Pretty Things on Biltstraat

AYA Living
Every time I walk down Biltstraat — which is pretty often — I always admire the window displays at AYA Living. Yet, for whatever reason, I’d never gone in to admire the rest of the shop, despite following them on Twitter and Pinterest. But today, I finally went in and fell in love with so many things. I think that might have been the reason I’d held off in the past. There are so many beautiful pieces that I want!

The shelves are full of lovely pottery with a mix of traditional and contemporary designs. There are plate and bowl sets that would be beautiful holding everything from tasty nibbles to your favourite jewelry. Then there are the small jugs perfectly made for holding a bunch of flowers. They have a thoughtfully chosen selection of furniture, such as chairs and benches, and beautiful pillows to complement them. There’s also a wonderful selection of artwork, although almost everything in the store seems like a piece of art. Best of all, the selection includes something in every price point so that even if you can’t splurge on something big, you can find a charming necklace or decorative notepad to brighten up your day.

I wanted just about everything, although I particularly fell in love with the little pink table that looks an awful lot like a flamingo!
Flamingo Tafel

I worked up the nerve at the end to say hi to one of the owners and she was lovely to talk to and we discussed our shared addiction to Pinterest. If you’re ever near Biltstraat — or just in town in general — I highly recommend a visit to AYA Living if you like pretty things.
I want it all

Fantastic Lamp

AYA Living

String Girl

Rietveld and Van Gogh

Rietveld Does Van Gogh

A few weeks ago, while visiting Amsterdam with a friend, I finally visited the Van Gogh Museum. As we were standing in line to check our coats and bags, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of my favorite Rietveld chairs on display (up high) in the gift shop.

Rietveld en Van Gogh

I was curious as to why they were on display, but soon got distracted by the actual museum exhibits. There really is something thrilling to see the impasto of Van Gogh’s work. To see the swirls of paint colors and their dimensionality really does add a whole new level of connection to the paintings.

Still, after our trip through the museum, we couldn’t resist heading back to the gift shop to see what was on offer and I took the opportunity to look a bit more closely at the Rietveld chairs. I could just read the small sign next to the chairs that explained that Gerrit Rietveld (my beloved Utrecht architect and designer) was the designer for the main building of the Van Gogh Museum! I’ve been slowly checking off the various Rietveld-designed buildings here in Utrecht, but haven’t looked into many of his buildings outside the Utrecht region, thus my surprise. Also a good reminder that I need to look further into his other buildings throughout the country.

The Van Gogh Museum was Rietveld’s last commission, and in the end, he was only able to come up with the design before his death in 1964. His partners, Van Dillen and Van Tricht, carried out his plans, and the museum was opened in 1973. One of the main features of the building is the large central staircase that leads visitors through the multiple levels. It includes a skylight at the top that allows natural light to shine through. Or lets the grey light filter in, as it did on the overcast day we were there. Regardless, it’s an attractive, geometric, and nicely proportioned staircase.

The Rietveld chairs weren’t the only surprise at the museum gift shop. There was also one item that elicited a number of comments, most from people a bit horrified, finding the item tacky or in poor taste. I don’t know what it says about me, but I thought it was wonderfully irreverent and appreciated the sense of humor that the museum staff displays in stocking the item. See for yourself:
Twisted Fun

Yes, those are plastic key chains in the shape of an ear. Brilliant!

Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum Facade

That One Chair, That One House

Lego My Chair
Late last year, the Waar in Utrecht photo game got together with the Centraal Museum to do a special Rietveld in Utrecht version of the game. For eight rounds of the game, a detail of one of Rietveld’s buildings in the Utrecht region was posted and players had to guess the building. I tried for most rounds, but didn’t get lucky in having my name picked from the winners until the very last round. The prize for each round was two free tickets to the Rietveld Universum exhibit at the Centraal Museum, along with a gift pack of some sort. Because of the holidays and other distractions, I didn’t end up going until this past Sunday, technically the last day of the exhibit. (The exhibit turned out to be so popular that they extended it for an extra two weeks, now running through 13 February.)

