Smell the leather, feel the tactility of fabrics, and see the colours and materials
Interview with Ruud van Oosterhout by Viveka van de Vliet
Not only because it is the most beautiful location you can imagine in Amsterdam, but also because Ruud van Oosterhout has settled there with his studio and showroom: rvodesign. The designer is displaying stylish collections in the listed building right next to the Rijksmuseum.
In this beautiful, bright building, Van Oosterhout shows his own collection supplemented with designs by international brands. His 180-square-meter showroom is furnished with furniture, glassware, porcelain, lighting, carpets, and curtain fabrics, and has a sober, stylish allure. You can see at a glance with how much knowledge and love everything is made.
It’s like he has always been here. But the designer renovated the building thoroughly – down to the toilets clad in black veined Turkish natural stone – and more than six months ago, he moved from his studio on Roelof Hartplein, a little further away, to this building designed in 1884 by architect Eduard Cuypers.
The owner of the building, who is also one of his clients, pointed it out to him. ‘It really suits you perfectly,’ he said. Van Oosterhout was quickly sold: ‘I like places with light, where I can look out and feel good. Here, I can better put myself on the map, and show who I am and what I do in full glory, complemented with events and art.’
This immediately gives rise to the question: why don’t we know Ruud van Oosterhout, or not know him well, when there are countless buildings within Amsterdam alone that he has designed, like all Rob Peetoom’s branches?
Is it because he actually always works in relative silence, or because he is not an exponent of Dutch design, but has taken a path of his own? Ruud van Oosterhout started his studio back in 1995 and, with it, he struck a completely different note. ‘I like modesty, white, bright spaces, taking away all the restlessness to get to the essence of a design. In this context, I even find boring one of the best words,’ he says, and the words serene, refined simplicity and subtle details also apply well to his designs.
So, while Dutch design was on the rise, his designs were mainly picked up in France and further across borders; rvodesign profiled itself internationally, in particular. In the many years that followed, Van Oosterhout specialised in interior design, product design and styling, never opting for quick, for trends or for constantly wanting to show something new. In 2004, together with his manufacturer Marco Nieuwkoop, he started furniture label ‘bruut’, which is characterised by extremely detailed and perfectly finished designs of the most beautiful materials, in bright shapes and colours. He designs mainly in the higher segment of the market: for country houses, villas and lofts, from Amsterdam to islands in the Caribbean Sea.
In everything he does, one of the important characteristics is that he works with the most honest materials in collaboration with the best craftsmen. He speaks with love of a knotting technique with mohair wool and silk, a line or the beauty of solid walnut. ‘You always see the hand of the maker, the quality. Carpets are hand-knotted in Nepal, where I strive for people to be well paid for their craftsmanship. I use well-produced materials, know that an ash or oak has been treated and cut with respect, and where I can find the best tanner or stone worker and natural stone in Italy,’ he says, sitting on a detailed, silky-soft wooden oval table by his hand, with a view of a wing of the Rijksmuseum through the linen curtains. ‘That’s what I want to show people, so that they can better understand that the profession of interior designer is extremely labour-intensive and requires a lot of knowledge of materials.’
Van Oosterhout believes that the city can do more to enhance the image of art, design, and culture. ‘Art and design are often seen as something elitist, but that’s not reality. We work with professionals all over the world and contribute to the economic model in the design sector throughout all layers of society. GLUE takes up the gauntlet, shows the richness of the creative sector, and makes locations more visible and well-known. I too will open my personal showroom in my own city in an easily accessible way so that visitors can smell the leather, feel the tactility of fabrics, and see the colours and materials. GLUE must become a recurring event; the city needs it.’