Johanna and Scott’s Ever-Changing Amsterdam Flat

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Breanne Johnsen)

Name: Johanna and Scott
Location: Westerpark; Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Size: 750 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Rented

After five years abroad and three moves around the Netherlands, Johanna and Scott planted themselves in a charming flat that needed a little love and patience. I’ve always admired Johanna’s ability to hone in on the little things. Every time you enter their home you immediately notice it’s a bit different from your last visit — a side table moved, books rearranged, accents added and omitted. It’s a constant change of scene — Johanna and Scott rearrange things depending on their mood, making for a continuous element of surprise.

(Image credit: Breanne Johnsen)
(Image credit: Breanne Johnsen)

Moving abroad, more often than not, involves leaving most of your belongings behind in the States, which brings with it the challenge of making someone’s furnished flat your home. Do you choose the flat because of the location or the aesthetics? Either way, there is a good chance you’ll get stuck with a hideous couch at some point and be faced with using your limited storage to hide all the owner’s decor you really can’t look at anymore. But despite all these challenges, this lovely Pacific Northwest couple managed to turn their expat home into a live-able, comfortable and personal haven.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Organic modern with a touch of international and eclectic. Editing is my weakness…I seem to love it all!

Inspiration: I have been so inspired by the places we have been and the people we have met in our five years of living in Europe. I would say that my most recent inspiration was from our trip to Istanbul. I have also tried to abide by the Scandinavian design motto, functional but beautiful.

Favorite Element: Our home is a collection of things that we love from the places we have visited. Each item has a story behind it. It is special to look at something and be reminded of a place or time. It would be hard not to also include the beautiful views of the Nassuakade and Browersgracht — we love to watch the boats travel back and forth.

Biggest Challenge: As with many apartments in Amsterdam… storage! We have become masters of organization.

What Friends Say: Since this was a semi-furnished apartment (couch, table, beds), it felt very empty for the first six months or so, so I think most of our friends just feel that we really were able to turn it into a home that reflected us. Also, the view of the canal has produced a couple “oh wow” moments from friends and family from the States.

Biggest Embarrassment: There are always going to be imperfect parts to a home…some more than others. Ours is the maroon couch. There was nothing to be done about it, so I mostly just ignored it all together. Also, I searched for two years for an affordable TV stand that measured 90cm in width. The best I came up with was one that I found on the side of the road on my way home from work!

Proudest DIY: We are not huge DIY-ers, but we did paint the apartment a beautiful grey-beige, and without a ladder it was quite a project! It’s incredible what the right color can do for a space.

Biggest Indulgence: Our biggest indulgence is having the opportunity to travel as much as we do and to be able to find things we love from every place we’re been; pottery from Ireland, kilims from Turkey, silver from England.

Best Advice: Take your time! I have learned that I would rather have an empty space than one filled with something that I don’t love. “Fillers” have a tendency to become permanent (like our coffee table!) and an empty space allows for more time to be inspired by something you might not have thought of right away.

Dream Sources: ABC Carpet and Home, Design Within Reach, home and design stores in Amsterdam, The Rose Bowl flea market, and Paul Bert flea market in Paris.

(Image credit: Breanne Johnsen)

Resources of Note:


  • Kilim rug, vintage from Istanbul
  • Moroccan Pouf,
  • Elm chair, vintage furniture shop in Amsterdam
  • Pillows, Marimekko, IKEA, and vintage Kilim from Turkey
  • Metal shelf, IKEA
  • Votives, Iittala
  • Wire basket, vintage French from Amsterdam Flea Market
  • Floor lamp, IKEA
  • Table lamp, IKEA
  • Arc lamp, Frandsen
  • French wine jug, Hout and Nieuw, Amsterdam
  • Cowhide rug, IKEA
  • Syrian tea table, vintage from Paul Bert Flea Market, Paris
  • Coffee table, IKEA
  • Side tables, IKEA and The Bijenkorf, Amsterdam
  • Wood candle holders, Fair + Fair, Amsterdam
  • Glass and crystal-ware, Iittala and vintage Scandanavian
  • Photographs, Scott’s Grandfather, Marvin Tipp Photography
  • Artwork, various sources from throughout Europe


  • Artwork, Mark Raven, Amsterdam
  • Dining Table, Loods 5
  • Light, Hip Wonen


  • Wire basket, WMF
  • Utensils, WMF
  • Sugar and creamer collection, WMF, Arabia and Finland, Bredemeijer


  • Bed, Mindol
  • Bench, vintage teak Indonesian waiting bench
  • Coverlet,
  • Blanket, Pendleton
  • Wall decoration,
  • Bedding, Pottery Barn
  • Lamp, Pols Potten
  • Bedside table, Loods 5
  • Mirror, from Chinon, France
  • Tray, Rodin Museum, Paris
  • Stool, The Bijenkorf, Amsterdam
  • Artwork, vintage from the Amsterdam Flea Market


  • Sheepskin, Ireland
  • Bookshelf, Bespoke
  • Desk, IKEA
  • Chair, Fermob
  • Side Table, The Bijenkorf, Amsterdam
  • Artwork, various museum exhibit posters; framing, Art Unlimited, Amsterdam


  • Turkish towels, Jennifer’s Hamam, Istanbul and
(Image credit: Breanne Johnsen)

Thanks, Johanna and Scott!

(Images: Breanne Johnsen)

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