That One Chair, That One House

The exhibit is an interesting and informative display of both Rietveld’s design and architectural works, as well as works from his contemporaries, showing his influence or the general influences of the time. Keeping with the colors of De Stijl (an art movement he was associated with, to one degree or another), the majority of the exhibit is surrounded by light grey walls and Rietveld’s works, specifically, were put against a grey backdrop/platform, while the work of his contemporaries was put against a white backdrop. It’s a simple, yet useful way to exhibit the work of multiple artists, while remaining cohesive and clear. Simple, yet effective! The walls also featured quotes by Rietveld or by his contemporaries about Rietveld, in both Dutch and English. Above is one part of a discussion about the idea of the “Echte Rietveld”, the idea of clients wanting a “real” Rietveld building, even though the reality is that his own style changed somewhat from building to building. I particularly liked the last line, the way it seems to sum up his career into “that one chair and that one house.” Just on the surface, it may seem like an accurate summation: he’s best known for the red and blue chair (pictured above, in Lego form!), and for the Rietveld-Schröder House, which I’ve mentioned before.

Red

The reality is that his work was so much more than just those two items. In fact, as I have learned more about both Rietveld and Utrecht, I’ve been amazed to realize how involved and influential a figure he was. He built numerous buildings or building facades throughout the Netherlands, not just Utrecht. He also designed a variety of fantastic chairs and lamps, and other items of furniture, including one lamp that G and I fell in love with at first sight.
The Lamp
Take a Seat
Along with the chairs and building models (that Rietveld himself made), and the architectural plans and work from other designers and architects, the exhibit included general photos on the backs of some of the exhibits, featuring images of cultural and political highlights of the time period associated with the work Rietveld was doing. There were also short film loops shown, including factory work, shopping at the V&D, and other time-capsule type films. They were fascinating to watch and really did help further the ideas being described through Rietveld’s work.
Toekomst
Another element to the exhibit was the inclusion of little audio pods you could take with you and turn on by holding them next to designated spots throughout the exhibit. You would then hear actual recordings of Rietveld (or a translation if you got the English-language pod) describing some of the ideas and background of certain pieces. Often, they were a bit humorous at times. It was a nice way to add another interactive and informative element to the exhibit, without being tedious and tying you down for any one spot or order.

I really enjoyed the exhibit, and while I didn’t learn a lot of new things — because I’ve done a lot of reading about Rietveld and the other artists — I appreciated getting to see his work in comparison with others and in conjunction with the time periods themselves. Getting an idea of how other artists viewed him was also fascinating. In other words, it’s an excellent exhibit, whether you know a little or a lot about the man. The exhibit will be travelling on to Rome in April. If you can’t see it here in Utrecht, then go see it in Rome! It’s definitely worth seeing and experiencing.

Prize Pack
As for my prize pack, the woman at the ticket counter wasn’t sure what was in it when we first arrived and I gave her the e-mail that said I had won tickets and a prize pack. While we were off looking at the exhibit, she said she would find out and have it waiting for me when we were done. Sure enough, it was waiting for me when we were ready to leave. I got a black tote bag, a mouse pad, a poster, and a coffee mug. I’ve used the mug a lot since then. Funnily enough, a day or two before we went to the exhibit, I ended up getting the exhibit poster that was hanging in the bathroom at the Potdeksel. I had been coveting it, and since the exhibit was ending (or at least the dates on the poster didn’t show the extension), I was able to get the poster that night. Who knew I’d end up getting another copy in my prize pack! If I can find a mailing tube, I may yet give away the extra poster here on my blog.

Day in the Sun

Sunny Universe 28.365
Look at all that blue! And that’s a photo taken today! That cloudless blue sky couldn’t have come at a better time! Well, it could stick around this weekend so that I can further enjoy it, especially since I’m a bit too tired after a late night out last night to truly get out and appreciate it, but I’ve still enjoyed it today.

