DESIGN DESTINATION | Room Mate Aitana boutique hotel, Amsterdam
Room Mate is a design hotel group that's brought Spanish vibrancy and flair to the Dutch capital. Andrea Nagel sampled their wares
There's an iconic Amsterdam view, popularised on Dutch souvenirs and postcards that make their way around the world. It's the typical canal house that has, on the ground floors, bright green, or lime-coloured orange trees - depending on the season - dispersed intermittently along the roads that front their gabled facades.
The narrow houses stand side by side, painted in rich autumnal colours, steeply pitched with a Dutch-inspired variation of the Gothic style. They reflect into the canals, so that in most of the central parts, you can stand on a bridge and be spoiled with not one but two views of the picturesque streets.
It is against the background of this typical view of the city that the Room Mate Aitana Hotel literally stands out. Like a futuristic church, where the style savvy go to worship design, the impressive, reflective spire that gives the hotel it's temple-like appearance pierces the sky.
The hotel is located on a man-made island, the IJdock, and was designed by architects Ben Loerakker and Jan Baker.
In walking distance of the touristy centre, the IJdock is a haven for architecture and design enthusiasts. Recently constructed on the banks of the waterway that links different parts of the city, it houses the new Palace of Justice (Palais van Justitie), which faces Amsterdam Central Station, the hotel, commercial offices and a striking residential building which can be admired from the hotel room windows.
Looking past the angular green building you have a view across the water and all the way to the A'dam Lookout, an observation deck with the best possible panoramic view of Amsterdam. The apartment building has a remarkably sharp edge, making it an outstanding and unusual piece of architecture, and already one of the most photographed buildings in Amsterdam.
In front of it is the IJdock marina. Yachts can be moored for a few days, which makes the vista that much more picturesque.
Inside the hotel, the design touches are too audacious to be the work of minimalist Dutch designers ... and that's because the interiors were curated by a Spaniard - Tomas Alia. In an article in Vanity Fair, Alia declared: "My style is recognisable, risky, brazen ..." - and these elements can be observed as you enter the lobby and are greeted by enormous copper-coloured pillars.
One floor up is the mezzanine bar area, dominated by a wall that pays homage to Dutch Delft design, but with an infusion of Spanish flair. The bar offers 50 types of beer and regular tasting sessions to go with them. Also, 10 different gin and tonics are on offer.
But best of all, the bar is home to Alfonso Graca and Jose Antonio Sanchez Manzano, the latter of whom writes "chronic literature" (political and social stories that happen to real people) and is a mine of information about the traumas of Eastern Europe, and of the best place to get a chow in the area (Meneer Nieges on the waterfront accessed by a tunnel of reclaimed windows and mirrors).
Another outstanding design element of the hotel is the unique decor of each of the 283 rooms, all with views overlooking the marina or across the wide water to the A'Dam Tower and the grounded UFO-shaped EYE Film Museum on the opposite bank.
Each room has its own quirky design, from the coloured panel carpets in matching tones to the unusual chairs, light fittings and lamps.
Kike Sarasola, Room Mate president and founder, who has worked some of the world's best creatives such as Patricia Urquiola, Teresa Sapey, Tomas Alia, Lorenzo Castillo, Lazaro Rosa Violan, says: "I take advantage of every moment I travel or stay in a hotel to absorb my surroundings and see what I can reflect into Room Mate Hotels. Inspiration is all around but ultimately the designers are the experts in their field, and I like to have their point of view."
• Andrea Nagel was a guest of Room Mate Aitana Amsterdam.