Monday, August 29, 2011

Brown Café

A café bedecked in all things dark brown umber. Sounds depressing? Sometimes it can be. It is a uniquely Dutch phenomenon. The colour of brown is adopted in the Netherlands as old Protestants once adorned themselves in black. Practical, reverent and clerical. By comparison the warmth of the reddish tone is almost indulgent.

I think back to childhood days in my fathers pub, where dark hues suited well the sticky mess of spilled Guinness and billowed nicotine. In Holland the Brown Café is an art form, each premises carefully replicating a non-existing time and place somewhere in the past. Today's commercial interior designer can choose any type of fitting and carpentry from weighty catalogues to meet the wishes of his 'food and drink' retail client. The Dutch are in no need of such catalogues. Once their houses looked the same, but today people are more likely to put Ikea in there living rooms with the wooden patina being left behind at the café on the corner.

Over the last decade many proprietors choose a modern Milano look, rarely it works, the stark white clean lines that begin crisp and fresh start to look cheap and tacky after a couple of years. Some smart thinkers choose to combine the two looks often resulting in charming eclectic interiors that serve leafed mint tea and squeezed orange juice.

I often get asked, "Do I go to Irish Pubs in Amsterdam?". Yes, I do. But I much prefer the Brown Cafés, they to me are the equivalent. I sometimes say to clients, "it's all about authenticity, be what you are, walk your talk". These places, although merely constructed in theme, have authenticity. It is the people who go there that make it so. The subject is worthy of a lengthy thesis, but put simply, going to a brown café is like returning to your mothers womb and who amongst us at sometime in our life has not wanted to just crawl back in.

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