Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

February 25, 2014

Hello! It’s Holly Marder here with another Homes With Heart column for you to feast your eyes upon. This month I’m taking you on a tour of the Amsterdam home of Desiree Groenendal of the Dutch blog Vosgesparis. Let’s go! Oh and please click on any image to enlarge or pin to your Pinterest boards!

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam “Pure, simple, industrial and tough” are words that Desiree uses to describe her 85 m2 Amsterdam abode, which she has called home for the last 25 years. The blogger and stylist prefers to keep her Scandinavian style space uncluttered, clean and minimalistic, with strong Northern European references that rely on tough materials and high contrast. “I am really fond of the clean uncluttered look,” Desiree says. Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

When Desiree moved into her apartment, it was apart of the newly converted former Eastern docklands, where she and her family were some of the area’s first inhabitants. With two small children, the house offered a practical, large space for a young family. With her children grown and out of the house, Desiree has took the opportunity during the summer of 2011 to create a more open plan living, starting with the removal of several walls and doorways. The removal of a wall seperating the kitchen and living room, as well as one between the bedroom and hallway, was a decision that has resulted in one of Desiree’s favourite features. “I love to see through from the kitchen to the living room and hall,” she says. At the same time, Desiree had her kitchen remodelled, featuring sleek white cabinetry, a built-in fridge and storage unit, and a black chalk painted wall. “I liked the combination of black, white and a touch of wood, and the black wall brings in some depth,” Desiree explains. She is now working on ideas for a light fixture above the dining room table, which will incorporate several pendant lights she has been collecting over the years.

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam   Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

The renovation was a swift process that was carefully considered, ensuring that Desiree wasn’t met with any challenges along the way. “I think a lot and very long about things,” she explains. “I had designed everything so I wouldn’t come up against any challenges. You have to be very sure when you start breaking down walls.” Though some 37 bags of stones were removed during the renovation, the efforts were well worth the results – a spacious home that offers stylish, open plan living in one of Amsterdam’s most up and coming areas. “I love to have space,” Desiree says. “I am fortunate to have an affordable home in a desirable area – the best of both worlds.”

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

As for colour, Desiree prefers to keep things monochrome cool, relying primarily on black and white as the basis of her interior. “I used to have more colour in my home when my kids were at home, but over the years my style has changed.” Against a high contrast canvas, Desiree combines old, industrial items with design pieces and Scandinavian made furniture. “Scandinavian furniture is simple but well made. Clean design combines beautifully with craftsmanship, but what I love most is the strong emphasis on family businesses and their clean, contemporary take on old craftsmanship,” she says. But one of Desiree’s top tips when it comes to decorating is choosing pieces that are versatile. “I like to be able to change the look fast, so I am attracted to pieces that are versatile and can easily be moved around the house.”

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Desiree applies the same decorating ethos to art around her home, preferring interchangeable, inexpensive art that can be quickly and easily applied. Some of this interior’s most striking features are the exposed concrete areas on otherwise white plastered walls. “I love the contrast between the concrete and the white,” Desiree says. “It is almost like a work of art.” This feature can be seen in the living room and also continues into the bedroom, where crisp whites dominate. “It feels good to wake up in a white and light space. I like my bedroom to be uncluttered,” Desiree says. A coatrack displays items worn on a daily basis, while the rest of Desiree’s wardrobe remains behind closed doors.

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

Home Tour: High Contrast in Amsterdam

So what is Desiree’s style secret? “I love imperfection. Walls don’t have to be perfectly finished; it’s the rough edges which I love most about my own home. A bit of the unexpected, with nice combinations of various materials. All a bit unpredictable.” So what did you love about this space? Could you have the discipline to go all black and white? I would love to read your comments, and look forward to seeing you back here next month for another fabulous home! – Holly

(text/images: holly marder)


  • Reply Holly Irwin February 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Love Desiree’s space! Black and white, so minimal. It just always looks right to me. Thanks for sharing,

  • Reply Yuko @ northfield gate February 25, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I LOVE this – every single thing about it! Of course, I love Desiree’s beautiful house in its simplistic glory, but I also enjoyed reading how she approached the renovation, and how she embraces imperfection. Her house truly is a work of art. Thank you so much for sharing! ox

  • Reply Barbara February 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    wow, this is really beautiful space, with a lot of great details, art and solutions. I have similar kitchen with this black walls, only I have the titles, but I like this one more.
    The Lamp in the living room and black chalk closet, just perfect.

  • Reply iHanna February 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Oh wow, what a beautiful home especially with all those black and white prints and typography strewn around the home. I wish I could do a home like this when I see these images, but I guess I’m too much of being a rainbow girl.

  • Reply MeredithTested February 25, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    I like how this space is monochromatic but cozy and lived-in. Thanks for sharing! There’s lots of great inspiration here.

  • Reply Angela - designhaus no.9 February 25, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Hello, I know Desiree’s blog and I like it. Wonderful her black & white style.

