A Harmonious Retreat In The Heart of Amsterdam

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The road to finding the perfect home, especially in a metropolis like Amsterdam, can test the patience, resolve, and sanity of many a house-hunter. The end result can have a huge payoff, though. Just ask Barbara Iweins, a portrait photographer who needed a new home for her ever-expanding family (husband Jurjen; son Pieter; daughters June and Julia; guinea pig Punky; and fish Japon, Lili, and Vlekje!). “The houses in Amsterdam are quite narrow and dark inside,” Barbara notes. Moreover, with many of the homes in Amsterdam historically protected, the amount of possible spaces that would allow extensive renovations was limited. After a year of constant hunting, Barbara and Jurjen stumbled upon a perfect, albeit majorly worn down, three-floor apartment—a former dorm house that was, just their luck, open to renovations and full of natural light! After a few not-insubstantial speed bumps along the way (a bent beam that threatened the structural soundness of the entire home, contractors who didn’t fully understand the couple’s vision, and the constant feeling that they were in over their heads), Barbara and Jurjen finally ended up with their dream home—a breathtaking, dazzlingly light-filled space that references the couple’s love of simple, industrial spaces. Windows were kept free from curtains and walls were painted white to accentuate the home’s abundance of light, while the home’s beams and ductwork were left exposed. “Some might think this house is too bare and empty, but my mind is so disorganized, with thoughts streaming from all over the place, that the harmony and quietness of this house calms me.” Indeed, with the madcap lifestyle that accompanies family life in a big city, the space provides a welcome, dreamy escape. —Max

All photographs by Barbara Iweins.

Image above: Wooden stairs connect all three floors of the home. “I adore when my smallest one sits in the stairs and stares at us when we are having dinner with friends. He tries to hide as long as possible but gets caught eventually.”

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Click through for the full home tour after the jump!

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Image above: The dining room/kitchen area is the heart of the home. “The best conversations, secrets, laughs are always revealed in a kitchen and the first thing the children are doing when I am cooking is to sit on the counter to chitchat. I always wanted to create a farm kitchen and the carpenter had the great idea to use the original wooden floor from the house to build the cabinets of the kitchen.” Chairs from 19West. A portrait taken by Barbara hangs on the back wall.

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Image above: A grap lamp, possibly of Egyptian or Syrian origins, hangs above the dining room table. “This lamp was in the window of a small antique [store] in the Spui, a neighborhood in Amsterdam. I would see it daily on my way to collect the children from school, but I considered it too expensive and I was torn between two thoughts: ‘is this lamp just incredibly beautiful or incredibly kitsch?’ Now, I love it so much, that I am even considering buying a second one in case this one should break.”

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Image above: The kitchen. “During the decoration of the house, the workers didn’t understand that we wanted to leave everything so visible. In Holland they are used to making very practical and neat apartments and they were flabbergasted that we wanted to leave the metalic tube so apparent. I still remember them laughing in their overalls thinking we were crazy. This tube is the laudry shoot and I love to hear the sound of a shirt falling into it while cooking. It’s a windy ‘schooof!’ sound.” Lamps from the Belgian company Zangra. The vintage Schwepps box found by Barbara’s best friend Stephanie.

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Image above: Barbara’s collection of jadite Fire-King tableware. “They are so easy to find [in The United States], but here it’s just pure luck. I would rather use these dishes all the time but they are so fragile and I love them so dearly that I keep them for dinners with friends.”

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Image above: The living room. “Each day the light entering this room is like magic. Sometimes we hang a disco ball and it’s simply a bliss of little dots everywhere.” The small children’s chairs, gifts from Jurjen’s parents, were made by dutch designer Piet Hein Eek.

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Image above: A vintage 1960s lamp sits in the living room corner. “When I am a little blue,” Barbara says, “I like to just light this little corner of the living room to read or watch a TV series.”

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Image above: A tiny vintage toy trailer—a small reminder that the family would like to venture across the United States’ West Coast in a trailer someday.

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Image above: Shelves of art. Among the various pieces of art that line these shelves is “Dad and me,” a painting by Petrus de Man. “My father gave it to me to celebrate the birth of our first daughter,” Barbara says. “While I was sleeping in the hospital, he just removed the fake replica of the sunflower of Van Gogh which was hanging at the wall of the room and replaced it with this frame.”

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Image above: Russian nesting dolls purchased by Barbara’s parents during their honeymoon. “They both represented my sister and me” Barbara recalls, “but we always fought to be the one with the red pearls. I don’t remember why. My mother gave them to me last year. My sister saw them the other day and she is jealous.”

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Image above: The children’s playroom on the third floor. “The room is quite huge, but funnily enough, all three children are always trying to sit in the little corner (with the green, small desk). They love to write, draw for hours while looking at the city through the windows. The vintage wooden house was offered to us by our carpenter. I love it but the children never play with it. I still wonder why!”

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Image above: Desks in the children’s playroom. A vintage Vitra Uten.Silo wall organizer hangs above, something that Barbara snatched from her parents’ home. “My brothers and sister are always trying to get it back,” she notes. “The vintage little tables are identical, but Pieter and June (the smallest ones) always fight to go on the left side. Again, no explanation.”

