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Rooms like models

After successful ventures in the form of the Lloyd and Llove hotel, now Suzanne Oxenaar and Otto Nan venture into the world of fashion design in latest project the Exchange.

By Cassandra Pizzey /asdf 23-11-2011

Together with eight Amfi students and alumni, a new hotel concept is being realized in the heart of Amsterdam. The Damrak sees the first hotel of its kind in which rooms are clothed as if they were models.

Design.nl spoke to Suzanne Oxenaar - initiator of the project together with partner Otto Nan - at Damrak 53, the creative centre of the Exchange project. "We have this amazing workshop here which we never want to leave," says Oxenaar.

The workshop is almost next door to the hotel - which is divided over three buildings with over sixty rooms. Just like the Lloyd hotel, the Exchange will feature one to five-star accommodation. "To have the workshop so near the construction site is a dream," claims Oxenaar. "At first the designers and contractors didn't really understand each other's visions, but working together so closely allows them to appreciate each other's craft."

Each of the hotel rooms has a different theme in which they are treated as models, and the furniture the accessories. "It's about playing with proportions," explains Oxenaar. "If you're going to clothe a room, how are you going to design your clothes? Do you keep the room as a box-shape or do you somehow change the proportions?"

Some designers stayed sympathetic to the building's history, with a Rembrandt room - featuring a huge ruff - situated in the 17th century building. Others took inspiration from their personal style such as the Juantita room, a depiction of the designer's love for India and it's bold colours. In this room, the lamps are somewhat like earrings, literally the accessories.

Oxenaar continues: "There is also a Marie-Antoinette room which features various hand-printed materials. I must admit I never realized before that fashion designers actually design their own fabrics." Together with Audax Textielmuseum and Dego, the team developed materials which were fire-proof from the get-go, "one of the most important features of fabrics used in hospitality."

"We enjoyed working with students at the Lloyd an Llove hotel and approached the Exchange as a sort of lab in which to experiment freely. To see how a student can take an object, deconstruct and modify and finally create a fabric-print from it is just inspiring. Seeing the finished rooms will probably be pretty overwhelming."

The hotel's public spaces, all-day-breakfast room Stock (located on the ground floor) and a large shop/gallery named Options are designed by INA MATT (Ina Meijer and Matthijs van Cruijsen). The design studio developed two sets of tiles together with Royal MOSA, which are used throughout the hotel bathrooms, to decorate the shop walls and in the restaurant. "The restaurant will also feature a giant gold bar as well as a 'tattoo'd' wall featuring birds designed by each of the Exchange's collaborators." The spacious department store Options will feature design from national and international names, alongside specially conceived products by Florianne Eshuis.

The project came together thanks to a series of coincidences. Due to the financial crisis a number of foreign Lloyd hotel projects fell through, but after some time Nan and Oxenaar thought it time to start a new project. "We approached hotel-guru René van Schie who showed us various buildings in Amsterdam which were suitable for a hotel. We immediately were inspired by these three properties and decided to make a move. Thanks to our previous (successful) ventures, we had our shareholders and the bank on board pretty quickly and now, here we are."

The Damrak is often named Amsterdam's calling card but the many garish and overly touristic hotels and pubs don't do justice to the city's beauty. The red carpet (rode loper) project by Amsterdam city council aims to revitalize the area to make it a more fitting entrance to the city. "When Otto looked out of the hotel windows, he exclaimed that the Damrak looked much more like a catwalk than a red carpet."

The official opening of the Exchange will take place on 2 December, 2011. Design.nl will bring you an update on the project in due course.

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