If you know Amsterdam at all, you most likely are familiar with the Damrak. It's one of the major thoroughfares, leading you from Central Station right into the heart of the city. For years the section close to the station has been touristy and not super fashionable, but that all changed this year with the opening of The Exchange, an unusual boutique hotel with an eye on the worlds of fashion and design.I recently was a guest of the hotel, and in addition to an excellent night's sleep and delicious breakfast, I also enjoyed a tour of the hotel from Renate Schepen, who works on the team that runs the Exchange. Here are some of the highlights:
The actual lobby of the Exchange is minuscule: just a station for checking in and out and access to the stairs and elevator, which, really, is all you need. The rest of the square footage of the first floor of the hotel is given over to the cafe and shop. (The shop features a really wonderful selection of modern design objects from the Netherlands and beyond — post to follow!).
The Exchange features these gorgeous, larger than life bouquets of fresh flowers throughout. This type of floral design — super sized and not at all structured — is prevalent throughout the city, and I love it. I'm trying to emulate it at home, but it's a little less impressive with my supermarket-bought blooms.
The wall of quirky birds in the cafe/lobby is a labor of love, featuring artwork from the original team behind the renovation of the hotel. From the creative directors to the fashion students who helped design the rooms to the construction crew, everyone was invited to draw and submit their own birds, which were then added to the overall design. It's eyecatching, fun, and is a nice nod to the "family" of folks who brought the creative vision of the hotel to fruition.
The public spaces of the hotel are tucked into nooks and crannies throughout the floors, like this one, which is a sunny, quiet spot overlooking the cafe. The upholstery fabric on the comfy, low sofas features a design inspired by the patterns found on the old mattress covers they discovered while clearing out the old hotel rooms, right after taking over the building. A nod to the past, while looking toward a more stylish future.
This guest room is an intriguing mix of old and new, utility and romance. The bedroom (also shown in the lead photo of this post) is all vintage-y charm, making the most of the deeply pitched ceilings in a very old part of the building which overlooks the Damrak, while the bath area is streamlined and very new, taking up a minimum of space in the room.
For this room, the designer took many, many photos of the room in its previous state, before the old furnishings were removed. They then collaged these images together and translated them into wallpaper, covering the walls and "illustrating" exactly what the room looked like in its former life, including peeks inside the bathroom and closet, papered directly onto the doors of those spaces.
A sexy, dark, glam, velvet headboard in the staff-dubbed "Tom Ford" room.
For a touch of the very-currently-fashionable focus on handmade goods, each room number is stitched on cloth and displayed in an embroidery hoop.
A very small room with so much style! This cozy and compact guest room is full of one-of-a-kind details and artful ideas. With its hand-collaged walls and a Rube Goldberg-esqe tv hidden away in a plywood box (which you open by pulling on a cord, near the head of the bed, that moves through pulleys), it feels homey, quirky and fashionably charming, all at the same time.
This "necklace" made up of ceiling lighting fixtures, strung together and lit round the clock, is in an open public space on one of the guest room floors. You catch glimpses of it through the window of the elevator each time you pass and eventually, you find that you HAVE to go investigate. It's a showstopper in person, very unexpected and quite beautiful.
The Exchange (just like the other hotel from the same creative team, The Lloyd) is a one star through a five star hotel, all in one building. You decide on the room size and amenities that you would like and prices are set accordingly.
I honestly can't even imagine a more convenient location for someone visiting the city for the first (or tenth!) time — it's a quick 20 minute train ride to the airport from Central Station, just up the street. Connections to trams and buses that can take you everywhere else in the city emanate from there as well OR you could do what I was lucky enough to do and rent a bike at the station to travel around the city the way the locals do!
MORE INFO: The Exchange
MORE AMSTERDAM DESIGN HOTELS ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
• Life at The Lloyd Hotel
(Images: Janel Laban)