Get Ready for Gezellig
Here are five ways to introduce Dutch-style elements into your decor.
The Netherlands is known for its colorful flowers and renowned art from painters including Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Piet Mondrian.
But if you think you must head to The Netherlands for design inspiration, think again. A surge in Dutch art, design and floral exhibits is on display across the United States, from the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show’s celebration of Dutch culture to futuristic fashion designer Iris van Herpen’s first North American tour.
And here’s the great thing. The Dutch lifestyle concept, referred to as “gezellig,” is easier to say (pronounced heh-SELL-ick) and to attain than other recent trends, like hygge.
It’s simply about togetherness — people having a good time, socializing and being comfortable in a cozy but upbeat setting. Gezellig doesn’t demand that your interiors are strictly traditional or contemporary, or even perfect. What’s enjoyable for you and your guests may be different from your neighbor, and that’s OK.
Another great thing about gezellig is that you can love simple, clean lines or richer contrasts between dark and light. You can enjoy a bit of humor in your home.
"Gezellig is a feeling that brings together good things in people and place," says Australian architect Antony DiMase. "In the home environment this could mean a vase of flowers, friends enjoying a coffee or a house that is warm and friendly."
Here are key elements for making Dutch-style design a “do” in your decor -- just choose what works for you.
Drawing from the Dutch Masters
Channel the natural inspiration, aura and lighting of paintings by Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Interior designer Martin Kobus’ library in the 2017 San Francisco Decorator Showhouse began with Rembrandt. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston gave Kobus, a Dutch native, permission to render the work into a light box, which inspired his firm to create its own take on the Dutch Masters.
Kobus’ firm created the style of the Masters in two other photographs, but in a humorous way.
The tulip hat was made with real tulips to mimic the white caps of Dutch ladies, and the paper cake doilies are a nod to the collars the subjects are wearing in the Rembrandt paintings.
Bring back the florals, through artwork, patterned upholstery, and depending on your budget, fresh or artificial arrangements of tulips, or even wildflowers.
Also, consider using more contemporary color palettes, like the reds and blues, which modern artist Piet Mondrian of the De Stijl movement used (it’s even on a city hall in The Hague), and hues such as greens and yellows.
Then, let the florals fall where they may in arrangements. Often, they have an abstract, almost imperfect quality, says Atlanta designer Nina Nash.
“The florals are more dramatic, but in an artsy way, like a painting,” she says.
Lately, she’s been loving floral prints on items such as lampshades or covering entire pieces of furniture.
Catherine Olasky and Maximilian P. Sinsteden with Olasky & Sinsteden, which has offices in New York, Houston and London, used several works from artist Martin Mooney, an English oil painter fascinated with and influenced by the Dutch style of still life, in a library.
And don’t forget to use the national color of Holland – orange — in your florals and accessories, like this tablesetting by the Norristown Garden Club for the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Meanwhile, Dutch designer Frederike Top captures light through her “window danglings,” which cast various colors throughout the day and appear to also evoke a palette of blooms from The Netherlands.
Moody yet crisp
Emulate the Dutch Masters with your own study of light and dark. Kobus installed crisp white plaster work on the ceilings between the beams and on the upper walls, then stained the wood paneling a rich dark espresso. The massive fireplace was sheathed in a clean white plaster finish to match the plaster work. In the rug, lighter tones meet darker shades in a patchwork of texture and smoky navy, charcoal and gray.
Leather, wood and materials that age well also are elements of Dutch style.
Design studio Vij5, with its minimalist copper lights, was among the Dutch designers exhibiting at WantedDesign Manhattan during NYCxDESIGN 2017.
Large brushstrokes of the art in the foyer contribute to the Dutch feel in a home designed by Dana Wolter Interiors, based in Birmingham, Ala.
But the brushstrokes needn’t be limited to paintings on the wall. Light wood with a limed wash or whitewash can also bring in an European mid-century look that identifies with Dutch lifestyles. Meanwhile, Nash also loves how the design of Kimpton Hotels are turning attention to Dutch design elements.
Bicycles are an essential part of Dutch culture, so don’t hide that bike. Make it part of the decor, treating it almost like a piece of art.
The gregarious and relaxing feeling that DiMase Architects’ clients wanted in their converted warehouse fit with the phrase: “As long as it’s gezellig, everything’s good!”