Soho House Design Director Linda Boronkay on waking up the 'Sleeping Beauty' that is our new House in Amsterdam
As Soho House Amsterdam opens its doors, we asked Soho House Design Director Linda Boronkay to share her experience of bringing this 'sleeping beauty' of a building back to life, as well as highlighting some of her favourite features and the inspiration behind some of the key pieces in our Amsterdam collection of furniture and textiles.
'It’s just so beautiful. It was built in the 1930s and converted into a university and when we took over there were still classrooms with all these partition walls and fake ceilings. The beautiful elements and the original architecture were covered up. We tore it all out and discovered new details, so we tried to play on that. The building is a unique piece of architecture because it’s got Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Amsterdam School as well as Functionalist elements so we had all these amazing storylines to build a concept around.
It’s a blessing working in a building like this because there are so many clues that we can take inspiration from. The design team has been working on it for over three years. It’s a long process, it’s a big site. The team spent a lot of time in Amsterdam – we moved out there, the majority of the team has been living there since last September. We spent a lot of time with the locals - Dutch people are quite social and they love to eat and drink out, so we have a lot of different areas within the House where people can enjoy that.'
'The corridor runner that runs along the guest corridors has a similar pattern to the Lisette cushion. We chose it because we went to see Rembrandt’s house and there was a really cool, very traditional Dutch chair in one of his bedrooms and it had that pattern in it. We found a similar fabric and took that as inspiration. We did go to our usual vintage markets, but this time around we sourced mainly from the Netherlands, Belgium and the neighbouring countries. Our major vintage supplier is based in the Netherlands so we tried to be as specific as possible. We tried to keep to 1930s pieces, true to the original features of the building.'
'Every time we do a new House we do a mock-up room where we test the ideas, the colour scheme, the bespoke furniture, if the room layout works or not, the lighting and all that. And so for this specific mock-up we got a vintage Amsterdam School rug, which is quite hard to find. We wanted something really colourful, quite fun, something very residential, which brings the whole colour scheme together.
The Wittenburg rug is based on that rug and you’ll see it in the Monumental rooms. We tried to keep within Scandinavia, Art Deco, Amsterdam School – thinking along those lines. Lots of geometric patterns in the building, lots of tiles, stained windows, veneered panelling; it’s a very masculine, geometric space so it was nice to play on that.'
Echoing the City
'With the bed, we were looking at the canal houses around Amsterdam and they all have these beautiful shapes and the city has such beautiful rhythms, we just tried to mimic that, as well as the small bridges that cross the canals. When we were doing some research for the layout of the club we came across some beautiful antique screens with a similar shape so that was perfect, a match made in heaven.
'For the bed throw, we looked at all the beautiful stained glass windows in the building and we took inspiration from the pattern and colours as well studying the Amsterdam School, which is a very specific style and was prominent at the time the building was built.'
'In terms of the colour palette and the concept we wanted to keep it quite colourful because the weather is beautiful during the summer, but then you have nine months of rain and fog. When you see this building from the outside it’s quite brutal, but inside it has amazing windows and there are so many beautiful views from the club. We wanted to bring vibrancy and freshness to counterplay with the grey weather in Amsterdam! As soon as you enter the building a courtyard brings in a lot of natural light and we incorporated a lot of plants as well so it acts as an indoor/outdoor space – we wanted to create a little oasis. It’s a very European thing – in Barcelona we have something similar, and in Budapest this is a typical architecture in residential buildings to bring in more light and create more space.'