The new master from Amsterdam by Marc Heldens | 2nd November, 2007 | Personalities
Piet Boon is the latest star to join the designer universe. Together with his wife Karin, he founded Piet Boon Oostzaan B.V. – an international bureau for interior design and architecture, and now realises projects in New York, Bonaire, Italy, Spain and Portugal. His trademark: natural elements and classical details. For GG he opened up his own home north of Amsterdam, in Oostzaan.
Piet and Karin Boon are a creative couple. He designs, she does the styling, and together they are directors. They have projects ranging from new buildings to interior designs, including their own furniture collection. As well as the office in Oostzaan, they have a shop in Amsterdam called Baden Baden. They live 15 minutes north of Amsterdam with their 11-year-old son Koen, and 9-year-old daughter Puck. The moment we visit Piet and Karin couldn’t be more Dutch. Autumn has just begun and a dramatic sky accompanies us on our tour along the deserted peat colony to the north of Amsterdam. A firm wind is blowing over the stretched meadows and the long water ditches of ‘t Twiske. Sheep are looking for shelter underneath the various pollard willows and the grey geese flock together. Towards the horizon we see the windmill of ‘t Twiske Molen’, which looks perfect in this typical flat landscape of Holland. It is on this road that Piet and Karin have already lived for some time. Meanwhile, in their third house that lies just next to the first two houses, all three are situated on the same road. Each move has represented a new phase within the company and this creative family. The last ‘jump’ was a newlybuilt classical country house in a modern style, symmetrical in architecture with fronts in lime and a roof made of zinc. A friend of theirs, garden architect Piet Oudolf, designed the garden. To the front, he kept the garden a little formal with geometrical forms of boxwood and beech. To the rear of the house the garden has become one with the surrounding nature and landscape. Here the garden has been kept open so that you have a view over the pool towards ‘t Twiske’. The clouds, made famous from 17th century Dutch painters, can be seen over 180 degrees.
Most important for Piet and Karin Boon: “Ample space in the great outdoors.”
At the back of the garden we see Piet and Karin approaching us, dressed up in warm winter coats and rain boots. Piet points towards the surrounding Dutch landscape and starts his story: The location where you place a building is most important for us. In a certain way that makes the base for its design, together with the brief from the owners. It should become their environment, their home and haven. They also have to think properly about their way of living, just as we do. Naturally, they get a ‘Piet Boon’ house, but it is based on their personal life. We, Karin and I, transform that into an architectural design, simple and powerful, that is our trademark for years now. And funnily enough the various houses differ from each other. This house which we designed for ourselves between the meadows of ‘t Twiske looks different to a house built within e.g. a villa in Barcelona, or an exclusive penthouse in New York, or a beach house on Bonaire, three of our latest international interior projects. But if you look closely they have the same starting point. We design from within, from the inside outwards, from the interior with its daily use’, Karin adds. ‘Because you often see that houses are designed as external constructions, with insufficient knowledge of the owners and users and their daily lives. Our idea is that an interior is not only for looking at but for living in; the interior should fit like a coat’. Piet continues, ‘We both pay much attention to architectural details and we often try to diminish them as much as possible. They shouldn’t attract attention but in fact they have to support the total atmosphere and the visual pleasure of a building or interior. The exterior of our building gets its power through its simplicity. It’s “beautiful from afar”, through the distance and this simplicity, instead of that it becomes ‘far from beautiful’ the moment you approach the house. That’s why we pay a lot of attention to the details and their scale. Those layers of the visual are a constant challenge for us. We constantly try to eliminate, but along with that we have to give a house or an interior its personality’.
Over the years Piet and Karin have had enough practice at that judging by the three houses they have already built in Holland. Their fourth one, a beach house on Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles close to Venezuela, is a good follow-up. “With our first house I focussed myself too much on the ‘monumental’”, says Piet “and ‘historical’ character of the house. With the second one I searched for the ‘historic soul’ more in the materials I used for the building, a more historical reference. Slowly I saw that this was possible within a more modern feeling. This house, our third one in Holland, is the synergy of all of this. Our greatest wish was to make beautiful outdoor spaces, terraces with fireplaces, a house designed in a more modern style. Our former house was very classical, built in 1993, but it looked like an historic mansion. The new house had to be more modern. Robust, firm, symmetrical, and a powerful design. Call it modern-classic. The modern feeling is within the spaces and the use of sunlight, just as the routing with this house between the various rooms. The basic groundwork is very important, the planning of the spaces support a feeling of comfort and harmony. The classical touch lies within the symmetrical elements, the details we use, and the decoration of our spaces. Karin is responsible for that. She knows how to use colour, various materials and styling to get that historical feeling translated in a personal way. You definitely see when a project of ours is finished, time flies, so an interior should not become dated quickly.” “Maybe because with our projects the emotion within a design is the most important element,” continues Karin, “that special personal feeling. And that feeling should remain the same over 10 to 20 years. That should not be subject to trends. It’s all about listening to your heart!”