The Victorian era was all about excess. No surface could be too ostentatious, as rooms were coated in a cacophony of lavishness: tassels, marbling, gilding, upholsteries of all sorts, and thanks to improved printing, wallpapering. This stuffiness is anything but the modern Dutch aesthetic, which you might call clean, quirky, and sometimes even humorous. But that doesn’t mean the two ideas can’t mix.
When the Rotterdam-based Studio Makkink & Bey was asked to update a 17-century French building–which once contained the historic Hotel Dupanloup–to become a research center for the University of Orléans, beautiful things happened. Out were the chaise lounges and buttoned cushions, in were molded woodform chairs and muted, monochromatic textiles.
For those of you tempted to say an Ikea set up shop inside an old French building, your western ethnocentrism, which apparently blurs together Swedish and Dutch design, is forgiven today (at least a bit). Makkink & Bey (Dutch) actually enlisted students to mix in their remakes of Ikea (Swedish) furniture pieces into the research center’s motif.
The reason we think the mixed aesthetic may work is that it’s always consistent in its four-part ratio: The studio used a careful balance in each space, mixing a period object (maybe a gold-framed painting), a bespoke object (like one of the custom curtains that adorn the space), a student-transformed object (Ikea table), and then one last French or Dutch object (often, a piece from Studio Makkink & Bey’s own collection).
The result is a fantastic clash of the antique and the contemporary–a captivating space to host a research center, but an even better set for the inevitable Downton Abbey Season 8: Blake Travels Through Time and Redecorates a Bit. The recipient of updates since 2011, the fully redesign space will be complete in September, 2014.
[Hat tip: Dezeen]