  • Reply Allyson February 25, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    What a great space. Often the sparse use of colour can feel cold and unwelcoming but Desiree has created a clean, minimalist style that feels lived in and warm. It’s so fun to take something you’ve lived with for so long and create something new and fresh. The use of wood helps ground the space and provides that added texture. Thanks for opening your home and sharing.

  • Reply Clever Girl Reviews February 25, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    I really like the look but don’t think I could live without color. Living in Germany and coming from California and the Pacific Northwest, I know how much color and light affect me. I like the brightness but I’d need pops of color!

  • Reply In a Trendy Town February 25, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Amazing lamp! We love this space.

  • Reply Iris | c-more interior February 25, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    I absolutely love the Home of Vosgesparis!! Thx for sharing it overthere :-)

  • Reply Ginger Deverell February 25, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Love this space! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Hedda Pier February 25, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    You nailed it Holly, great pictures of a gorgeous home! x

  • Reply Ofelia, from Mexico City February 25, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    I love black and white combo, so uncluttered and serene, but I ‘m in doubt about if I can embrace myself in my space because many objects that I need and want to decorate-use daily only comes in colors, no white or black, so my choices are minimal.

  • Reply Michelle February 25, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    I love Desiree’s space – but I think she is so brave to go all black and white. I think I would be nervous to do this because I love colour so much – I’d have to inject a pop of colour somewhere! I particularly love all the thought that has gone into her styling – the little ornaments, pictures and pieces of art – how they all reflect the overall design concept and colours / materials that she’s using! It looks gorgeous and very very cool x

  • Reply Sue Thomas February 25, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    It is a beautiful stylish home though personally I could not live without colours – especially in England where is is so grey most of the time!

  • Reply Rachel Follett February 25, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Beautiful spaces! I love how even though they are black and white it still has warmth.

  • Reply nicole von taste-gallery February 26, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I love the black & white kitchen! Great style!

  • Reply Anke February 26, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks for this nice tour of Desiree´s home. I follow her blog and know her place as well from Holly´s book, but I found this blog post very interesting.

    I love the mixture of black and white, the conrete walls and the wooden accents a lot. And the Scandinavian style! But in my home I need a little bit more colour.


  • Reply Mary Jo Hoffman February 26, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I love Desiree’s style! I have been trying to evolve to something similar for two years. And it is so much harder than it looks! Color just wants to creep in all the time–books, clothes, gifts, backpacks…. I had someone give me a red cashmere pillow and when i put it in the living room, it threw the whole room off–it was like a beacon it looked so loud. So I commend her and her disciplined restraint! It’s a fun look for these northern latitudes!
    Mary Jo

  • Reply Kevin | Thou Swell February 26, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I love these bold contrasts, but I think if you do choose black and white as your palette, you should throw in some accents of one other color like some indoor plants or bright pillows to add color!

  • Reply Stacey February 27, 2014 at 3:47 am

    It’s awesome

  • Reply Marie Solveg February 27, 2014 at 12:07 pm


    that´s inspiration fore me:-)
    Thank you!

    So many different ways of using thing, it´s fantastic.
    I love the writing at the closet.
    I love the photos at the backside of paintings.
    I love a lot of the different small things.
    I love the old stepp………

    Nice, nice and nice.
    Also I love Amsterdam, I have been there a lot my self.

  • Reply Martina de Hugo February 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I love the Scandinavian style, so clean, so simple, so elegant. And the kind she choose the vintage items, is beautiful.

  • Reply Desiree February 27, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Holly Irwin,
    thank you for your nice comment ;)

  • Reply Desiree February 27, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Mary Jo Hoffman,

    hehe so cool to read this ! You know… you just have to stick to your plan ;)

  • Reply Anu February 27, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Perfection, just my taste!

  • Reply Gudy Herder February 28, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Super article as usual, Holly. Your posts are always wonderful so see and read! And you have so much deserved making it on the the VTWonen cover! so happy for you! xoxo

  • Reply Angel March 1, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I love the black wall in the kitchen.

  • Reply Jill March 1, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    What a great home– I love the kitchen. Do you know what paint colours she used?

  • Reply Desiree March 2, 2014 at 12:34 pm


    hi Jill
    I have used Painting the past chalk paint on the black wall , if any more questions let me know ;)

  • Reply Kayla Seah March 2, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Just the most perfect space! Probably the most unassuming piece in this collection of photos, but I love the low, wide white shelf.

  • Reply Holly {Avenue} March 3, 2014 at 9:44 am


    Thank you so much for those sweet words. It’s been an amazing journey this past year. Excited to see where it all leads! And to think, it all started that weekend in Holly B’s studio :) x

  • Reply Astrid May 2, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    I love the floor! Would it be possible to let me know the exact colour code? I’d be very gratefull. Thanx!

  • Reply miriam October 5, 2014 at 10:30 pm


    Ik vind de lage kast / dressoir in de kamer zoooo mooi.
    Iemand misschien een tip waar ik zoiets kan vinden?


  • Reply Serendipity Tess January 21, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    I really like this :)

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