In an energetic student town one and a half hours outside Amsterdam, where old factories have been converted into artists' studios, galleries, shops, restaurants and lofts, a fresh generation of designers is envisioning the future of Dutch design. With graduates from both the Design Academy and the University of Technology creating a synergy between design and tech, the focus is forward-thinking, with an eye for reinvention. Let's take a peek inside the town's artistic hub Strijp-S to do a little trend-spotting, shall we?
Reimagining Retail: The New "Home Shopping Network"
Upon visiting Yksi Collective, I sat down with Leonne Cuppen, one of the brand's designers, to chat over mint tea...and—without knowing—participate in a new form of retail. The furniture in the gallery's meeting room, pictured above, is from a company called Vrienden ("Friends" in Dutch), which relies primarily on social networks and real homes, rather than traditional retail stores, to sell their furniture. Vrienden lets buyers open up their homes or private offices (like the one in Yksi Collective) to curious shoppers who make an appointment online to test drive the couch, coffee table or chair they're considering. If a purchase is made, the homeowner gets a 10% commission—and a potential new friend.
Working Together: Socially-Conscious Creations
On the floor at the Yksi Collective, my eyes immediately locked in on this cozy-looking reading nook, and when Leonne told me about the process behind its creation, I was even more smitten. The moveable seat was made by Social Label, a company that teams up with artists and architects to produce designs that can be created by differently-abled people who would have difficulty finding a job in the traditional workforce. The aim is an inclusive, people-first economy, and the results (see the evidence, above) are beautiful in more ways than one.
Mastering the Art of Reinvention: A Focus on Reuse
Located in Strijp-R (a 15-minute stroll from Strijp-S) Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek's complex of converted warehouses serves as a fitting home for a designer famous for using recycled materials. Piet Hein Eek made waves with his final exam project at the Academy for Industrial Design in Eindhoven, a series of cupboards constructed from scrap wood (I spotted a more recent version in his gallery, above). When I wandered over to his restaurant across from the gallery, I found that it also focuses on reuse, with a bar made of steel pipes and an eclectic mix of upcycled and vintage furniture.
Inventing the Plug-in (and Start-up) City: A Shipping Container Village
In the heart of Strijp-S, a formerly empty courtyard has been populated with a mini city-within-the-city made of shipping containers. Giving new meaning to the term "start-up," claiming a spot in the city is essentially free, but those who join must pay for the cost of utilities and any construction. By eliminating rent, the overhead costs and financial risks for creatively-minded entrepreneurs is substantially lower. So far, a variety of artists, designers and gamers call Plug-In-City home, including a makerspace for electronic music and a creator of CO2-reducing windows.
Making our Boho Dream Store a Reality: Welcome to Gusj Market
Inside the former engine room at Strijp-S is a sprawling store with crumbling walls, cute passageways lined with vintage furniture and treasures to discover. Gusj, which translates to "love at first sight" lives up to its name—after exploring for a few minutes as they closed up on a Friday afternoon, I was in love. Lounge in a cozy woven chair, adopt a new houseplant, rummage through bins of vintage mirrors while debating whether you have enough room in your suitcase to take one home. Thank you, Gusj Market, for bringing this bohemian dreamland to life—now please open a store in the U.S.
Convinced you need to see these trends in-person? While you're in Eindhoven, don't miss these other hotspots:
- MU: This ever-evolving art space is perpetually pushing boundaries. Their next installation, Into the Dark, is an interactive journey: Participants will enter the space, blind-folded and barefoot, with only a rope and a narrator's voice to guide them. Buy tickets here if you're up for the adventure.
- Vershal vet Veem: Every hipster town has one: a food hall serving up beer, burgers and artisanal chocolates.
- Urban Shopper: Wander through this mini market to shop the home decor, upgrade a pair of sneakers at a DIY shop, or get a quick cut at the barber shop.
- Area51: This huge indoor skate park is worth a stop (even if you left your board at home).
- Fish & Chips: The name says it all.
The best time to visit: While I loved touring Strijp-S on a Friday afternoon, when everyone was wrapping up the week with a celebratory drink, I'd recommend booking a ticket for Dutch Design Week if you're looking for a high-energy experience. Held in October, the event draws more than 295,000 visitors to its exhibitions, lectures and debates.