The blue banners are for the Rietveld Universum exhibit at the Centraal Museum. Officially, it’s supposed to end this weekend, but I believe it has been extended for two more weeks, so if you’re in Utrecht and haven’t been yet, you should definitely go! I’m planning on going this weekend, either tomorrow or Sunday. I believe the exhibit is moving on to Rome in the spring. Appropriate, since there’s been quite a bit of cross-over and influence between Utrecht and Italy in terms of art over the years. I got to see an exhibit about the Utrecht School of painting and the influence Italian art had on it during one of my last visits to the museum.

Either later today or tomorrow, I’ll post about The Phoenix Foundation concert we went to last night. For now I’ll simply saw that it was absolutely fantastic and I’m so glad I got to see them again.

(Half) Year of Rietveld


I studied art history at university and was particularly interested in architecture. Although I tended to be more into rustication from the 1400s, I also enjoyed the more modern work that was done in the early 20th century. One of the buildings that I always found appealing was the Rietveld-Schröder House, built by Gerrit Rietveld for Truus Schröder. It just so happens that the house is here in Utrecht.

Beginning Thursday, Utrecht will be celebrating Rietveldjaar (Rietveld Year), although to be honestly, it only runs through January 2011, so it’s more of a half-year celebration. Still, there will be various events and such going on, including free guided tours of the house this weekend (something I’m tempted to do). Anyone want to go with me? Later in the year, C-Mon & Kypski will be doing a special performance at Tivoli for the celebrations. Three of them can also be seen in the video above. I’m not sure what happened to Kypski, the one I actually have met.

The video shows his famous red-blue chair making the trip from the house to the Utrecht Centraal Museum (which now maintains the house), with stops at the Stadhuis where the mayor (I’m assuming) takes a ride, and also takes a trip through the Griftpark, where it’s visited by one of Rietveld’s other famous chair designs. Rietveld was part of the architecture and design movement known as De Stijl, known for its simplified use of form and color, emphasizing the use of straight lines and rectangular shapes, but not necessarily symmetry. The Rietveld-Schröder House was built completely using the principles of De Stijl.

Big Yellow Birdies and Buildings

Exotics
Friday I gave you a bit of a challenge to recognize where in Utrecht the big birdy could be found. Since I took the photo, I kind of knew, but to be honest, I was cheating a bit and hoping someone else could give me some more information about the specific location, because it’s more than just birdies. It’s part of a whole building complex.
Willem Arntsz Huis
I knew I’d seen photos of it before in one of the Flickr Utrecht groups, so eventually I did track down some more information by finding some photos other people have taken of the big yellow building. It turns out to be the Willem Arntsz Huis, a mental health institution. The modern yellow building is just part of a larger and long-standing complex, but it’s certainly an eye-catching and interesting one. It might not blend, especially in the museum quarter, but it’s still attractive. The more recent addition of the budgerigars adds a certain whimsy to the intense geometry of the building.
Geel Huis
Budgie
For the record, it’s on Vrouwjuttenhof, just off Vrouwjuttenstraat, which in turn is off Lange Nieuwstraat.

Foto Vrijdag 1.7


I miss sitting out on the terras in the evening, when dusk doesn’t arrive until 10 p.m. Monday’s burst of sunshine quickly disappeared and doesn’t look to be returning soon.

This is the patio area of a restaurant/hotel on Korte Nieuwstraat, De Rechtbank/Court Hotel. It looks gorgeous, inside and out. Maybe I’ll skip my usual sushi tradition for my birthday and go there next year.

Huis Vrouw

I’ve been thinking for a while about painting the laundry room and the stairwell leading up to the top floor. It’s all a light yellow right now, and while I like the color, it could use with a fresh coat of paint. Today I started painting. For now, I’m doing a simple white base coat, but I would like to do some fun color(s) in there, as well. I’d also like to get the room organized as well as possible to make up for the limited space and angled walls.

I saw a nice room in one of the design magazines here, but have to figure out how to work some of the color combinations in without making the small room seem more oppressive. I might also just have some fun and paint some designs directly onto some of the walls, along the lines of what I did in our bedroom with the bird on a branch.

For now, though, I’ll settle for a nice, even coat of white. Next up, a trip to Gamma or Hema to pick up some more white paint and a retractable-arm paint roller to reach those hard to reach spots in the stairwell.