The rockstar of Dutch design Marcel Wanders created a spectacular Alice in Wonderland interior for a new hotel he opened this year in his home town of Amsterdam, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento
MARCEL Wanders cuts a tall, dashing figure with his leonine mane of hair and black suit. The classicism of a white shirt and well-tailored dark suit is subverted by the odd, flared cut of his trousers, checkered white shoes and a colourful necklace of birthstones, Baccarat glass beads and pieces of meteorite and lava. When I first interviewed Wanders in Milan, he was sartorially famous for his signature necklace of large pearls that he somehow managed to make look both masculine and stylish on his six-foot, four-inch frame.
The Andaz Amsterdam Prinsegracht - Prince’s canal - was a public library and it’s 1970s exterior is not prepossessing. But inside Wanders has created an Alice in Wonderland (or rather Wanderland) world of enormous bell-like ceiling lamps, modern baroque chairs by Martin Baas, Delft-blue carpets woven with the Dutch East India Company’s world maps and corridors lined with artists’ video installations.
A true eccentric, Wanders has always followed his own vision since his early days with the avant-garde Droog Design when he designed his infamous Knotted Chair in 1996. Wanders has kept throwing decorative bricks through the window of International Modernism and it's adherents' celebration of spare, colourless minimalism. For his company Moooi and for the world's top design houses, he has designed baroque wall-papers and washstands, embossed cutlery, out-sized pieces of classical furniture made from paper, giant lamps with flowers lining their interiors and tables and chairs covered in silky roses.
Here in Amsterdam at the Andaz Hotel, Wanders’ riotous aesthetic has been let loose yet the imaginative ebullience of the design gives the public spaces a sense of surreal cohesion. Blue and white porcelain tiles reflecting early Dutch Delft pottery line the soaring atrium beyond the hotel's entrance and an installation of delicate, hanging golden spheres suggest the country’s history of navigation and exploration.
“The building’s heritage as a former public library also informs the design of the hotel with books - both physical and deconstructed - forming the look and feel,’’ says Wanders. “The imagery of historic books about Amsterdam served as inspiration for the wallpaper and décor and offer an authentic local experience to visitors.”
Wanders' furniture is used throughout the hotel including the tall, bright-red Tulip chairs that cluster like large flowers in the lobby. The oversized bell-like lamps lined in gold with crystal chandeliers inside loom above glossy white, classic tables. Wanders also chose the mixture of books and objects that clutter surfaces to create a club-like atmosphere that feels more like a home than a hotel.
The designer created the hotel’s restaurant called Blue, where he now often dines, with a mixture of ornately carved wooden panels and a simple, celestial blue ceiling dotted with beaming spotlights. Outside in the courtyard, the Alice in Wonderland theme is taken quite literally with a wall covered in black and white tiles depicting a giant, modern Alice, a rabbit and a bottle with Drink Me written on it.
The hotel’s 122 rooms are characterised by a dreamlike mixture of white-linen covered beds topped by trompe l’oeil wallpapers depicting half of a large glimmering fish melded with a utensil like a spoon or comb. “A major theme within the overall design is the idea of ‘connected polarities’, two individual non-related elements that are stitched together to form a new logical whole,” explains Wanders. “The Amsterdam city logo is three xxx and if you look at them as embroidery stitches you can fit things together and connect them.
“On the wall of each hotel room is a giant photographic mural which takes take two unsuspecting items in this case a fish head and an object and stitches them together to create a new, surprising whole - a connected polarity. Thus fish and spoon, fish and brush, fish and vase sit harmoniously on the walls demonstrating our mission to embrace the polarities within the city and to keeping an open mind.”
Every design element in the hotel has a twist that evokes Wanders’ particular aesthetic. The bedroom's tall rectangular dressing table mirrors appear straightforward yet the addition of a neon frame adds a frisson of gas-station rawness. The winged chair by the bed could be straight from an English country house, yet the preposterously high back and phosphorescent yellow upholstery add a Daliesque strangeness.
Located in the cultural heart of Amsterdam, the hotel is a walk away from the Stedelijk, the city's modern art museum and the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum that reopen early next year. Wanders would like the Andaz to become a creative meeting place and second home for both locals and travellers interested in art and design.
Click on photographs for full-screen slideshow
The hotel's foyer designed by Marcel Wanders with his over-sized Bell lamps,Tulip chairs and carpet woven in Delft Blue of the Dutch East India Company's maps.
The Bells were originally designed in 2007. They hang above tables part of the Container Table New Antiques series of 2012.
Reflecting it's former history as a public library, the entrance to the hotel is lined in tiles depicting scenes from early books about Amsterdam
The giant photographic mural of a fish with a porcelain handle that represents Wander's theory of 'connected polarities'.
The hotel's sitting room with it's blackened Martin Baas Smoked chairs, Wanders' sofas and another Delft Blue map carpet.
One of the bedrooms with a mirror in a neon frame and Wanders' version of the Wing chair.
Wanders high-backed, bright yellow version of the classic chair.
Another photographic image of a large fish combined with one of Wanders' decorative spoons and Amsterdam's symbol of three crosses.
Big Shadow lamps first designed by Marcel Wanders for Cappellini in 1998.
V.I.P Chair first designed in 2000 for the World Expo in Hanover.