‘Every new assignment for Nicemakers begins with freedom of thought and inspiration, which could be a story or just a mood,’ explains Dax Roll, one half of the interior design partnership, which he founded with his partner Joyce Urbanus 10 years ago.
Together, they are drawn to working on properties that have a tale to tell. And this property, referred to within Amsterdam’s ancient city archives as ‘Oranjeappel’, has just that.
Built in 1615 as a grand family home, the mansion-like property later became an orphanage run by the Amsterdam Baptist Church. Over the following centuries, its traditional Dutch renaissance façade, with its charming stepped gable, has welcomed many inhabitants, the most recent of which is a friend of Dax who works in the fashion business. After buying the top two floors, tucked beneath the building’s impressive eaves, she knew the perfect person to begin the apartment’s next chapter.
‘She contacted me via Facebook,’ recalls Dax. ‘Her message read, “I haven’t seen you for a while and then suddenly I see you designing the most fantastic interiors. How about mine?”’
Of course, he and Joyce were on board, but they had one request: ‘We both wanted to see the space completely empty,’ says Joyce. ‘Only then can you experience the power of those beams and that striking roof construction.’
Their first decision was to select light wooden flooring, painted a misty grey, that would mimic the white ceiling and make the oak joists appear less dominant. ‘The roof was characteristic enough, so we didn’t feel the need to add too many colours or materials,’ continues Joyce.
The unusual dimensions of the space did require a bespoke approach, though. ‘Joyce and I puzzled over the new layout,’ adds Dax. A new kitchen was slotted into place and a staircase built to access the mezzanine-level home office and guest bedrooms.
Few walls in this home are large enough to hang substantial artworks, so a custom-made bookcase behind the living area acts as an ever-changing gallery of souvenirs and memories. The only pieces that the homeowner kept from her previous property are the industrial stage light and weathered leather armchair in the living area. This home demanded a new take.
‘It was important for Dax and I to experience the apartment at different times of the day,’ says Joyce. ‘We were sensing the atmosphere. Where are the beautiful sight lines and how does the sunlight come in?’ For them, this project was as much about creating a feeling as defining a space.
‘We actually designed the interior specifically for 5pm, the time when our client often returns home,’ explains Dax. ‘That’s why the aim was always to focus on warmth and cosiness. We wanted it to become a kind of shelter for her.’
And a shelter is more than walls and a roof. Here, it’s about that moment of relaxation and peace as the fading light of the day lends everything a gentle golden glow. nicemakers.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration March 2021
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