Bureau Fraai

Chiaroscuro in Amsterdam

In the Museumplein neighborhood in the center of Amsterdam, Bureau Fraai transformed and upgraded a monumental building into high-end apartments and office spaces. For this, the architects took the Clair-obscure technique from 17th century painting as inspiration for the interior concept. Indeed, Gerard van Honthorst (after whom Honthorst Street is named) was an avid follower and follower of the famous “chiaroscuro” painter Caravaggio.

The characterful 5-story property with a beautiful period interior had lost its charm over time due to lack of ownership and maintenance. Both the municipality and the new owner wanted the renovation and upgrading of this property to be done with respect for the history and characteristics of the building, so all the monumental details and ornaments had to be preserved. To that end, all features and characteristics were carefully documented during the process to ensure that they could be carefully restored.

Office spaces were created on the bell floor and in the basement. Located on the upper floors are the spacious high-end apartments where the characteristic building layout with a front and back room separated by an open ensuite closet was maintained.

For the new interior, Bureau Fraai applied the concept of “respect the past and embrace the present” where existing interior characteristics go hand in hand with contemporary design interventions. For this, the chiaroscuro technique was taken for inspiration. Chiaroscuro is a painting technique in which light-dark contrasts are intensified with which a dramatic effect is achieved, accentuating three-dimensional forms and the spaciousness of the interior.

Bureau Fraai used these strong light-dark contrasts for the office spaces and apartments by introducing new bold colors to counter a light gray base color. The harmony between the existing characteristics and the new dramatic design interventions with their own use of color gives each floor a new and distinct identity.

Photography: Flare Department

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