"We looked for a house that was unusual"
— Daan Bonsen
With five booming restaurants in Amsterdam, culinary entrepreneur Daan Bonsen built up quite the empire. One would think he is never at home. Well, we guessed wrong. Daan is a true family man and his perfect day is one at home with his wife and kids. Close to his restaurants he lives together with his family in a characteristic industrial property in the Jordaan, a neighborhood in Amsterdam surrounded by canals, small shops and restaurants.
When we enter the building we are greeted at the top of the stairs by Mia (4) and Lois (2), the two daughters of Daan Bonsen (39) and his wife Marjolein (39). As a gesture of welcome they show us their favourite stuffed animals and point out where we need to be. Once we enter the apartment we are instantly impressed. It is surprisingly spacious, something that is rare in Amsterdam. Daan’s wife, Marjolein, comes up to shake our hands. “Do you want coffee?” Yes, please.
We look around in awe, while Daan and Marjolein make coffee and catch the girls one by one to do their hair. This is definitely not your average house. We are curious how they found it. “The search for this house wasn’t easy,” Daan tells us. “We looked for the perfect house for over two years, but never found anything we liked. We love this area, so we looked for a house specifically in this neighborhood and we wanted something different. Something unusual, like an old school, and something that wasn’t done and we could fix up.”
In the end a real estate agent made them aware of this house: an industrial property, hidden on the top floor and with lots of options. “A doctor used to have his practice here and an artist had her studio in what is our bedroom today. The house consisted of different spaces and we broke down several walls to create the space we have right now and make it more logical for a family to live in.” They didn’t do the construction themselves. They thought out everything and hired a contractor, since they both have busy jobs and their youngest daughter, Lois, was only six months old at the time of the renovation.
We laugh while Mia and Lois pose like real models and stalk the photographer with their curiosity for the equipment. Looking at the two girls twirling in front of the camera while talking with their parents about their jobs, one thing comes to mind: how do they do it? It is commendable how they make it work with two young children, Daan having several businesses and Marjolein working at the marketing department of Adidas. Yes, it is busy they tell us, but it is doable and there is still plenty of time for the family. Day care for the girls is well arranged and both Daan and Marjolein stay at home one day a week. “Right now I have five businesses,” Daan tells us. “To me five is the perfect amount, because I can still stay personally involved in each and every one of my businesses and know every person that works for me. At this point in my career I don’t have to be around all the time anymore and get to spend more time at home. I stopped working the nights for instance.”
Home and family are just really important to Daan and Marjolein. Their favorite day of the week is Saturday, which is usually filled with lots of quality time with the family. “On a typical Saturday we go to the market, have a coffee somewhere, do some grocery shopping for the weekend, go home and cook some food. We love those easy Saturdays.”
When Daan and Marjolein talk about their neighborhood, you can feel in everything that they love it here. The small streets, hangouts like café Thijssen and Small World: they are true ambassadors of this area. When we ask Daan what’s so special about it, he doesn’t have to think long about an answer. “It is diverse, I can feel the city, Westerpark is around the corner and there are a lot of playgrounds for the kids. Add that most of my restaurants are situated in this area, makes this the perfect neighborhood for us.” “It is like a little village within the city,” Marjolein says, “I love it when we walk the children to school that they are greeted by everyone.”
Both Daan and Marjolein are really into interior design. They love to carefully select each item. “I don’t like it if everything in the house is brand new, “ Daan says. We would never go into a store and buy a complete interior. We like to search online or wander around in vintage stores - like Decennia Design in Tilburg or Van Dijk & Ko in Amsterdam - and mix old with new items. We just buy what we like and that doesn’t always work out. We still have plenty of rugs and lamps left that we didn’t find a good spot for in this house.” “We still need to sell them,” Marjolein adds laughing.
When we ask about specific items in the house, the stories come out. The robust wooden floor is the same floor as the one in Panache. There was a bit of wood left and Daan decided to use it for his own home. The huge, impressive doors separating the two living rooms are old French ones, the kitchen is tailor made by someone that also constructed a bar for one of Daan’s restaurants and the original beams of the house were found while renovating. “By that time we already ordered curtains, but we liked the beams so much that we decided to keep it this way.” That meant a higher ceiling and curtains that were too short. Daan and Marjolein fixed that creatively by simply sewing an extra part onto the curtains. We would have never guessed that!
In between all those stories, a brand new pink sofa that they bought at FEST. Under the original beams of the house, standing on the wooden floor of Panache and with a backdrop of the striking old French doors, it is the embodiment of their love for mixing the old with the new. “The sofa is an eyecatcher and fits right into our style. Color is a must-have in our interior. This pink worked out really well, it gives the space a fresh feel. We also like that it is a corner sofa and it basically divides the space into a living area and an eating area.” It is one of their favorite spots in the house. Especially for those easy Saturdays. “We love to sit here with a coffee and read the newspaper, while the kids play in the house.” They don’t see themselves living here forever, because they simply love to change it up every now and then, but for now they are happy with what they created. “This is the first house we really turned into a home.”
“I would never buy my interior in one go. Give your interior some time to grow.”