with brightly coloured crates of different sizes. They can be re-arranged on a whim, meaning the cabinet will always be unique. Even a set of 12 tea towels, one for each month, transcends convention. Words appear on checkered backgrounds in happy shades of lime and sky blue.
For the city’s boldest textiles and curtains head to Henskin. Jeroen Vinken, the artistic director of the label, uses a computer-operated jacquard weaving machine to create bold curtains with up to 190 tints. The Mazzo collection (which means ‘bouquet’ in Italian) looks like a series of flowers painted on a pleated canvas. This is not a simple floral afterthought. The pattern only repeats after 96 metres, meaning no area of the curtains will look like another area within a room.
Filling that room with furniture won’t be a problem for Amsterdam shoppers. WonderWood invites customers to step into a ‘wonderful world of wooden design’. Part gallery and part store, it specialises in vintage plywood chairs and tables from the 1930s to the 1970s. But visitors can also dive into limited-edition furniture ranges that are crafted today, but ooze a retro flair.
Frozen Fountain, another furniture and home accessories leader, is anything but frozen in time. Housed in a beautiful canal house, its owners have curated a progressive and forward-looking range of furniture and textiles from large international brands and quirky Dutch labels. Piet Hein Eek’s scrap wood wallpaper mimics different types of wood and colour combinations. Dragon d’or curtains from Elitis feature turquoise dragons outlined in tangerine while Maarten Baas’s clay furniture series features metal-frame chairs, bookshelves, and coffee tables covered in clay. Unconventional yet undeniably sophisticated, it’s a range that mirrors Amsterdam itself.