The Conservatorium | Country & Town House
Country & Town House | October 2012
The Conservatorium, Amsterdam
Laura Ivill discovers cutting-edge design at the heart of this Dutch hotel.
In 100 guest rooms of the Conservatorium a sleek, large, flat, glass box sits on the floor. The front is pure black glass, the back is the same. It swivels from a single pivot point into which invisible wires disappear. This is Totem, your media hub for TV, movies, audio, mp3 player… It represents bespoke design at the cutting edge; it’s not branded, and it’s not in production (although guests have been desperate to buy one).
It is one of the elements, along with furniture and lighting, custom-made for the hotel by the softly spoken Milan-based architect and designer Piero Lissoni. And Totem packs a punch – the ceiling speakers give crystal-clear sound; plus the room is insulated to a super-high level so you can kick back in privacy knowing that your neighbours won’t be part of your party.
The building itself was constructed, in a grand gesture, as a bank in the late 19th-century, and the painstaking renovation of the mosaic flooring, glazed-tile panelling, stained-glass windows, stone staircases and vaulted corridors has been at the heart of its conversion from its second incarnation as a 20th-century music conservatory into a luxury hotel.
Taking advantage of its high ceilings and huge windows, almost half of the Conservatorium’s 129 rooms and suites are duplexes, with the bedroom on a mezzanine level (a second Totem, lavatory and shower upstairs means you are never far from comforts). Much of the interior décor is in muted colours - soft oak, wool rugs, leather mandarin-coloured leather armchairs and cotton-covered sofas. Mirrors reflect light and there are lots of cappuccino-coloured glass-panelled walls, and walls in latte-coloured concrete and resin, glass-topped dark wood tables, and bathrooms that feel warm in travertine stone. It all adds up to a contemporary look that won’t date quickly.
You might be visiting Amsterdam for a long weekend – with up to eight flights a day on CityJet from City Airport, it’s a breeze to get to – but the hotel is here for the locals and it shows as Dutch is spoken by all the staff who deal with guests.
The lobby atrium is a huge – HUGE - conservatory buzzing with people meeting for coffee in the lounge or relaxing over breakfast, lunch or dinner in the brasserie. An indoor garden of trees descends to the Akasha spa over two floors below ground (if you like a hammam, there is one dedicated as a treatment room and a second one for guests to use anytime. And if you like a swim, the pool is 18 metres long).
Opposite, you find the Dutch roofline and red brick of the Modern Art Gallery, just one such in this, the city’s Gallery District; nearby shops such as Paul Smith, MaxMara and Diesel are telltale signs that it’s also the Fashion District – Amsterdam’s Bond Street.
It was this smart, central location, plus the building itself and its musical heritage that attracted the owners to choose this site as the first in its new collection of hotels - The Set (the second is the Café Royal on Regent Street opening this autumn, the third will be in Paris). Brain-storming what should be the name of the fine-dining restaurant, they came up with Tunes. Run by celebrated Dutch chef Schilo, choose either his tasting menu (105 euros) or four-course a la carte (68 euros) - and it will be music to your tastebuds.
Details: Doubles from €515, room only plus tax (conservatoriumhotel.com). CityJet flies from London City to Amsterdam Schiphol airport, from £60 one-way (0871 6665050, CityJet.com)
EAT French fare at Goudfazant - industrial décor, harbour views
DRINK On the terrace at Wildschut, munching trad bar snacksVISIT The Rijksmuseum, for those breathtaking Dutch masterpieces
BUY Offbeat interior-design pieces at The Frozen Fountain
DO Hire a bike (of course) and explore the Eastern Docklands