“We have both worked from home at one time or another. When Pascal was a freelance art director, he had his office set up in what is now our bedroom. He loved working from home, walking into the kitchen to make a big lunch, smoking at his desk, playing music as loud as he liked – these were his years of freedom. His desk was the long wooden table (now our dining table) and in every corner of the house there were 2-metre tall stacks of magazines. When Georgie was born and could crawl around, we were so afraid that we’d find her crushed under a stack of ID-magazines, so we threw out a lot.
Our neighbourhood is colourful, the ‘Amsterdam stereotype’: we live right above a coffeeshop and across the street from a massage place. Just by looking around you can see that De Pijp has two sides, one area that is around Sarphatipark, with tall beautiful buildings, and the other side has buildings that were built simply to house the large number of people that had moved to the city with little regard to aesthetics. Over the last decade, our area on the outskirts of De Pijp is climbing its way up from a ‘no-go’ zone to an ‘interesting’ part of town. While all the houses look more or less the same, the Dutch take a lot of pride in decorating their interiors. Many people don’t have any curtains, or if they do they are always drawn open. So when walking past a house you can peer straight in and see people ‘living’. It’s quite voyeuristic but very open and welcoming at the same time. I love seeing how other people live.
We are very close to the center but far enough to get a feeling of true neighbourliness. The thing we love best is that we’ve finally worked out our neighbourhood, the best places to buy everything from wine to fresh herring. Our street is lined with Turkish grocers and there is the biggest daily market in Europe the ‘Albert Cyup’ market that is very close by. You can buy everything there. There are great restaurants moving into the area too, which we are so thankful for. It’s been years of disappointment on the food front, but finally Amsterdam is going through a food renaissance. This city has a definite ease of living. It’s bike friendly, well-connected by transport and still affordable (though this is changing). It has this small village-like feel, but with an international attitude. There are endless opportunities to amuse yourself day and night and the flow of new people gives the city a novel feeling. Once you venture outside of the center you’ll find very quiet and livable neighbourhoods. The city is a great place to bring up kids, we find it easy enough to merge our social and family life into one.
I think a place feels like ‘home’ when there’s no other place like it. Nowhere else makes us feel as calm and contented as our home. A home must be lived in with cozy corners and memories. It must have a big table for food and friends. There is a word in Dutch, which is ‘gezellig’. The word is impossible to pronounce and can’t easily be translated in English; it means cosy, warm, close, humble, a feeling of togetherness. Think cabin in woods, snow outside, warm open fire, eating cheese fondue with close friends, everyone is happy and glowing. You can describe a person, thing or place as ‘gezellig’ – to us our home and moments we have here is the absolute definition of the word. This is the first house Pascal and I have both lived in together. Before I have always shared spaces with other people. Pascal lived in Den Haag in ‘anti-squat’ housing. He has lived in amazing old villas, huge warehouse conversions and such.
My favourite piece in the house is the gold pineapple that I bought in Antwerp. When I moved in here, it was my first addition to the house. It’s actually an ice bucket; you can take the top half off. It felt somewhat out of place so I started collecting other pineapple objects to give it company. I just received from friends a ceramic pineapple from a Portuguese craft maker: Bordallo Pinheiro, they make dinnerware that looks like fruit, vegetables and seafood. Pascal’s favourite piece would be the bar. It was an absolute nightmare to get into the house. But it occupies a cozy little corner of the house, we can’t imagine this house with out the bar. It needs a little bit of maintenance but we kind of like its shabbiness. Our favourite space is the kitchen. When Pascal started looking for houses, he bought his ‘dream’ kitchen first and then literally went about finding a house that could fit it. We spend so much time in there. We both cook and have people over as often as possible. We had 36 people over for Christmas dinner and our kitchen didn’t fail us. It was so much fun. We didn’t have enough chairs so people were sitting cross-legged on the floor.
Pascal wakes up first, then our daughter and finally me (I struggle with dark mornings). We all have breakfast together. Every morning we have a warm breakfast, whether its eggs, porridge, salmon. In the winters, warm-hearted food is needed before you can face the cold. It’s usually a bit of a mad rush in the mornings, especially in winter, looking for a lost glove or boot, throwing on several layers. Georgie basically wobbles out the door, after we’ve wrapped her up. We either bike or walk Georgie to school and then we start our day. Weekends are a more relaxed affair; we just take longer to do our weekday routine, like adding fruit to our porridge or steamed milk to our coffee – small indulgences. Once a month, I treat myself to an English Sunday paper, but usually we read magazines at the breakfast table. We hardly ever get to sleep-in as Georgie is awake before 8am. We can’t wait till she can make her own breakfast.”
Big thanks to Savi for her thoughtful answers and snapshot into her ‘gezellig’ home with Pascal and Georgie. All photos by the wonderful Paul Barbera.