While Sanne Hop’s eldest children – Ole and Hannes – are busy at school, her two youngest – Pippa and Kaatje – can be found hard at work, making Christmas decorations by hand at the dining table. Freshly picked sprigs of holly, eucalyptus and fir are worked into charmingly simple wreaths, garlands and table settings.
‘I always decorate my home with flowers and branches,’ says Sanne, but at this time of year, the Amsterdam home the historian shares with her husband, Wim de Boer, an art director, takes an even more comforting turn.
Every corner is tastefully dressed with greenery; no tinsel here – the couple avoid plastic wherever possible. All of the children’s toys unwrapped on Christmas Day will be wooden or made from natural sources.
For Sanne and Wim, this is an ethos, not just an aesthetic. ‘We try to provide our children with an environment that expresses happiness, calmness and an appreciation for beautifully made things,’ explains Sanne. That translates into a restrained palette of wood, ochre yellow and clay-like tones. ‘The four of them already add enough colour into our lives,’ she jokes.
It was after the birth of Kaatje, their youngest, that the couple decided to rent this two-storey apartment in the centre of the Dutch capital, having outgrown their old home on the Amstel River. It may be a temporary abode, but the love they have shown this 17th-century building has improved it for future families.
‘The former tenant had half-removed the carpet from the stairs and the staircase was left with a sticky surface, so we cleaned, sandpapered and painted it,’ recalls Sanne. She and Wim also removed two walls to link the once-tiny kitchen to the open-plan living area on the ground floor, adding new white Ikea cabinets. Plywood underlay has been used on the floor throughout – a practical choice that achieves a no-nonsense rustic look. ‘Fortunately, the property has a lot of character,’ says Sanne.
When it comes to finding furniture, she favours pieces with a story. ‘I like the idea of giving things a new home,’ she explains. ‘I have a favourite stall at the Waterlooplein fleamarket. The salesman has a tale about everything he sells. Recently I bought a beautiful Persian carpet and a cane chair.’ One of her favourite purchases, though, is the vintage French iron bed in Kaatje’s room. ‘It has wheels, so when she wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to sleep with us, we can roll her bed into our room.’
This may only be a temporary abode for Sanne, Wim and their clan, but the memories that are being made here will last a lifetime. ‘Christmas is a time of being together as a family,’ says Sanne. ‘It doesn’t matter where you live. The season makes every home cosy.’
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration December 2020
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
Keep your spirits up and subscribe to ELLE Decoration here, so our magazine is delivered direct to your door.