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Image above: The bathroom. “In our other houses, the bathroom was always the center of arguments between the family,” Barbara says. “We made [this one] as big as possible so everyone has room to stretch.” The plant in the corner is a Pachira Aquatica. “Praying for it to live as much as possible,” Barbara jokes. “Plants do not survive for very long under my care.”

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Image above: A small Chinese doll, purchased at the shop Graphie Sud, sits on a shelf in the bathroom. “She smiles at me in the morning and gives me hope,” Barbara says.

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Image above: The master bedroom.

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Image above: The girls’ room. “I have always loved bunk beds,” Barbara says, “but I heard about so many accidents that we decided to create a little cabin. There is a small window on the right side. Sometimes, the two sisters are chatting through this window.”

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Image above: A series of shallow IKEA shelves in the girls’ room display books by their covers. “Many parents are presenting books that way these days,” Barbara notes. “I found the idea on Pinterest and it’s perfect. The children really pick their books they want us to read by their cover. Unfortunately for me, it’s often the longest story.”

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Image above: On the floor of the girls’ room sits a vintage Fisher Price Bassett Hound toy from Barbara’s childhood. “I don’t know if it has been an inspiration for my children,” Barbara says, “but for three months now they have been asking for a Bassett Hound for Christmas.”

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Image above: Pieter’s room. Wallpaper from Ferm Living. “Pieter hides all his little toys in this little cabinet (bought in a great store on the Noordermarkt) and decides to get them all out at night.”

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Image above: The downstairs bathroom mirror. “Always better to see only a distorted piece of oneself before leaving the house,” Barbara jokes. “Easier to cope with.”

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Image: Barbara and Jurjen’s collection of books. “Jurjen and I are Dutch and Belgian, respectively,” Barbara says. “Our books represent this mix of Dutch and French languages. Before having kids, we were devouring novels… now I wish I am able to read ten pages a week.”

  1. Alix says:

    Beautiful. I’d like to know what wood was used to build the kitchen cabinets. Love it!

  2. Cute space! I love the white with little pops of color.

  3. Sarah says:

    I love the white and the contrast with the mint fireking glassware. My favorite place to find that glassware is antique shops and Etsy

  4. maria-TO says:

    Lovely, fresh, clean and delightfully free of clutter — this is what I need to do in my home!

  5. Maria says:

    I adore this place, everything, thanks for sharing.

  6. Zara A. says:

    The cleanliness is so inspirational for the soul… relax will be complete in a home like this! These extensive rooms with so much space, the white colour with little accentes yellow or green look so stylish! Great article!

  7. kim says:

    truly my favorite sneak peek ever (and i’m pretty sure i’ve looked at all of them)!

  8. Perfect — the home and the interview. This has to be one of my favorite Sneak Peeks. The whitewashed walls and floors, soft industrial finishes and bright pops of color, and with children and pets to boot! I also just liked reading Barbara’s commentary on the whole process; she seems like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing, some great ideas to take away here!

  9. Debbie says:

    Lots of lovely things here, but the livingroom furniture pieces seem so far away from each other that having a decent conversation would seem difficult….niet zo gezellig, as the Dutch might say.

  10. Angela says:

    Absolutely stunning, one of my favourites! In love with the bare brick, white floors, and pops of colour in the home accessories.

    Angela | The Awkward Blog

  11. Rachel says:

    What a lovely home and equally insightful answers. It felt like chatting with a thoughtful friend as I read…

  12. Daniela Rosa says:

    Love the white on white and industrial look. The kitchen is amazing! And that lamp in the dining room is perfect. I really appreciate the creativity it takes to create an interior like this!

  13. Maria says:

    I think this is my favorite, too. I’ll have what she’s having!

  14. isabelle says:

    waw, it is just amazing !!

  15. alex says:

    beautiful house , but you don’t have any clutter att all !
    But for all others, please never , but never, show so exatily were you live . I’m from Portugal, and imagine so, due the blue building behind i could recognised the place. Only in new years eve i’ve passed at least three times. It’s me or that nowadays is a little dangerous ?
    Congratulations for your house.

  16. Abigail says:

    Correction: Jadeite is impossible to find in the United States…At least in Michigan

  17. erin says:

    Cute cute house!

  18. zangra says:

    Thank you for mentioning ZANGRA! Nice to see our lighting in such a nice place.

  19. kymberly says:

    unreal. love the bunk beds.

  20. Eva says:

    Great place! Although I’m not an “go all white” one myself, I really enjoy the simplicity here. I try to restrain myself on terms of getting stuff in the house. But I really really love going to fleamarkets, thriftstores and finding stuff on the streets. It’s kind of a game though, I need to let go if it’s getting cluttered.

  21. Ryan says:

    The Bassett Hound was the topper. Boy did I do some table and chair legs damage in my day at my grandparent’s house with that thing. I’m surprised they never got rid of that thing. The home is amazing as well.

  22. Dirk says:

    So proud I could be part of some of the projects in this house! All the best – Dirk from Koetshuis Weesp

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