Royal Delft – Delft, NL

delft production

The Royal Delft production floor.

One month housesit in The Netherlands. Delftware is the iconic blue and white pottery of The Netherlands, The Royal Dutch Delftware Manufactory “De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles/Royal Delft” is the last remaining Delftware factory in constant production from the 17th century.

The Dutch India Company brought back blue painted porcelain from China which became very popular and difficult to import and lead to the development of earthenware factories in The Netherlands, primarily in Delft. The factory, a former brewery, through a series of owners, is finally purchased by Joost Thooft who introduces the current trademark in the 1870s. It is designated “Royal” in 1919 as a show of appreciation.

The Royal Delft Experience is a self-guided tour through the history and production process of Delft Blue. There is a large quantity of historical pieces, such as a collection of Orange ceramics produced for the popular Dutch Royal family, as well as antique and modern pieces of earthenware. Also, you can view the Royal Delft Nightwatch, a group of 430, 18″ painted tiles with a final arranged size of 13′ x 16′; a copy of the Rembrandt painting The Nightwatch. You will also see a ceramic painter at work and the factory production shop.

The homey brasserie has a great view of a lovely historic courtyard showing off some of the factory made “building ceramics”. Here you can have lunch or high tea, reserve a dinner for a group or even celebrate a wedding, following a wedding ceremony in one of the museum rooms if you choose.

The showroom shop has a variety of ceramics for sale from various collections, such as the hand-painted Iconic, Original Blue and Blueware collections, as well as the modern designed, Blue D1653.


Sandelfo collection by H. J. Saunders.

Being a fan of the decorative arts, there were so many pieces which appealed to me, but one of my favourites was the thoroughly modern design of the Sandelfo collection produced from 1957 – 1977. The charming abstract character decorations were designed by H.J. Sanders and I would be happy to use them on my own dinner table.

The room which housed the “Building Ceramics” was also interesting to me as an interior designer, who appreciates the longevity and textural beauty of ceramics and tile.

building ceramics

The Building Ceramics room at Royal Delft.

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.

Kunsthal – Rotterdam, NL


Claassen’s Rabbits by the Kunsthal.

One month housesit in The Netherlands. Rotterdam’s Kunsthal is a contemporary art institution without a permanent collection, rather it hosts various exhibitions through the year.

On the edge of the expansive Museumpark and the Westzeedijk.

Designed in 1988 by Rem Koolhaas, it attracted international attention for its use of innovative material, the position of the entrance and the steep ramps. The ramps create a spiral route through the building into the seven exhibition spaces.

“The Kunsthal wants to surprise and amaze. Not only the first time, but over again”, says General Director, Emily Ansenk. The claim is for a wide range of exhibitions and activities with a high turnover rate for a diverse audience. A great concept, unfortunately, the exhibits don’t have equal standing and the majority of the ones on view during my visit were pretty lame. Especially, this one, “nudging and bumping” through a tight hall full of puffy parachute material makes me feel a bit unclean… literally, I don’t like wiping myself against a fabric cesspool.

Purchase a Museumkaart or Rotterdampas to visit all of the museums for free.

The Kunsthalcafé serves coffee, lunch or high tea overlooking a terrace and sculpture garden.

Between the museum and Museumpark, lies a sculpture garden containing bronze rabbit sculptures of Tom Claassen, as well as works by Henk Visch. The Kunsthal roof garden displays Three Part Object LH 470 by Henry Moore.


Keith Haring wall art.

In 1998, I experienced Keith Haring for the first time through an exhibition at the SFMOMA. The effectiveness of his colourful and playful line drawings in conveying serious social issues made him a spokesman for his generation. His short but eventful career spanned 13 years, countless artwork and inspired many street artists. A skilled communicator, it is no surprise that he was a student of semiotics. Kunsthal’s exhibit, Keith Haring, The Political Line highlights his social and political visual language, including excesses of capitalism, nuclear disarmament and his struggle with AIDS.


