A PAGE OUT OF OUR BOOK: Renny Ramakers of Droog in Blog

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We have to admit: we love to shop. Whether it's for gorgeous baby clothes or delicious natural wines, we just can't help ourselves. And while we love shopping for just about anything, we find ourselves gravitating most often to shops that are in the business of unique design & interiors. Amsterdam has no shortages of these, of course, but there's one that stands head & shoulders above the rest - Droog. We had a little chat with the mastermind behind the design, Renny Ramakers, to get a taste for what it's like to be so incredibly tasteful.

gloobles: Hi Renny! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to give us a sneak peek into what goes on behind the scenes at Droog. Let's start with its origin story. How did it come into being?

Renny: In the early 1990s, I came across a new design trend in the Netherlands. I saw young designers celebrating a new kind of simplicity. They were not working with new materials or forms but instead with familiar ones used in new ways. They didn't care about refinement, styling or decoration. These designers were storytellers and did this with both humour & social purpose. In 1992, I presented this new mentality in an exhibition in the rock club Paradiso in Amsterdam. When this turned out to be a success, I partnered with Gijs Bakker, and together, we went to Milan. We presented 16 designs during the 1993 furniture fair, including the driftwood chest by Piet Hein Eek & the famous chest of drawers by Tejo Remy. The show was an instant success. That's when it all started.

gloobles: It must have been incredible to be at the forefront of a new design movement. Not everyone can say that! Great design is obviously the foundation of everything you do, but had you always planned to open the cafe & hotel as well?

Renny: That idea arose in 2004. We had the opportunity to relocate to a huge space in the middle of Amsterdam and wanted to make it a hotel. But the neighbourhood resisted, so we decided to come out with everything a contemporary hotel has to offer - a lobby, shops, a cafe, a restaurant, a gallery, a library, a garden and meeting rooms - but with only one bedroom. We presented this as Hôtel Droog, a reference to hospitality that turned out to be a bit confusing in the end. Thus, we changed the name to @droog. The @ underscores the idea that anything is possible @droog. 

gloobles: Love that! It's truly a dynamic space that works for just about anything you could imagine. How would you describe Droog's ethos? What defines Droog?

Renny: There is always a second perspective!

gloobles: Now how about the location? What inspired you to locate on the Staalstraat? Would you still choose that spot today?

Renny: The history. This is the place where the Draper's Guild was housed in the 17th century. It was the centre of the textile industry in Amsterdam. The drapes of fabric hung to dry on the beams in the cafe! The Draper's Guild even commissioned Rembrandt to create his famous painting 'The Staalmeesters' in 1662. Originally, it hung in the space where our cafe is today, though now you can find it in the Rijksmusem. We asked the artist Berend Strik to make a to-size interpretation of the painting, which hangs on the wall in its stead.

gloobles: You can't fabricate that kind of history. It's something everyone wants to have! A love of design runs through everything you guys do. Have you always been passionate about design?

Renny: My interest in design started with a teapot. I saw this teapot on a class trip to Saint Petersburg during my art history studies. The teapot was designed by Kasimir Malevich in 1923. I had never seen such a teapot before. It was so special! I was curious to know more about it, which led me to discover the Constructivists, teh revolutionary artists who, triggered by the Russian Revolution of 1917, presented new art & design with social purpose. Since then, I have always considered design a catalyst for social change.

gloobles: You know we never looked at it that way, but you're totally right. Of course, we knew artistic movements were often reactions against the state of society throughout history, but it follows that design would be just the same. Who designed the shop, the cafe & the apartment? What was the vision behind the design?

Renny: The Droog spaces are designed by Studio Droog, a group of in-house designers who have created projects & products over the course of a couple years. Every space has a twist - the walls in the courtyard are covered with window frames, the library is filled with empty books & the plants in the Fairytale Garden are artificial. That garden was designed by French artist & garden designers Claude Pasquer & Corinne Detroyat. The Serre is designed by Nikkie Wester. All the spaces are filled with products & prototypes produced throughout Droog's 25 years, so every visitor is immersed in the Droog experience.

gloobles: Where do you see DROOG in the next ten years?

Renny: Over the last few years, Droog has become more about ideas & less about things. We are not making new products anymore but focus on initiating projects & generating ideas for the future.

  1. gloobles: Definitely the right attitude these days. When you’re not shopping at DROOG, where do you like to shop in Amsterdam?

    Renny: I'm not a big shopper.

gloobles: Fair enough! With such a particular design sense, that's no surprise, really. Who or what inspires you?

Renny: Things around me, from articles in the newspaper to books to art to situations. I am inspired by what happens in the world when it challenges me to look at things with a different perspective.

  1. gloobles: & last question: describe Droog in five words or less.
  3. Renny: Social purpose with a twist.