Interiorssneak peeks

A 1636 Former Spice Warehouse Turned Family Home in Amsterdam

by Kisha

A former spice warehouse built in 1636 might not be the first thing you picture when you think of a family home. But, located on an almost-too-beautiful-to-be-real tree-lined street in Amsterdam, in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other and canals lay just outside of the front door, that’s exactly what it is for Manon Hanssen — a freelance journalist, life coach, energetic healer and founder of Naramatisho, a Kenyan handicraft label — her husband Michel, their son Micah and their dog Vos.

As the fairytale story goes, Manon decided to see the unit, converted to apartments in 1976, on a whim. Despite the unappealing pictures she had seen, her curiosity had been piqued. And, of course, when she went to have a look at the space she got that feeling; even before stepping foot inside the building she knew it was the one. Her feelings were confirmed inside the apartment where she was instantly enamored with the energy, natural light, and original beams. She immediately called her husband Michel, a senior manager of global compliance solutions, and told him she’d found their new home. Luckily, during the next visit with Michel in attendance, he agreed.

The couple immediately got to work renovating their home — opting to salvage as much of the existing materials as possible. Among the updates included the removal of a wall on the first floor, giving the space a loft-like feel and an industrial trowel floor was put in — uncommon for homes back in 2004. But it was their time spent recently in Kenya that not only informed their more recent renovations, but also changed their lives in an even greater way. “We moved to Kenya to become parents to Micah… we found it very important to start there as a family, get to know the country on a deeper level… and make our first memories together as a family in Micah’s birth country,” Manon says.

After over a year in Kenya, when the family returned to Amsterdam they decided to make some updates to their home to better fit their growing family. They turned to interior architect and friend, Rik Alkema, to design a new plan for their first floor. “His style is clean, simple, yet full of refined details and strong lines… we thought that Rik’s signature style combined with ours, which is more earthy/natural, bohemian and eclectic, would create a nice balance of both worlds,” Manon shares. The couple’s travels around the globe and time in Kenya also inspired much of their interior. The result? A home that is still open and airy, but with more thoughtful storage space, both concealed and open, for the growing family. And while future renovation projects include painstakingly removing decades-old paint from the original beams and “small things like hanging a lamp above the table…” Manon recognizes their home is constantly evolving. “I can be a real perfectionist, but over the years I have learned to be content and not to take things too seriously as well. My son teaches me this on a daily basis.”

So no, while a 380-year-old former spice warehouse turned historic protected building might not sound like a “typical” family home, it’s perfect for this family of four. “I moved to Amsterdam when I was a teenager with one mattress and a suitcase full of clothes,” Manon recalls. “I remember daydreaming on the bridge of this very canal and fantasizing living here with my family one day, looking at the block where we are living now. The universe really took good care of that!” —Kisha

Photography by Emma Peijnenburg


Living Room
Two framed paintings – by Dutch artist Sjan Brok
Masks – from Kenya and Bali
Zebra head – Anthropologie
Black and white antique face plate – Fornasetti
Sequinned wedding blanket – from Morocco
Mud cloth – bought in Kenya, originally from Mali
Cushions – from Bali and Kenya
Orignal 60s wire chair – by designer Cees Braakman for Pastoe
Rug – from Kenya

Dining Area
Custom dining table – designed by Rik Alkema
Wooden dolls – from Kenya
Ceramic vase – by Margit Seland
50s fiberglass chair – Herman Miller
Ghost chair – Kartell
Panton chair – Verner Panton for Vitra

Countertop – Cesar stone in London Grey
Large white vase – ‘Coral’ from Pols Potten
Handprinted dish – from Bali

Master Bedroom
Original 50s Knoll wire chair
Carpet – Vintage from Pakistan
Watercolor painting of Java – by Dutch artist Leo Eland
Indonesian wavang dolls – gift from Manon’s late grandmother
Wood wall chandelier – from India
Linen pillowcases – Merci in Paris

Michah’s Bedroom
Original 50s Herman Miller rocking chair
Duvet cover – Naramatisho
Large blue vase – ‘Coral’ from Pols Potten
Zuni doll (in cactus pot) – from Santa Fe
Praying ceramic monk – from Bali
Flowerpot head – De Weldaad

Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Situated on a canal, the couple's neighborhood has everything they need within walking distance; from organic supermarkets, restaurants, and boutiques to hidden gardens, a beautiful park, and playgrounds for Micah. "We feel very much at home in this neighborhood. We like that it has the vibes of the city and yet still feels like a village where everyone knows each other," Manon says.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The ever-evolving gallery wall changes all the time and maintains a playful touch thanks to Micah's input. The striking image of the Maasai woman is actually one of the Maasai mothers who make jewelry for Manon's fair label, Naramatisho. "The Maasai tribe gave me the name Naramatisho. This means 'the one who cares' in Maasai language," Manon explains. "This is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. Every time I look at this beautiful face she reminds me of this...I love her strength and wisdom."
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The Hanssen Family's 1,237-square-foot home is filled with plants, found everywhere from local organic markets to discarded on the street side, giving it the feel of an urban jungle. "It was Michel's idea to add a 'few more plants' and this is what happened once we started."
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Manon and her son Micah.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Friend and interior architect Rik Alkema designed the almost 10-foot-long table and matching bench made of steel and oak. It’s the perfect spot for Manon, Michel, and Micah to spend time together -- without the need to clean up immediately -- and to entertain friends and family.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
A lover of stones and gemstones, Manon has them spread throughout the house to support positive energy. They often lay a book open on the dining table to reveal the beauty inside – this one, by Peter Beard, is Manon’s favorite. The wooden dolls studded with beads and hand-painted bowls are from Kenya, while the ceramic vase is by Margit Seland.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
A glimpse into the redesigned kitchen. The wall, a recent addition, allows for the kitchen (and large closets) on one side and open shelves on the other side. The large white vase, Coral, is from Pols Potten. The ceramic doll sculpture was a wedding gift from Manon's father.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The open shelves on the other side of the kitchen wall display the family's travel treasures, books, and art. "We like to have a fixed place for the things we love, where they can be moved around within that framework," Manon says. "...I am thinking about decorating it with only books and framed photos from Kenya; we have a huge personal archive."
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Manon in Micah's art room.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Photos of the family adorn the wall in Micah's art room.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Original beams are found everywhere in the home - even the bathroom. The window above the tub was a lovely plus. At night it's the perfect place to relax in the bath and stare at the stars.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The couple's master bedroom features windows, which they love to leave open, and a balcony door that spans the entire wall. The original 50s Knoll wire chair by Harry Bertoia sits on a vintage Pakistani carpet.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Manon's wedding dress hangs on the wall above the bed as decoration. "We got married in Bali. I found this dress about a week before the wedding in a local boutique. Or I'd like to think the dress found me."
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Over the years, the space above Manon and Michel's master bedroom, reached by a ladder, has been used as an office, storage room, and walk-in-closet. "It is now a place where I sometimes, on a rare occasion, hang out, read a book or chat to the plants," Manon says. "We are considering turning it into a bedstead, so we can use the bedroom also as a practice and meditation space. We'll see." More of the couple's travel treasures decorate the space - including the baskets, brought back from Lombok and the Buddha from Bali, where the couple married. The elephant on wheels is from Naramatisho, Manon's fair label.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Micah's room is like an adventure in itself. "We find it important that he has his own sanctuary upstairs that can be just his... now that he is getting older he likes to invite friends over in his room more often." The wooden "Montessori bed" was handmade by his grandfather - the vintage school map shows Africa.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Manon considers the antique cabinet in Micah's room, one of the few cabinets in their home, a worthy investment for the authentic touch it adds to the bright space.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The antique cabinet also provides the perfect space to display more of the family's special travel mementos. The small beaded doll was a gift from South Africa, the mother doll is from Kenya, and the fertility dolls are from Naramatisho. "Some of the things in his room I bought during our adoption journey," Manon shares. "Every now and then I allowed myself to buy something, especially during traveling or when experiencing some challenges in practicing patience. It is an incredible and wonderful feeling watching him play with these items now." The shampoo bottle which reads "mama loves you from head to toe" is from hotel Mama's Shelter in Paris.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The couple likes to show Micah the value of things and don't buy a lot of stuff in toy stores - several things in Michah's room are from Manon's childhood. "The doll house was made by my grandfather in the early 80s."
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Every night before bedtime the family sings together while swinging in the hanging chair.
Manon Hanssen's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
"What I love most about our home is the way it reflects our journey as a family." Manon adds, "What I am most thankful for are the people (and dog) who are my home, no matter where we are or live."

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