Originally a schoolhouse, the main lessons now taught in this central Amsterdam property are the principles of Scandinavian design and minimalism.
Converted into a four-bedroom house by local architect Jen Alkema, known for his commitment to clean lines and meticulously pared-back spaces, the building is now home to Ulrika Lundgren and her two sons, Felix and Luca.
Swedish fashion stylist and designer Ulrika has been living in the Dutch capital for 20 years, but her signature style is still very firmly influenced by her roots. In fact, it’s also the aesthetic that her fashion brand Rika Studios exhorts – there’s a shop, Maison Rika, located on the corner of the Herengracht and Oude Spiegelstraat, as well as a dedicated magazine and, as of late, a boutique guesthouse above the store.
The main defining feature of Ulrika’s home is its monochrome palette: white walls and antique oak floorboards painted pitch black. It’s a bold chromatic contrast that could end up looking cold or uninviting, but, when sprinkled with a carefully selected edit of iconic furniture from Scandinavia’s design past, as well as custom-made items, pieces picked up on trips abroad and contemporary paintings, it becomes full of soul.
Due to the property’s past as a place of learning, it is blessed with unusually high ceilings – the double-height living area is especially striking – and long, expansive rooms that add to the grandeur of Ulrika’s decorative decisions.
For her, function is as important as form. That’s why, although it may look uncluttered, the trappings of everyday family life still exist, piled high on the built-in shelving units that blend into the fabric of this home.
There is nothing superfluous here, but, when choosing the few pieces that are on display, Ulrika looks for one essential characteristic: timelessness. ‘Beauty,’ she says, ‘lies in things that are destined to grow in value as they age.’
Ulrika’s standards and palette may be strict, but there are a few notable exceptions to her monochrome scheme; bold splashes of primary colour that appear in the form of art. Most notable is the large work above the daybed in the main living area, created by her friend, the Amsterdam-based artist and interior designer Sam Ming.
Also bringing a note of softness to her architectural use of black and white are the bunches of fresh, seasonal blooms picked up from Amsterdam’s fragrant flower markets. ‘They are wildflowers, direct from local fields,’ explains Ulrika, who loves to arrange them in prime positions to enjoy the abundance of natural light that floods her home. rikastudios.com; jenalkema.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration February 2020
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