Imagicasa 2022

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What if an interior designer is a client of his own?

Dutch designer Bertram Beerbaum describes himself as ‘the most difficult client he has ever had’, but the renovation of his own house ultimately degenerated into a very interesting interaction between client and executor, with himself as designer and captain.

Designer Bertram Beerbaum rolled into the profession by chance and ended up at Kabaz as a student, where he is now the general manager. This full service interior design agency is led by architect André de Vos, interior architect Sef van der Plas and himself. The company works with enthusiastic specialists who not only create, but also direct and execute. The unique buildings that Kabaz creates, always offer a total experience, where all the senses are stimulated. At this agency, architecture, interior design, styling and design are united in every project. Kabaz works with a team of experts from sketch to completion. The designer gets a lot of satisfaction out of the creative process, whereby his designs often balance on the edge. Surprising designs with ingredients that are provided by the people themselves. Imagicasa talked to him about his love for design, his own expectations as well as one of the most talkedabout projects, namely his own home.

‘When I was nineteen, I started working as a furniture delivery driver for the father of a friend of mine. I had only just got my driving licence and was already allowed to drive my boss’ van. And sometimes he even let me drive his Porsche to the carwash on Saturdays. I loved that world; I looked up to him as I saw how hard he worked to grow his shop. I was also quite impressed by interior designer Jan des Bouvrie. That combination of the creative and the commercial appealed to me enormously. I never studied architecture or interior design, but by watching a lot of things and working as much as possible alongside my studies in Communication

and going out with my then boss, I learned the trade. And by bluffing a bit,’ the designer winks. He still wonders how he did it back then, but if clients asked for advice, he just grabbed a sketch pad and started drawing. The successes he achieved made him more and more enthusiastic. He was also given the confidence and space to do his own thing. ‘I have learned the most from my clients, my mistakes and myself.’ His signature is best recognised by a certain tension he strives to bring to every project: ‘a feeling and balance through extremes, not through more of the same,’ as he puts it so nicely. He also uses natural materials, balances contrasts and integrates technology invisibly. When we asked him what designing does to him, he replied as follows: ‘It may sound strange, but a little pressure always works well for me. Or if I find something really challenging. When I am on a location, I always have an immediate idea of what something should look like. I always have a pen and a sketch pad with me for a rough sketch. Think of it as my notebook next to my bed. And then it is so wonderful that my colleagues at Kabaz immediately understand my scribbling and translate it into a design that surprises me. I can really enjoy that. That I found something that expresses my passion in combination with my commercial drive and that I can do this

every day with a nice team, that gives me fulfillment.’ One of the people Beerbaum admires for his architectural prowess is our Belgian pride Vincent Van Duysen. He finds the well-considered balance between old and new, the architectural rigour and the graceful decorative forms astonishing.

a typical kabaz house

It was a godsend for the designer to find a spacious plot with a bungalow situated in a forest on the outskirts of Laren, in the north of the Netherlands, where his company is also located. It is a comfortable and pleasant place to ‘be’, you can feel that as soon as you drive into the estate. It is surely no coincidence that only three families have lived here before me. ‘I knew that I wanted to make the 1956 house substantially bigger and that I would therefore have to expand considerably. For a very short time, I considered demolishing the existing house and erecting a completely new one: in my opinion, the history of an existing house can be a beautiful starting point. It took a lot of creativity to create the desired number of square metres within the lines of the zoning plan, but fortunately I have experienced and creative architects at my disposal,’ we hear. Huge glass walls on the garden side draw the outside in. The surrounding nature comes right up to the windows, so that when you look out, you have a view of a breathtaking painting. As if the house has accidentally tumbled into the forest. What’s more, the house is built in such a way that you have an incredible amount of privacy, so you don’t see any neighbours and you enjoy peace and quiet at its best.

understated and contradictory

The complicated thing about renovating this existing house is that it originally had a certain form; a certain logic. And sometimes illogical too. But according to the designer, that is what made it challenging. ‘I find

‘I always try to bring a certain tension, a feeling and balance through extremes’

it funny to be able to tell that the fireplace is still in the same place, but that there used to be a bath where the kitchen unit is now,’ he smiles. These contradictory pieces turn out to be a typical Kabaz home. With architecture, you tend to think in broad terms: routing, facades, sunlight, etc. But the wealth of materials, some simple, some very exclusive, ultimately gives that special feeling when you enter a space that is truly finished. In terms of furnishings, he wanted to create a certain modesty in terms of atmosphere and appearance; that suits the designer best. He doesn’t like grand and showy, but prefers tranquillity. It has become a house where you can be together and where you can watch a film with your partner. But it is also a house where you can enjoy a meal with friends: the kitchen is open, as an extension of the living room. In terms of furnishings and certainly in terms of finish, beautiful, luxurious materials have been used. The switchgear, for example, is modern, but based on the Bakelite switches from when this house was built. In the bedroom-bathroom, he had the cupboard wall made of a kind of scrap, each scrap covered with suede. A great task, but the result is excellent, especially in combination with the horn handles. The latest gadgets in home automation, the television that sinks into the side bench and the James Bond door: by turning away a side table with a mirror, you suddenly gain access to the other wing of the building. We just love these surprising elements.

‘Everything in my house contributes to the feeling of well-being and that is what I try to evoke in all my projects. The climate, for example, but also the acoustics. I chose hard floors, but it didn’t have to become a chilly sound box, so I opted for an acoustic ceiling. I have sisal carpet made to ceiling, for example. The man who came to do it wondered if I had gone crazy, but I am incredibly happy with how it turned out, especially in combination with the wooden beams that remained visible. And the acoustics are great,’ Beerbaum tells us. He has declared himself the most difficult client and is sure that everyone in his team


will agree. It is not always easy to make choices for your own house. He now understands better the uncertainty that exists among his clients in that respect. ‘Half of the fun in my work comes from the projects themselves, but the other half for me is always the interaction with our clients. They are all interesting people who have achieved something special in their lives in one way or another. Talking to artists, successful entrepreneurs or sportsmen and women about what is on their minds, how they got where they are, inspires me and gives me the right insights to translate their lifestyle into the right

home. The client also plays an important role for him in the process of designing and building. For example, he believes that people are entitled to a certain degree of obstinacy on their part as designers; they are not ‘yes-men’ and draughtsmen who simply translate what the client has already thought up. He wants to challenge clients to think differently, to take a broader view. But always with the aim that they should feel at home as residents. ‘A beautiful palace where you don’t feel at home is, as far as I’m concerned, a total failure,’ we hear. According to Beerbaum, there are actually three qualities that designers and everyone else need in order to be successful: creative, technical and commercial. ‘If you have two of these qualities, no matter which, and you add passion, you are guaranteed success. Knowledge is key, passion pulls the switch,’ says Bertram Beerbaum.

‘The surrounding nature reaches all the way to the windows, so that you have a view of a breathtaking painting’

‘Of course, as a designer you have to be a perfectionist. I am a perfectionist. I don’t know if you can be too perfectionist, but for me it’s not easy to get it right. But there is always a moment when you have to stop. And I always recognise that moment. It also has to do with experience. When I first started, it was different than now. Back then, I was more concerned with proving that I could do it; especially to myself, I think. Now I am more at ease and I see things more objectively. Therefore making beautiful things together with a team, like we do at Kabaz, is what I live for.’ We find this a very beautiful piece of wisdom to end this article with. (Text: Elke Aerts)

Photography by Ewoud Rooks
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