What I learned of Dutch Design, browsing around the furniture stores and peeking into the houseboats of Amsterdam , is that it does not follow predefined logics, but incorporates many opposing influences that, over the centuries, have made it different from all the others, starting with the much more sober and rigorous one of the Scandinavian neighbors.
To summarize, the typical Amsterdam home is exactly like Amsterdam: eclectic, nonconformist, surprising, fluid, free, with a sense of humor and a desire to experiment.
I confess to having lost myself from time to time among the various artistic currents that have inspired and shaped Dutch design, just as I happily lost myself among the thousand canals that run through Amsterdam far and wide.
But the fascination in both cases is precisely this: the wealth of possibilities, the bifurcations, the alternative routes, the unexpected foreshortenings, the variations on the theme. Getting lost in this case is not so bad.
Dutch Design in Amsterdam: an ambivalent style
The pictorial currents – we were saying – have often been a source of inspiration for artists, architects, and designers.
In Holland, on the one hand, exponents of Flemish art had introduced a certain taste for bright colors and miniatures from the fifteenth century.
On the other hand, with the great Masters of Dutch painting of the golden age ( Rembrandt, Vermeer, Steen ), we had come closer to a more sober and tonal color palette, to greater realism and contact with nature.
General sobriety and eccentricity barrel, neutral basic tones and vivid colors to surprise, simple design in the lines but decided in the pure materials and in the brilliant colors.
The love for bright colors, never completely dormant, returns in more recent times with the De Stijl architectural movement.
Bring the mixture of primary colors: rich cyan, yellow, magenta to the rich Dutch houses of the early 1900s.
But in the middle, there was a certain Vincent Van Gogh.
I am in Amsterdam, like in a painting by Van Gogh
Amsterdam is a magical city.
You can even see it by simply crossing a bridge, stopping at one of the many bistros along the canals or absentmindedly entering a park and then finding yourself “catapulted” into a fairy-tale landscape, complete with a castle and an enchanted kingdom.
So I was not surprised when, crossing the threshold of the furniture store The Frozen Fountain on Prinsengracht, I thought I was entering a Van Gogh painting. All those colors!
The bright red of the console, the bright blue of the irregular chairs, the ironic patchwork of the vintage armchair.
The dazzling magenta of the gigantic sculpture plant, but also wooden furniture with a linear and contemporary design and touches of humor (the lamp-piglet, the “moving” chest of drawers ).
And then the yellow by Van Gogh, which I found as a leitmotif in the complements, in the walls, in the lampshades declined in elegant gilded or rustic rattan, in the armchairs and in the reflections of the jewel lamps.
Van Gogh pursued the light of the South and the yellow of the sun, for this he had moved to Provence.
And it is here, in the famous Yellow House of Arles, that his most joyful paintings are born, characterized by a blinding palette of light, full of sun and that bright yellow that he loved so much.
They are the fields of wheat, sunflowers, images that the artist puts on canvas with urgent urgency to consecrate a life.
Like an impressionist trait, he perceives it as a fleeting moment.
For this reason, he paints by day – Carpe Diem – and writes to his brother Theo: “What color is in a painting is enthusiasm in life.”
The greenery, nature, and flowers of Amsterdam
Unconventional, just like Van Gogh, the creative click of Dutch design takes shape in the creation of kaleidoscopic and unique collections of their kind.
“Violent” and exasperated colors that seem to want to enhance and transfigure reality.
A sort of “Scream” by Munch that finds a perfect containing balance thanks to the fusion with an omnipresent nature.
The green of the plants, the wood of the trees, the explosion of life of the tulips, the perfumes, the thousand colors reflected by the channels on the large windows of the houses.
The heavens at sunset red. Everything, in the houses of Amsterdam, seems to remember that the scream of colors is also and above all the scream of nature, of life itself that “screams” of being lived.
..and the Nordic spirit present in this magnificent city
Love for nature, green, romantic landscapes, life with “zero emissions.”
These are all elements that contribute to making Amsterdam a city without frenzy, haste, or noise, while also being cheerful and full of life.
Everything flows smoothly like water in the canals.
This Nordic spirit, easy and slow, is also reflected in the design and furnishing of homes.
The baroque influences and the impetus of the palettes are diluted to reach a balance that smacks of freshness, authenticity, and family warmth.
From the architectural principles of the De Stijl school, today’s designers have inherited a love for open and free environments.
The fluidity emerges between the interiors and exteriors, creating luminous and dynamic living spaces, separated only by large windows as if they were openings towards the infinite.
But even the most “Scandinavian” heart of Dutch houses always oscillates between the typical essentiality of Nordic design.
Neutral tones, handmade details, natural wood, and some inevitable exotic touch that has the task of making everything a little more intimate and familiar. Like the Maghreb-inspired Day Bed or the unexpected touches of humor of the swing suspended in the living room ( Sukha Atelier, Haarlemmerstraat ).
When you least expect it, intriguing decorations emerge that break the uniformity of everything else.
A wall with bright colors, Nepalese fabrics, ethnic vases, carpets littered with large cushions that almost invite you to sit on the floor, relax, take life as it comes … or take it to cushions!
..and I reflect
What I notice at the end of my mini-trip through the “secrets” of Dutch Design is that, in reality, there are no secrets.
If not the most difficult to put into practice: approach life with lightness, enthusiasm, irony, and a pinch of healthy madness. And every now and then change direction, look where no one else looks and – why not – get lost in the canals and discover some little hidden treasure.