Amsterdam – ‘The fun – and challenging – thing about my job is that we don’t have a brand DNA,’ says Ave Bradley, seated in the lobby of Kimpton De Witt in Amsterdam. She’s the global senior vice president and design and creative director of US-based Kimpton Hotels, and this is her first project outside of her home country. Back in the States, six additional Kimptons will open before the end of the year, and venues in Paris and Asia are in the works.
Each hotel draws on its specific location, which means Kimpton is ‘open to lots of different buildings, cities and neighbourhoods’. Bradley collaborated with London-based Michaelis Boyd on the Amsterdam project, and the team was presented with a particularly curious case: large 1980s buildings that encase smaller historical houses, one of which was the childhood home of Dutch playwright P.C. Hooft.
As hospitality projects strive to become as local as possible (keep an eye out for St-W 118, released on 1 September, which delves deeper into the topic), we talk to Bradley about her approach as an outsider – and how the hotel experience is changing.
We’ve seen a rise in hotels offering uber-local experiences and focusing on local design elements. What was your approach to this?
AVE BRADLEY: When I start a project, it’s always important for me to tap into the local culture. I first came to Amsterdam just over two years ago, and I spent time getting to know the existing hotel scene – understanding what offerings and design styles were already available – and trying to figure out what felt authentically Dutch. I also got to know this building and the opportunities it presented to make sure that what we created felt true to the site while making sense within the marketplace.
My challenge is to offer something different that still feels local. I walked and walked and walked – for days. I would sit down for a coffee and take in my surroundings to get a feel for the style and personality of Amsterdammers. I saw carefree people riding their bicycles, armed with a big bunch of flowers and carrying their children on the back. There’s an appreciation for the simple things that add beauty to life, like stopping at the corner flower shop on the way home. Or grabbing a nice bottle of wine and sitting on the stoop on a warm summer afternoon or evening.
The more that I watched – at all times of day and night – a palette started to register, something that felt very ‘Dutch’.