Untitled (self portrait), 1985, Keith Haring



Gemeentemuseum – The Hague, NL

Francis Bacon

Creeped out in the Bacon room, with Man in Blue and Bruce Nauman’s Carousel.

One month housesit in The Netherlands. In The Hague, Gemeentemuseum houses the best collection of modern art, design and decorative arts.

In The Hague’s Statenkwartier near the Peace Palace, connected to the Fotomuseum Den Haag.

Designed by Dutch architect Hendrik Berlage in 1935, in a geometrical modular grid formation in multiples of 11 cm. The specially made 11 cm yellow bricks used to clad the structure were subsequently marketed as ‘Berlage bricks’.

Renowned for the largest Piet Mondrian collection in the world, including his last work, Victory Boogie-Woogie and modern art including Picasso and Degas, as well as Dutch artist, Jan Toorop. The museum also houses a collection of fashion items shown at temporary exhibitions.

Purchase a Museumkaart and also visit Fotomuseum Den Haag (next door), Museum Mesdag and Mauritshuis for free.

The stunning, newly roofed-in Garden Gallery hosts the Grand Café which serves coffee, lunch and snacks. The Gispen Berlage chair by Richard Hutten, was designed for this space, the bandage dress in chair form!

The Art Deco style restaurant, Gember, has an open-air terrace and garden pavilion overlooking lily ponds.

Since my stay in The Netherlands, I am increasingly interested in the De Stijl movement and its founders. As a graphic and interior designer, the concept of artists and architects working together abstractly reducing to the essentials of form and colour is appealing. It makes sense that I have slowly been painting the interior of my home white!

The Mondrian collection depicts his evolution from landscape painter to abstraction, his inspiration and collaborations with other artists and his dedication to his politics through art. The simple energy of the unfinished (perhaps, intentionally), final work of Mondrian, Victory Boogie-Woogie, painted in anticipation of victory in World War II, seems to be the ultimate summary of his joy for life.


Victory Boogie-Woogie, Piet Mondrian, 1944.

Admittedly, I have very little interest in fashion and tend to be fairly utilitarian and conservative in my style choices, but I did find the latest exhibition on Dutch fashion designers interesting. Historically, the Dutch were heavily influenced by Parisian style with their own twists, such as a penchance for blue. But the recent rise of designers such as Viktor & Rolf and Iris van Herpen have given international recognition to the distinct Dutch style, lots of black and white, and emphasis on clean line and shape, origami anyone?

collignon dress

I’d wear that! Wool dress by Monique Collignon.



Target on her back. Dress and cape by Frans Molenaar.

Museum De Lakenhal – Leiden, NL

museum de lakenhal

Museum de Lakenhal staircase

One month housesit in The Netherlands. Museum De Lakenhal has the best fine art collection in Leiden, the town in which my head rests.

The museum is in central Leiden’s ‘Cultural quarter’ at the Laecken-Halle (Cloth Hall) built in 1640 where the world famous Leiden cloth was inspected and certified.

Leiden’s City Architect, Arent van’s-Gravesande, designed this Dutch Classicist style, city palace in 1639. He also designed Leiden’s Marekerk. In 1869 the building was reconstructed by City Architect, J.W. Schaap, into a city museum, adding a staircase to change the second floor into an exhibition space. The expanding collection later utilized the first floor and then extended into the Pape Wing. The museum plans further restoration and expansion aimed at a 2018 unveiling.

A diverse collection of works by Dutch master painters, including Rembrandt (born in Leiden) and Theo van Doesburg (of Leiden and founder of the influential De Stijl magazine). The history of seven centuries of Leiden cloth can also be experienced in the original sales hall, including hallmarks and sample books.

Purchase a Museumkaart and visit for free, also can be used at Museum Boerhaave, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden and others in Leiden. To celebrate The Relief of Leiden, entrance is free on October 3rd.

