As a child, did you ever harbor a secret dream of becoming Alice in Wonderland and stumbling into a magical world? While those childhood days are likely far away in your rearview mirror, what if you still had the chance to escape and step into a surreal world of wonder?
I invite you to come take a whirlwind tour into the intriguing world of whimsical interior design that will captivate your imagination.
A visit to the Andaz Hotel, Prinsengracht in Amsterdam is the perfect playground for your adult self to rediscover your sense of imagination. Quick question: When was the last time you stared off into the wide blue yonder and drifted off to a daydream?
If I had to guess, it’s likely been a long time since you tapped into your imagination and let your mind wander.
Like most adults, your imagination might feel squashed from far too many Zoom meetings, mortgage payments, and other nonsense that comes with adulting.
The Wit, Whimsy, and Wonder of Wanders
Marcel Wanders is the Amsterdam-based genius behind the design for this Andaz hotel in his hometown. He masterfully blends the soul of a grown-up Alice with all the quirky eccentricities of one of my favorite cities in the world.
If you’re not familiar with the world of Wanders (a leading design personality), let’s get you up to speed. In fact, the New York Times has described him as the “Lady Gaga of Design.”
Quirky Interior Design Style
You’ll be impressed upon seeing all these unforgettable, whimsical design moments within the hotel.
In interviews, Wanders has shared his motivations for the design of this hotel. He references his idea of “connected polarities” which sounds a bit deep. But it basically comes down to his unique perspective of creating mash-ups of random, disconnected objects. In other words, contradictions and juxtapositions.
Join me on a tour where I’ll share some interesting insights into the deeper meaning behind these decorative moments. You’ll gain an even greater appreciation for the art and history that’s beautifully represented in this quirky design experience.
Down the Rabbit-Hole
Let’s take a magical journey down the rabbit hole to experience Amsterdam through the lens of an Alice who’s all grown up and living her best life.
Her playful spirit comes through in multiple focal points throughout the hotel. The most obvious moment is this larger-than life mural overlooking the Mad Hatter’s garden.
Amsterdam is undeniably one of the most inspiring cities in the world. And Wanders captures the heart of Alice and the essence Amsterdam in a truly brilliant manner.
Upon first entering the hotel, you might not immediately notice all the local flair that’s been spectacularly woven throughout the space. So let me take you on a deep dive into some of these local touches, which can serve as inspiration for your own whimsical designs:
Anyone who loved Alice remembers the initial disorientation she first experienced upon entering the Mad Hatter’s land. This is moment is masterfully recreated here at the entry.
As you cross the threshold, you may also feel a similar dismay as you encounter a series of mystifying doors with charming cherubs frolicking above.
Delft Blue Porcelain
If you’ve ever paid attention to all the tourist trinkets behind various shop windows, you’ll know the fascination with the iconic Delft blue porcelain. It’s been popular since the 1700s and still is going strong today. This vintage tribute is on full display in the accessories and decor lining the shelves of the Andaz. And the bold splashes of blue are referenced again in the swirling carpet design.
Wanders decked out all the dark chairs, shelving, and the wood table in a somber shade of black. This genius move allows the white and blue porcelain decor to become a striking focal point within the space.
Red Light District
Speaking of color, no mention of Amsterdam would be complete without mention of the infamous red-light district. Not one known for subtlety, Wanders dials it up a notch with this provocative explosion of bright color. He covers every inch of space, from floor to ceiling, in this alluring red.
Alice’s presence takes a bit of a risqué and naughty turn here through the boudoir-inspired accent walls. These are tufted in a sultry crimson upholstery.
And the glittering chandelier – nearly invisible in the midst of all the Pantone-perfected tone-on-tone saturation – further heightens the drama.
Now, I would never recommend adding this level of color intensity into your home. However, stepping out of this elevator into this saturated environment is a sensation your eyes won’t soon forget!
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Lighting is the most powerful tool you can bring into a space. And when you blend that with an unconventional astronomy-inspired wallpaper and vast expanses of glass, you’ve got an impressive focal point in the center of the hotel.
Wanders created a stunning, iconic display with these tolling chandelier bells flanked by encircling spirals of light. It’s a beautiful atrium display both during the day, when washed with natural light, or glowing brightly late into the night.
Through the Looking-Glass
This glass-enclosed dining area with a party-ready table setting overlooks the garden. It gives you that sense of being on the outside looking in, hoping to experience a new world of wonder.
The bulbous table legs feel both fun and serious. And that one lone white accent chair stands out among the other somber black elements, almost like an interloper who has crashed this soon-to-happen party.
Wanders design choices convey a sense of fun and whimsy. That expression is on full display here with his unconventional furniture designs. Check out these oversized, high-back chairs reminiscent of the speculative tulip mania that took over Holland, back in the day.
As a little girl, I was fascinated by the concept of secret gardens. So I was delighted to find this sequestered, private garden nestled within the surrounds of this hotel.
Venturing down the arched garden corridor, the charm of the warm glowing lights and lanterns invites you to enter a magical world, far away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Alice as Art
And under the watchful eye of the Alice artwork, you can bask in the warm glow from the mystical fireplace nestled amongst the roses. This is the perfect place to chill and let your imagination run free in this design wonderland.
For the grand finale, see if you can identify the brilliant artistry expertly woven into this multi-story mural including:
- An array of tempting libations
- The queen of hearts playing cards
- An iconic Dutch windmill
- And, most importantly, our dear friend, the white rabbit with his signature time piece reminds us that we mustn’t ever, ever be late for that oh-so-important date!
Style Takeaways: Whimsical Interior Design Style
While the Andaz is a quirky and unconventional space that isn’t for the faint of heart, it can serve as pure inspiration for ways you can bring moments of delight and whimsy to your own decorating adventures.
Whimsical Interior Design Insights
If you’re going to convey a quirky and whimsical interior design style in your own space, you’ve gotta start with a strong overarching concept (hello, Alice!) and have a compelling point of view for your design selections. You don’t want to just be odd and unconventional without a purpose.
Feel free to implement a few ideas below to create a sense of whimsical wonder within your home:
1. Embrace your inner child.
Go back in your mind and unleash your imagination, allowing it to fully explore all the possibilities that exist within your home.
2. Look local.
What are some of your favorite local treasures that you could celebrate and showcase through design details within your home?
3. Get quirky.
Select special areas within your space to bring in a touch of whimsy. Don’t feel that every single nook and cranny has to make a statement or scream for attention.
4. Add some fun and flair.
Banish the beige and bring on a vivid color palette, bold patterns, and unexpected accents and accessories.
5. Unleash the power of art.
Opportunities abound with artwork, so look for interesting pieces that utilize unique shapes, patterns, and colors to liven up the walls of your room.
If you enjoyed learning about this unique design hotel and want more interior design tips, be sure to sign up to join my free Designer Insider group here.
And also check out my interior design style quiz to help you determine the best look for your home.
Explore More from Amsterdam:
Check out a few of my other favorite Amsterdam design destinations below.