Multicultural design in historic Dutch apartment

Den Tex Dojo: A Harmonious Fusion of Multicultural Design in a Historic Dutch Apartment


A marriage of multicultural design styles makes this Dutch apartment a study in harmony.

Many years of history are in the walls of Den Tex Dojo, a historical apartment in Amsterdam. This classic home was built in 1881 and hadn’t been renovated in more than 20 years, resulting in a space that felt closed in and dark. This didn’t suit the young professional couple living there. The two expats wanted a home that was calming and restful, yet still felt fresh and young.

A Marriage of cultures

“The clients had a mutual love of Japanese architecture, furniture and culture, and that had a huge impact on design,” says architectural and interior designer Dominique Hage. They were looking for a home where they could live, work and socialise — needs that were highlighted in the renovation period which occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The clients had a mutual love of Japanese architecture, furniture and culture

The pandemic also presented challenges for the renovation as the couple needed to exist in the space despite the upheavals. “By creating many autonomous moments within the apartment, from nooks to benches and an indulgent onsen-like bathroom, this home was able to evolve with their needs throughout the day and season even in coronavirus lockdowns,” says Dominique.

pandemic also presented challenges for the renovation

The renovation was quite extensive, with the kitchen, dining room, living room and four bedrooms requiring alterations, as well as two bathrooms (one including a laundry) and two water closets. All finishes, lighting and flooring were renovated, and soft furnishings were added throughout. Custom cabinetry was added in the living room, dining room, kitchen and study, resulting in a complete transformation of this historic home.

The clients’ goals were met through subtle design changes that had maximum impact. “By adding skylights and an atrium and opening up a lot of the spaces, we brought sunshine and a better flow to the space,” shares Dominique. “The poky kitchen now opens up into the dining room, which flows into the living, creating an intimate but social space that can be enjoyed by two people or 20.”

The result is a home that has a real sense of movement. Ornate mouldings are bedfellows with oak-veneer cabinetry, welcoming the past into the present. The walls are painted with raw paint, a sustainable Dutch product. This provides welcome relief and allows for moments of high detail, colour and contrast in features throughout the home. “A wonderful collection of vintage European furniture and Japanese custom-made pieces are linked by proportion, symmetry and finishes,” continues Dominique. “Unlike most Dutch clients, these two had a strong dislike for marble, which led us to create bold pops of colour using tiles, textiles and metallic finishes.”

A wonderful collection of vintage European furniture and Japanese custom-made pieces

One example of this can be seen in the bathroom that’s somehow half Japanese onsen, half Scandinavian sauna. Here, warm oak walls and cabinetry extend all the way to the ceiling and are paired with a uniform tile that’s both energising and opulent. “I love to use a simple product in a way that delivers a high impact,” says Dominique. “The tiles used in that space are Winckelmans, a classic European tile company most often used in historic-style projects, French bistros and the like. To use this simple product in such a bold way that delivers indulgence and grandeur is very synonymous with my style. The detailing with the oak walls and Roman bath also add to the timelessness of the space, and it feels really fresh to me.”

Open space living room with bookcase

Despite all these new additions, the building’s past was not forgotten. “By respecting the historic nature of the building while introducing new influences relevant to the clients’ past and
culture, the home has a balanced and subtle design,” says Dominique.

Master Bedroom

Classic mouldings and light fixtures, as well as ceiling roses, keep the house feeling like it should — an older beauty with an in-depth past. “During the renovation, it was amazing to uncover the history of the house within the space,” says Dominique. “For example, the ceilings in one part of the house had just been placed on top of each other over the past 140 years, and we uncovered one after another, painted different colours, going back to the straw ceilings of the original space. Working with a space that had so much history was really interesting. As an Australian designer, we don’t always get that opportunity.”

In this home the past meets the present and different cultures collide. “We conceived this design being mindful of the Mexican concept of ‘mestizaje’, which describes a mingling of different cultures and the conflicts, contrast and nuance accompanying this,” says Dominique. “This project shows how our experiences and background can influence design without objectifying and creating a ‘theme park’ of a design culture. The project feels balanced, lived-in, and true to the architecture while still having bold moments.”

This article originally appeared in Home Design #25.4

Words Lauren Clarke Photography David Esser