I cannot write this blog post without speaking from the heart about some of my experiences while visiting the glorious city of Amsterdam for the past 8 days. The trip encompassed my four life passions: music, art and design and writing.
My hotel was 300 meters away from possibly the best concert hall in the world, The Concert Gebouw, and I was fortunate that lots of concerts were going on there during my stay. I heard 5 truly great performances and was able to absorb over and over the astounding acoustics and beauty of this great hall. For one concert I bought the last ticket available to a sold out house and it happened to be the “King’s Seat”! How could that be possible? In Amsterdam it is possible.
The Rijksmuseum had just reopened in April after a lengthy renovation. The Collections include Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Hals, Vermeer and the list goes on and on. I went back three times in order to fully explore the Dutch Masters. I traveled to Haarlem and went to the Frans Hals Museum. There are so many artists that I had not had an opportunity to appreciate until now, and it felt correct that I was viewing them in their homeland. What a privilege. The next day trip was to Leiden to visit a museum that housed very old textiles from the 1700’s. Many of you were right there with me, if you are a friend of mine on Facebook. I posted images everyday of my experiences and thoughts on what I observed along the way. I particularly love the Dutch culture and the no nonsense approach to life and city living. It was so refreshing to be in a city where there was not one traffic jam! The city bustles with buses, cars, trams, bikes, many, many bikes, pedestrians…and all moving along at a good clip.
And, I wrote every day on the subject of creativity, a subject which has been a guiding force in my life. I am fascinated with the human impulse to create things. Having traversed two creative careers, I think about this a lot and feel compelled to put my thoughts in writing, simply to clarify for myself. The blog has been quite a catalyst for me in this area. When you can write about it, you can speak it and ultimately know it better.
Design is always front and center in my mind wherever I go. Whatever I see is seeping into my consciousness and stays there until it is ready to emerge into someone’s home. I was particularly struck by how many “X Chairs” I saw in the Amsterdam museums, and I have been reflecting on the fact that creativity unifies the world, and that interior design in particular truly makes the world a smaller, more intimate place. The Greek Klismos chair is considered the first “designed” chair and has had many modern interpretations. In about 400 BC, the X Cross Chair emerged from Rome as a symbol of power and majesty. This X Chair shows up in virtually every European country and was used almost exclusively for royalty. It is not comfortable. I think the most popular interpretation of this chair in America is the “director’s chair”, which has a canvas seat and back and can be folded in half. This is, of course a very pared down version. You know the one. It too, is not very comfortable!
Speaking of tulips, when I was at the Frans Hals museum in Haarlem, I learned that when tulips were first cultivated in the Netherlands in about 1560, they were a rage! And the entire economy depended on them at one point. One particular bulb was worth the equivalent of a million dollars. Just for one bulb! Then, the inevitable crash happened. People’s fortunes were ruined and every person was affected by the economy depending on one commodity. Sound familiar?
So what does all this mean? Just that there is very little that is new in this big world, and we can see it in museums and in stores and in our homes. What is new and fresh and creative is how the home environment can support these classics. Do you have a Chinese chest? Or a 19th century breakfront filled with great Grandma’s beautiful Delft china? Do you have a Saarinen Tulip table or a classic Eames lounger? Do you have a Persian rug? Whatever bit of history you own, it can work within the correct design context. There is a way to make your classic furniture sing out, as a soloist or in the chorus. As we start a new “school year”, let’s all look around and assess what is old and beautiful, useful and beloved, and try to create a new way of honoring those things. Design is crucial for supporting our beloved treasures and our selves.
And Amsterdam? I love you.