CONSERVATORIUM, AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
Tonje Odegard visited Amsterdam’s grand luxury lifestyle palace, the Conservatorium, while she was in town for Dutch Design Week – here’s what she thought of the legendary designer hotel…
Opened five years ago, the Conservatorium hotel has become one of the most iconic hotels in Amsterdam, and walking through the building, I have no trouble understanding why.
Situated in the heart of the famous museum district in Amsterdam, the neo-gothic building is not only the perfect combination of old and new, trendy and traditional, it’s also indulgently luxurious.
Being the first hotel to be opened by The Set, the Conservatorium has set the standard high for the other hotel members. The Set has now become known for taking Grand Dame properties in the heart of Europe’s main cities and transforming them into diverse, dynamic places where artists, patrons and lovers of art meet – reinstating them as the celebrated buildings they once were. Inspired by the heritage of the buildings and their locations, The Set creates unique offerings combining classic refinement and leading contemporary design. Each hotel is crafted in its own identity to provide a truly distinctive luxury service.
The above is very much evident at the Conservatorium, where the interior and style reflect the design and art community it finds itself in, as well as the history of the building. Originally designed and constructed by Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel as a bank in 1897, the building was soon transformed into a defining icon of the city’s architectural and cultural hub.
It became home to the newly formed Sweelinck Conservatorium, consisting of three musical institutes, in 1983, before The Set got involved and started the creation of a luxury hotel in 2008.
Attracted by its glorious past, The Set bought the heritage building and implemented modern design elements to it with the help of award-winning Milan-based designer Piero Lissoni. Using the building’s rich historical narrative, Lissoni reinstated the building to be the pulse of the city’s cultural and architectural heartbeat, while maintaining the majority of the original structures.
Lissoni is known for his austere lines, demure fabrics and shades of grey with occasional bright accents.
The Conservatorium is internationally known as ‘the living room of Amsterdam’, and walking into the reception and lobby and Lounge area, this is a perfect description. You feel instantly at ease, despite the vast space created by the atrium. The giant glass ceiling and windows built as an extension over the original building’s courtyard actually help establish an inviting and intimate atmosphere, much like a living room. During the day, the atrium allows abundance of natural light in, which makes the area fresh and comfortable, and at night, the darkness outside is contrasted with dim and atmospheric lighting.
Elegant furniture mixed with vintage Asian rugs create an intimate feel in the Lounge and a sense of familiar comfort. I particularly like the glass bookshelf that also doubles as a divider wall to the Brasserie, stacked with local curiosities and artwork, often on temporarily and rotating display.
As you enter from the second hotel entrance, the public one, you are greeted by the hotel’s most ‘Instagrammed’ feature: the grand chandelier made out of violins – a wonderful nod to the building’s history as a music academy.
Ranging from a spacious superior room up to a penthouse suite, the 129 guestrooms, spread across eight floors, vary in size, offerings and design. Brushed oak flooring and beige furniture define the cool, autumnal colour scheme that is both modern and classic at the same time. In some of the rooms, original structures such as stone-framed windows or stained glass is integrated into the modern design, which makes for an interesting effect.
The bathrooms are big and opulently designed with large rainfall showers, marble tubs, travertine tiling, and gorgeously plump micro-cotton towels.
There are seven suite categories, and because the building is mostly kept in its original form, each of the suites has a different layout and therefore feature design elements.
A stand-out suite is the Concerto Suite located in one of the towers, which features a striking slanted roof in an incredibly tall angle. Spread across two floors with a semi-open solution, it’s another great example of original structures marrying modern solutions; glass railings, white-painted metal beams, charming, original half-moon windows, mid-century furniture, stylish wooden floors and top-notch technology. The bathroom is especially indulgent, located on the top floor, with a free-standing bath and marble tiles.
Particularly impressive is the I Amsterdam Suite, which offers a 360o view of the city. Also located in a tower, the characteristic slanted roof, which indeed is a nod to Amsterdam’s overall architecture, becomes an integral design feature with wooden beams and interesting windows. With its own rooftop, kitted out with sun beds and a built-in corner tub in the bathroom, it is really special.
The Penthouse Suite is the only accommodation located in the extension part of the hotel and has its own private entrance and its own garage – very popular with celebs wanting a discreet arrival. All in glass, the suite is distinctly more modern in its architecture, so the design is balanced out with more traditional interiors.
The other corner suites, located in the remaining towers, are also spread across two floors, which in itself works as a fascinating design feature, as it allows for intriguing perspectives and innovative solutions.
All dining at the Conservatorium is under the direction of celebrated Dutch chef, Schilo van Coevorden.
Taiko is the hotel’s signature restaurant and sits in the spacious historic part of the hotel, overlooking the Paulus Potterstraat and the Stedelijk Museum. Since its opening, Taiko has become one of Amsterdam’s leading restaurants.
The interiors in Taiko are equally as impressive as the food and take great advantage of the high ceilings and original fittings. A dramatic bookshelf (the original one where bank records were kept) is filled with scrolls of old note sheets and curious artefacts, both Dutch and Asian, and covers the entire south wall. The original herringbone wooden floors work really well with the low-hanging black lamps, giant chain-based chandeliers and stunning autumn-leaf flower constructions. The flower displays change with the seasons and are for instance replaced by cherry blossoms at spring.
The name comes from the taiko drum from Japan, as the room was formerly used to store and play drums when the building used to be a music school.
With its chic décor and shimmering ambiance, Tunes Bar is an elegant yet casual haven (including a separate smoking lounge) in which to enjoy classic drinks, exclusive cocktails and elegant appetizers. At night, the deep banquettes, tactile fabrics and subtle lighting create a chic intimate space. During the day, the huge windows fill the room with light, showcasing Lissoni’s signature transparent bar and folded steel staircase.
The Conservatorium Brasserie and Lounge are located in a beautiful atrium with spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows and glass ceilings. Functioning almost like another ceiling, pendant industrial-looking metal beams, suspended by metal chains, criss-cross above the dining area. With the addition of large, industrial lighting it creates a factory-look that contrasts the elegant furniture. Light and airy during the day and dimly lit and atmospheric at night, the space is complex but effortless.
It’s obvious that the designer favours natural lights and has worked hard to integrate features that will allow for lots of natural light to come through. Lissoni also enjoy using natural colours with a gentle mixture of bold colours such as bordeaux, blue and yellow.
I can understand why the hotel has been regarded as an ‘architectural masterpiece’ by featuring exceptional contrasts between carefully preserved historical details and leading contemporary design. Paying homage to the building’s long and interesting history, its legacy is conserved while firmly entrenched in today’s modern society.