x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Office space becomes a comfortable, colourful and personal townhouse

A former office building in the heart of Amsterdam is the perfect fit for the designer Kate Hume and her family.

Hume calls the living room her favourite space. Courtesy of Kate Hume
Hume calls the living room her favourite space. Courtesy of Kate Hume

Kate Hume started her career in fashion, as a buyer at Browns in London and then as a forecaster and stylist at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. But when she moved to Amsterdam with her husband in 1999 and began redecorating the 1850s townhouse that would become their home, she made the natural transition into interior design.

Since then, she has designed sumptuous homes in the south of France, contemporary residences in Moscow and Prague, modernist manor houses in the UK and Middle East-inspired villas in Dubai. Hume's projects are luxurious, simple and eclectic, and display a love of colour and a passion for combining rare and unusual pieces that are often custom-made.

Hume also designs one-of-a-kind handblown glass vessels under the Kate Hume Glass brand and co-created the Heijden Hume furniture collection with her husband, Frans van der Heijden, a former photographer and long-time collaborator. Both the furniture and glass collections are sold in Hume's studio on Eerste Wetering Dwarsstraat in Amsterdam.

But the roots of her successful interior design career can be traced back to the five-storey former office building where Hume and her family have lived for the past six years. "We just fell in love with the property when we found it six years ago. It was a perfect fit for what we were seeking. It was an original townhouse building with high ceilings and enough space to accommodate our two sons, pets and workspaces. It is also flooded with natural light from both sides of the building. And importantly, we absolutely love the area."

The building is set in the heart of Amsterdam, on a leafy park and near the city's trademark canals. "It's a very residential square and everything is a short bicycle ride away, which is the mode of transport of choice for locals," says Hume. "We also have a gorgeous terrier puppy whom we love to walk daily along the tree-lined streets. Amsterdam is a very welcoming European city and we are lucky to have become part of the terrific design community here."

However, because the building was a former office that dated back to the 1850s and hadn't been occupied since the end of the Second World War, it was in a serious state of disrepair when Hume found it. A number of structural changes had to be made before the property could be comfortably lived in, and because the family was keen to move in as soon as possible, this presented some problems. "Mostly we had to demolish the weaker parts and ensure that the structural integrity of the build was strengthened," Hume explains.

The couple were adamant that the essence of the building remain unchanged - an ethos that has become a cornerstone of both of their work. "We are always guided by the principles of restoration rather then destruction," she says.

In typical Amsterdam fashion, the property is spread over five floors. Hume converted the ground floor into a large study and library area, and removed secondary walls on the first floor to create a large open-plan living room and kitchen. The second floor is home to the master suite, and additional bedrooms and utility rooms are found on the remaining levels.

Comfort was key when it came to the design of the interiors, says Hume. Kate and Frans designed all of the inbuilt furniture themselves, so the house is filled with the rich woods and sculptural silhouettes that have made the Heijden Hume brand such a success. Lighting was sourced from Modular and Jeremy Cole, while feature walls are covered in dramatic wallpaper from the Glasgow-based brand Timorous Beasties. Walls are also adorned with eye-catching works of art that depict everything from Engels to oversized insects. The couple's extensive collection of photography and ceramics is thoughtfully displayed throughout the house, and Hume's bold glass vessels are also given pride of place. Refreshing greens and yellows mirror the summer foliage and are offset against a stark palette of black and white.

Hume describes her home as "comfortable, colourful, personal, green and light", and nowhere is this more evident than in her favourite space, the living room, which is brimming with natural light, pops of colour and plenty of personal touches. At its heart sits a George Smith sofa that Hume has owned for 20 years.

While the house is "definitely home", Hume admits that she would like to add an additional two bedrooms and bathroom on the fifth floor of the property. A roof terrace would also be a great addition, she says. "We love outdoor space and it is a rarity in central Amsterdam. We are also finding that the garden is growing into a natural extension of the kitchen and entertaining spaces as people congregate on terraces to chat and spend their meals there, weather permitting."

Apart from that, and in spite of the many challenges involved in transforming an abandoned former office into a comfortable family home, Hume is perfectly happy with her Amsterdam abode. Her only advice? "Not to live in a house while work is being done - never a good experience".