March 31, 2011

The theatrical designs of Amsterdam-based i29 fuse bold, custom-designed features with a clear design concept to create memorable and award-winning interiors.

Three words to describe Dutch interior architecture practice i29? “Just Call Us!” laughs Jeroen Dellensen. On second thoughts, the co-founder of i29 Architecture adds, “…or Contrast. Simplicity. Music!”

It’s been a busy few years for this Amsterdam-based design practice. Today it’s one the most nominated interior design practices in the Netherlands (dominating strongly in 2009) and among those nominations it has come to win a handful of awards and much industry praise. Since Dellensen and Jaspar Jansen established the practice in 2002, with an attitude to forge their own distinct path – never forgetting to have fun along the way – it’s been a non-stop path, and their dynamic approach is clearly working, as the accolades and commissions don’t look like stopping.

A recent string of eye-catching projects designed by the duo have made interesting headlines, both locally [in the Netherlands] and internationally. Such projects include the temporary office space for advertising agency Gummo (a rather surreal ‘recycled office’ blanketed entirely in a layer of grey spray paint), the school interior of Panta Rhei (which integrates ‘carpets of texts’ with poetry inspired by learning and adolescence), a slick project called Power Office for Eckhardt and Leeuwenstein (which literally put the staff in a conceptual spotlight), and of course the serene loft apartment known as Home 07 (with its dream bathroom, integrating a lush vertical green wall, and which ultimately earned them a ‘Best Bathroom’ of the Netherlands award in 2010). And that’s just two years’ worth of work.

So what is it about i29’s brand of interior architecture that keeps us wanting more? “Our approach is practical, yet based on strong ideas articulated in clear concepts. We try to get to the core of things, but keep it looking simple,” explains Dellensen. “We do not style what is there. What we truly try to do is to literally design the space – the stuff that is not physically there. And we can only do this by designing the physical material.”

Indeed, striking custom-designed elements play an integral role in the practice’s interiors, transforming the space (and concealing functions) along the way, attracting our attention for its sleek aesthetic. The more outspoken features are contrasted with a clean layout and a sense of simplicity that is executed with honesty in materials, all of which contributes further to a clear, strong result.

For example, Home 07 saw the complete transformation of a claustrophobic Amsterdam apartment into a spacious light-filled residence. A central light well and staircase opened up the apartment, which was constructed with a mostly raw-pinewood backdrop, the highlight being a striking kitchen cabinet fashioned from laser-cut MDF. The dynamic fractal pattern travels across the cabinet to create handgrips to open the doors, with openings that widen to become cavities for shelves and eventually the window of the kitchen bar. Furthermore, the cabinet conceals the interior’s new steel supporting structure. Concealment seems to be a red thread running through i29’s designs. “It’s about limiting the ‘noise’ in a space,” says Dellensen. “We aim to make a whole of the interior, and therefore dictate beforehand what you want and don’t want to see. It keeps the design clean and clear, so you can ‘read’ the interior as a whole and not get distracted by all kinds of clutter.”

All this is to say that the future for i29 looks promising, with new office designs in the pipeline, more residences and a unique institutional project – a workshop for people with disabilities to learn the skills needed for social reintegration. Perhaps this will begin a new phase for a duo that wishes to take their distinct approach into the care industry, where they believe well-designed surroundings can significantly improve the standard of living of people from all walks of life. It’s honest, uncluttered architecture, with a healthy dose of no-nonsense and a hint of playfulness.

“We try to look at it as a composition, as in music,” says Dellensen. “As with music, the silence is essential to the music itself. It is the same way with space. We work with structures and rhythms in an elementary and almost abstract way, not with fashion and style. If we can make people as happy in their interior surrounding, as listening to their favourite music, then we’ve achieved a lot.”


  • Frank Floyd Fright May 10th, 2011 9:19 pm

    Sharp edges, right angles, bland surfaces, colorless, cold, dehumanizing and forbidding spaces….designed for whom/what? Certainly not human beings.

  • Mies Van Da Row May 11th, 2011 10:42 pm

    Stunning form, breathtaking ambience, delightful form & motion encompassing the human element. Wonderful, just wonderful!

  • Susanna York Design Associates May 13th, 2011 5:36 pm

    Marvelous examples of Post-Post Modernist Design!

  • Vincent Joseph Interiors Inc. May 13th, 2011 11:04 pm

    Slick, serene, uncluttered spaces, with loads of ambiance….superb!

  • Defunct Design Collective June 5th, 2011 5:24 pm

    Cold, hard, sterile surfaces & colorless space…living things nowhere to be seen?

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