Rembrandthuis – Amsterdam, NL


Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam

One month housesit in The Netherlands. Rembrandt van Rijn was born in Leiden and lived in Amsterdam so it seems fitting to visit the home where he lived for 20 years.

Many successful merchants and financiers bought houses in this area in the 1600s. The house is in the centre of old Amsterdam, close to Waterlooplein square, which hosts a daily flea market, more flea than market. If you are looking for Rastafarians selling cannabis leaf t-shirts and others with blue and white Dutch kitsch, it is the place to be.

The house was built on two lots in 1606 and drastically remodelled in 1625, adding another storey and replacing a stepped gable with a more modern triangular corniced pediment. The house was purchased for thirteen thousand guilders, a huge sum, a mortgage that lead to Rembrandt claiming bankruptcy in 1656.

The house deteriorated over the years until purchased by the city in 1906 and handed to the Stichting Rembrandthuis foundation a year later. Finally in the 1990s, the adjacent premise was acquired to build a modern extension designed by Moshé Zwarts and Rein Jansma. The restoration of the original house was lead by building historian Henk Zantkuijl (who also reconstructed Vermeer’s home in The Hague) based on the bankruptcy inventory, his team was able to figure out the home’s layout and usage of different rooms by Rembrandt.

The house has been refurnished with art, furniture and objects from the 17th century but nothing that belonged to Rembrandt. The art collection contains etchings, drawings and paintings from Rembrandt, his pupils and his contemporaries which have been acquired over the years. Unfortunately, the artwork throughout is not labeled and I hate using the headset provided so I was in the dark to what was what, although, I did enjoy the atmosphere of the house.

Purchase a Museumkaart or I Amsterdam City Card and also visit Van Gogh for free.

You can rent the old kitchen and have a meal catered for up to 18 people. How incredibly cool is that? Here is the menu for your amazing night at the museum.

The current exhibit explores the development of printmaking in the 17th century in the Low Countries and Rembrandt’s role in it. A selection of eighty prints from three private individuals including Lucas van Leyden, Jan Lievens and Hendrick Goltzius is on display.

One of Rembrandt’s most famous etchings, Self-portrait, wide eyed, 1630, from the Rijksmuseum, is available to view. Tiny and fascinating, often considered self-indulgent, this small etching and many like it, were practice for Rembrandt in capturing expressions for his larger paintings.

rembrandt kitchen

Slate floors and sink, tiled walls in kitchen photo: Rembrandthuis

As a kitchen designer, when visiting historic homes, I am fascinated with kitchens and how they were used. In Rembrandt’s home the kitchen was the most comfortable room in the house, even the maid’s bed was present.

My husband is in the midst of renovating our kitchen while I traipse through The Netherlands (yes, he is a keeper) and I am very aware of the details of the historic kitchens which I have visited. The simple beauty and functionality of natural materials; marble and slate floor tiles, sinks, and counters; ceramic tiled fireplaces, and cast iron cookstoves and cooking implements; meant to last (and lasting) for centuries. The patina on a marble counter means that it was cut upon, cooked on, cleaned on, every day to nourish and comfort a family. The kitchen is often the centre of a home and I am proud to be part of its design.

Revisit: Van Gogh Museum – Amsterdam

re van gogh museum

Inside the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, NL

One month housesit in the Netherlands. My first museum visit in Amsterdam is a return to one of my favourites.

Excited to catch a special exhibition comparing the works of van Gogh and Edvard Munch, only on until January 17. The similarities between these two artists who ran in the same circles but may have never actually met is incredibly striking and visible in many of their paintings. It is wonderful to see that Munch is so much more than just The Scream (on display is the pastel version).

“One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.” Edvard Munch, 1892


The Scream, Edvard Munch, 1893

My purchase of a Museumkaart for free entry to over 400 museums in the Netherlands has already paid off within a week. It also allows me to hop into a few museums which I would normally not visit due to the cost.

It’s the Christmas season, Museumplein is transformed into a winter wonderland with a Christmas Market and Ice Amsterdam skating outdoor skating rink. A great opportunity to try some winter treats, such as glühwein, olliebollen and kibbeling. Who woulda thunk that I would be craving fish as a snack.

pollard birches van gogh

Knotberken by Vincent van Gogh, pen on paper, 1884

Discovering artwork that is different than an artist’s known style is always a treat, especially when it shows an artist’s evolution. Knotberken (Pollard Birches), 1884, is a pen on paper drawing by van Gogh that is refreshing in its simplicity, void of the extreme colour palette and heavy brushstrokes that we are accustomed to seeing from this artist. It also shows that he was a talented draftsman in his own right.


Van Gogh Museum – Amsterdam, NL

van gogh museum tilleman

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, NL. Photo: Ronald Tilleman

Driving tour of Northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. A highly sensitive artist of great renown only after his death, Vincent van Gogh has always intrigued me and the Van Gogh Museum was high on my list of destinations.

Museumplein in Amsterdam South, an open public space which hosts events and festivals, as well as the home to the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum.

Two buildings – the Rietveld Building designed by Gerrit Rietveld, opened in 1973, where the permanent collection is on display. The open central hall is influenced by the De Stijl group of which Rietveld was a member. The elliptical Kurokawa Wing designed by Kisho Kurokawa, completed in 1999, is the museum’s exhibition wing.

The New Entrance Hall, using the latest glass construction techniques, has recently opened. The structure is between the two buildings giving better access to both of them.

The largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh, more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 of his letters. As well as other artists of the 19th century, who inspired him and those whom he inspired.

Purchase a Museumkaart and also visit the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum for free.

Tambourin cafe

Heart in my coffee cup at Le Tambourin Cafe.

Le Tambourin café has a lovely view of Museumplein and the Kurokawa Wing.

To celebrate the opening of the new entrance in September 2015, a sunflower labyrinth was created in front of it. The 125,000 sunflowers were given away at the end of the day, it would have been amazing to see the whole of Amsterdam in yellow.

Although The Starry Night is in the MOMA’s permanent collection in New York, I was fortunate that it was on loan to the Van Gogh Museum during my visit, for only the second time in the museum’s history. This painting is proof that art should be experienced, up-close and personal, the thick sweeping brush strokes and vibrant colours elicit a turbulent emotional response. Painted at the asylum in Saint Rémy, one can imagine how the image might’ve correlated to his erratic behaviour at the time.

“This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” Vincent in a letter to his brother, Theo.

Gain insight into the artist’s pained psyche in Vincente Minnelli’s Lust for Life. Capital “T” Torture for Kirk Douglas (chin thankfully covered with beard). For a more touching portrayal, Vincent &Theo, depicts the complicated, symbiotic relationship between Vincent (a great performance by a young Tim Roth) and his supportive brother.