Surrounded by a Fishing-harbour where huge oil-platforms are parked and old rusted tanker ships are pulled-in towards Amsterdam by the locks giving access from the NorthSea, our new home presented it’s first interior-theme just by it’s location. Open to any inspiration input, the cruise liners – seen from the window gliding by – signaled us “classic Holland-America” in big letters. However: In the process of stripping down Postoffice-walls and floorpans of previous occupants, the big space started to tell it’s own story, unveiling numerous other style directions. The high pillars making the inside look like a museum wing, and the glass roofed ceiling hinting subtly to old Hitchcock-sets : which one to choose as underlaying interior-theme: Cruiseliner ? Film-set ? Hotel ?
Our first design-approach was done in photo-based renderings, avoiding any design-missteps while visualizing our style-choices by collaging in some furniture here and there. With deconstruction going on, the big space got bigger and bigger and the empty canvas seemed to lead us into other directions besides that of the cruiseliner style. While observing daylight move through the house in a lazy half circle, we found ourselves at one time entering a hotel-lobby or at other times trapped in a Macy’s Department store after closing time.
At night, with dim salon-lighting , ‘Chinatown’ echo-ing through the empty rooms, the loft unveiled itself as if built by setdesigners of the old Hollywood studios. And with a ships’ horn blowing in from our new harbor, I mean: Who wouldn’t sit in an imaginary back office of Humphry’s Casablanca club and let a bit of Hollywood melancholia seep into the creative process? So, with the daylight beaming through that ghostly deconstruction-dust, a heavy cinema-flavor dripping from our creative pallets, and armed with the extra battery of inspiration I acquired- while living in L.A. during the eighties (working a window-dresser and having access to the prop-& backdrop dept. of paramount), turning the loft into something cinema-tainted seemed more than legit. And so Modernism was gently ushered aside to be replaced by some more classic (and better fitting in the architecture): Hollywood Regency.
The option of ‘classic 50’s Hotel’ would perfectly play along with the view outside over the big ships. After visiting the Raleigh Hotel in Miami – where the big Lobby harbored a beautiful small café, featuring a curved wooden bar closely resembling our own precious Belgian Café gem -, it was clear that this style was to become the ‘leading lady’ in our theme-Land. The other theme, that of ‘abandoned department store’ would surely cater to my infinitive mannequin-obsession ( and be fun during Xmas-season no doubt ), but this should stay in the wings , as our interior-stage would need plenty of room for yet another interior-presence: that of Alfred Hitchcock’s sets. Having often been a hidden -and sometimes more outspoken – topic in my fashion and beauty-photography work, there was of course plenty of room for this master of masquerades. His signature in the end would be visible in one room only, the Bedroom-suite: Much like his own famous cameo appearances reduced to one scene only.
For some extra visual input, we booked a summer weekend on the former cruiseship: The SS Rotterdam. Even though the ship didn’t set out to sea, the interior of the ship – having been the Holland America-line most prestigious project at the time and a modernist outcry in the form of custom-made Dutch 60’s design, some of the furniture, done by the jazzy and hottest artists of the fifties, obviously flirting with American Atomic style – would show us how well preserved vintage hotel-style done by the jazzy and hottest artists of the fifties , could look elegant in combination with a more industrial shipping-exterior ( two of our chosen themes on board so to speak).
The hotel-lobby realization was pretty much taken care of by the old café-bar that was left behind by the previous loft-owners. To turn the entrance room into a reception-room was simply a matter of sawing the bar in two and placing it facing the entrance-door. The snake-like curved bar – with its formica countertop – offers the visitor a coffee moment,. Behind the espresso steam our guest is lured into the next space, where the bar continues to serve as a small cocktail bar. With The big ballroom beckoning, the eyes of our – slightly confused – guest are being pulled yet in another direction towards the bedroom suite, which is in full sight, framed like a department store window where Hitchcock seems to have pulled all the actors offstage. The motionless transparent Nylon-stocking brown curtains – separating the bar – and turning the peeking-in a bit into a sort of ‘rearview window’-expercience.
( Video above : entering Loft )
A neon cigarette-sign on the wall in the reception-café and a small black &white Marcus Blechman -print ( showing a Hollywood-choreographer and two chorus girls in a Polynesian pose ) modestly adds a movie-decor note that allows in good ol’ melancholy by the bucket. Perhaps carnavalesque, but this was the way I found to take away the dogmatic seriousness of the big space . Having found the print in a small antique store on one of the Florida Islands, the image provides for a nice trivial anecdote to our ( by now heavily intoxicated..) guest.
( The portrayed Choreographer was googled before leaving Florida , and what a surprise : he had worked on the sets of ‘Gilda’ & “Gentlemen prefer Blondes’ – The modestly sized print now hanging carelessly above our Cocktail-bar oozing thick memorabilia melancholia..
But suddenly we realized it wasn’t a Hollywood choreographer or Hitchcock knocking on the door but a 7 headed building-crew, ready to hammer down wall and forcing us into the sobering fase of reconstruction. Computer renderings are a good way to envision, but it’s during the construction-phase that further solutions or restrictions reveal themselves and soon ,the Floridian Antique-store print dust was thickened by a rich layer of cement powder. The walls and pillars were jackhammered and veined with electricity-wire reaching out to all corners of the space. A large floating mezzanine-floor was stripped and lowered to form a 3-steps-raised platform base to become the bedroom suite.
The bedroom suite – located in the North/Northwest corner of the house – you may have guessed : Hitchcock was to enter the stage . . A sandstone fireplace was found online and a cove was built on top . The glass panels of the skylights were replaced ( although cracked and broken had my preference of course ) and on the computer I designed a three-dimensional cove-sculpture in Art deco’ style -picturing a cruise-ship dropping anchor in some tropical destination.. Staying true to a ‘set building-approach’ and thus : technically not to overstress the cove-siding by weighty material, I chose to make the deco-sculpture out of foamcore cut-outs and cover it with Venetian plaster. A technique I had never worked with before; but hey ! : that’s exactly when online tutorials came in pretty useful.