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A traveller’s tale

July 2012

  • Fiona Myer

Retail and design in northern Europe 2012


On arrival in Amsterdam, I taxied to the Dylan hotel. Formerly known as Blake’s, originally designed by Anouska Hempel, the hotel was revamped by Stijl in 2007. From my arrival into a breathtaking original cobbled stone arched courtyard with white orchids peering through high gloss black painted window frames I immediately felt as if I was staying in a home rather than a hotel.

The Anouska Hempel rooms were stunning with clean lines, co-ordinated cushions and a choice of cosier rooms or winter white-on-white with highlights of rows of potted white orchids – dreamy. Each room is different and my advice would be to go online and nominate your preferred decoration.

I had a wonderful two nights. The food was exceptional. From a simple toasted sandwich to the only Michelin star restaurant in Amsterdam you have a great range to choose from. As I was traveling alone I was happy to sit on cosy antique leather sofas beside a roaring fire to eat my brunch. The hotel was a former theatre and still has many of the original features, making it unique and beautiful, from cobble bricks along the casual sitting area to original tan leather walls. The colour palette is warm and the feeling is glamorous, leaving you intrigued at what you might not have seen. The sitting rooms face onto a generous courtyard allowing light to spill into the rooms. The bar is cosy and very stylish. The staff were excellent and the concierge exemplary, finding me all the addresses to unusual destinations, some of them outside of Amsterdam. I know where I’m staying next time! 

Retail highlights start with The Frozen Fountain – I spent hours in the two-storey gallery space showcasing young designer brands from Amsterdam and Tokyo, with its designer lighting and general haberdashery of clever design concepts. It’s eclectic and a complete must when you get to Amsterdam. 

Other interesting design shops include Droog, wonder wood for specialist vintage plywood furniture and Kauppa for eclectic yet very wearable local designer fashion. And although time didn’t permit, on my next trip to Amsterdam I will almost certainly visit Mendo, an all black lined bookshop covering an extensive range of architectural, interior and fashion books…

These shops and a myriad of others can be found within the nine streets alongside the four principal canals… My advice is to rent a push bike or pop on some comfy walking shoes and take off! 



After checking in and out of four hotels with my best behavior I decided the Danes must be some of the kindest and most well behaved citizens in the world. The concierges in all cases were very understanding of the fact I was visiting the city for design purposes and they quickly referred me onto the next hotel. Finally arriving at the Nimb Hotel I knew I had arrived…

The Nimb is a Moorish designed hotel set in amongst the Tivoli Gardens. Each of the 13 rooms are individually decorated and if you are lucky enough to get the corner room, the windows spill out onto the gardens with spring bulbs and aged European trees.

The hotel exudes contemporary Danish luxury. Everywhere you look there are rooms of clever Danish design. Wide blond bare boards divide rooms and foyers with steel glass doors providing an airy and yet cosy atmosphere. The flower arrangements are carefully chosen and individual vases sit beside one another providing an eclectic mix of colors and perfumes; contemporary charcoal linen sofas and deep comfortable leather chairs with black linen lamp shades sit on heavy robust steel bases. 

Don’t expect a bargain though, as everything from taxis to hotels and food are amongst some of the most expensive in the world. 

Hay House is synonymous with Copenhagen and a reason alone to visit this exiting city. Set in a wonderful 1896 art nouveau building this contemporary Danish homewares and furniture business is thriving. And any visit to Copenhagen is not complete without a visit to Normann – over two floors of cutting edge Danish designed homewares furniture and lighting.

I was lucky enough to get a dinner reservation at Noma. Head chef Redzepi has reinvigorated the new Nordic cuisine movement in this 2-star Michelin restaurant. With 16 courses of ingredients flown in from the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland, and in some cases propagated outside the front of the restaurant in fishing boats moored to the jetty. 

The staff were in most cases the chefs themselves as they prepare and bring your course to the table with an explanation to follow. The setting is modest but beautiful and in its quietly raw, Nordic atmosphere there is an elegance which reminds you where you are. A highlight (or not) was the live scampi which are enclosed with a lid ready to be opened and popped in to your mouth. Although I played by the rules I couldn’t say it was my highlight! I’m hard pushed eating raw food, let alone alive…

After a tour of the kitchen post-dinner I found myself talking to the chefs and discovered that the business barely makes a profit. After much explanation I learned the chefs work for the love of it and you can see why. It is a completely creative and artistic business designing dishes.

After a year or two working as a chef at the number one restaurant in the world you would hope that their future as a chef would be laid out for them. If time and money permit it is one of life’s great experiences!

With an early morning flight down to Milan for the furniture fair I hurried home to pack as it was already almost 2am.



Istayed at the Hotel Nobis for its central location and closeness to retail. The rooms are generous, Swedish modern; the interior downstairs does not reflect the same feel. There are elements of Islamic detailing and gold pendants mixed amongst vast spaces and void height ceilings. 

Upon checking in I very quickly worked out that I should have booked online as my friend had secured an extra night free of charge and cheaper room rate for an identical room…  Live and learn! 

Right outside the hotel you have the Acne flagship store. This is just a start to an exciting 24 hours of retail. The snow made our visit scenic but somewhat tricky to get around. Fortunately most of it can be done by foot but there are some worthwhile shops a taxi ride away. 

Filippa K flagship store should not be missed. Although there are over 600 stores now worldwide this one is essential. Ask for the secondhand store which is part of a not-for-profit organisation. It’s a clever concept with the ability to purchase past collections, buy samples and sell back Filippa K clothes. 

Don’t go past Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair. An inspiration interior in a minimal setting was designed by architectural firm Guise. Meanwhile, a trip to Asplund is a must for innovative homewares and contemporary classics from Scandinavia.

A visit to the Ostermalms Saluhall market is well worth it at lunch time. Allow enough time to sit at the gingham laid tables and order a local wine and work through a langoustine, a memorable experience as your butter knife glides through the meat. Honestly, you have never had anything like it, and if langoustine is not what you want then order the gravlax. They are famous for it and I now know why! 

Don’t miss Svenskt Tenn. The flagship store here in Stockholm is quite different to the likes of their shops in New York and London. There is a good representation of Scandinavian designers and a wonderful little afternoon tea shop upstairs to sit and contemplate your purchases. It is designed and merchandised with individually printed china, napkins and cloths all of which can be bought downstairs. It feels very local and will give you a good feeling of what it is to be truly Swedish. 

Having decided not to stay at the Lydmar for its location, we made a point of braving the snow to catch a five minute taxi over there for dinner. Just as well – it was fabulous!  From the minute we walked in to the foyer filled with a collection of contemporary black and white portraits I knew it was worth the taxi ride.  

We walked up stone spiral stairs to what could only be described as a lounge/restaurant set in amongst an unorganised library of books. The bar situated at the far end of the library of tables, old leather sofas and books instantly made you feel at home. It was in fact a highlight of the trip providing us with a backdrop to an energising conversation over more than one or two full bodied red wines. The best tables are around the sides on a banquet facing the bookshelves. 

A trip back to Stockholm in the summer months is required to fully appreciate what the city truly has to offer.



For further information about any of the hotels and boutiques mentioned in this article, visit the websites below:






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