There is a small coffee and tea space in the entrance hall. The museum is close to many restaurants in the centre of Leiden.

Happily introduced to the work of Dutch abstract figurative artist Hendrik Valk (1897 – 1986) from his early period when he lived in Leiden. The exhibition clearly demonstrates the process of his abstraction from natural representation, removing details to discover the essence of line.

hendrik valk

Hendrik Valk, Triptych, 1925

The museum is reviving the history of Leiden Cloth by manufacturing a new line of fabric bearing the hallmark ‘Leids Laken’ by commissioning designers, such as Christie van der Haak to develop contemporary fabrics that will be on sale in the museum shop as of 2017.

This museum has a variety of beautiful paintings and objects that illustrate the great history of Leiden as a prosperous trading and university town. Although the birthplace of Rembrandt van Rijn, there is nary a trace of him, and finding him here is a treasure. A small painting called Spectacles Seller (allegory of sight) is one of a series based on the five senses painted by Rembrandt when he was eighteen. I find early works by renown artists are fascinating due to the awkwardness of an artist’s developing style, but often showing hints of what the artist will become, in this instance his use of chiaroscuro and character depiction.


The Spectacle Seller, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1624

Mauritshuis – The Hague NL


The Dutch Classicist style Mauritshuis in The Hague

One month housesit in The Netherlands. A great selection of museums in The Hague, The Mauritshuis was my first choice due to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in the permanent collection.

In the heart of The Hague bordering the Binnenhof and the adjacent Hofvijver pond.

The Dutch Classicist house was built around 1636 for John Maurice, the governor of Dutch Brazil. The original two story, symmetrical building with a central great hall, was expanded by an underground tunnel to the Sociëteit de Witte building next door and reopened in 2014. Sumptuously decorated with silk wall coverings and painted ceilings, it is one of the top Dutch 100 heritage sites.

Paintings from the Golden Age, by Dutch and Flemish masters, the Royal Cabinet of Paintings was a collection from William V, Prince of Orange. Highlights are Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and Paulus Potter’s The Young Bull.

Purchase a Museumkaart and visit for free, also can be used at Gemeentemuseum and over a dozen other museums in The Hague.

The Brasserie offers  a fusion Dutch meets the Far East menu and jazz concerts every Thursday evening.

selfies hall

Selfies of the Golden Age – Selfie Hall

Just in time to catch the end of the Dutch Self-Portraits – Selfies of the Golden Age exhibit. The seventeenth century self-portrait was considered an important marketing tool for a portrait artist presenting ‘the face’ and his particular painting skills. Of the 27 portraits, my highlight is the self-portrait of Judith Leyster who portrayed herself as elegant and confident amongst her male rivals.

A future must see exhibit, Sept 2016 – January 2017, of the British Royal Collection will include Vermeer’s The Music Lesson, recently copied using a camera obscura in the documentary Tim’s Vermeer.

Admittedly, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring has a certain glow to it but like the Louvre’s Mona Lisa is more impressive in reputation. The realization that the painting is a tronie rather than a portrait makes it oddly out of place amongst the masterpieces. I was more charmed by the understated trompe-l’œil perfection and utterly modern appeal of The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, which apparently has a part in the Pulitzer “It” novel The Goldfinch.


The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius (1654)

As a bonafide art geek I watched Peter Webber’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in preparation for meeting her in real life. If you can get past Scarlett Johansson’s mega pout and Colin Firth in all of his rock star glory, it is interesting historical fiction. The alternate theory that “the girl” in the study was Vermeer’s preteen daughter seems more likely to me.

I don’t normally get excited by painted ceilings… they tend to be a pain in the neck; but this ceiling fresco by Dutch artist Ger Lataster, Icarus Atlanticus: Allegory of the Working Man, 1987 is amazingly refreshing in this space. What she said!

mauritshuis ceiling

Lovely abstract Ger Lataster ceiling.

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.