Edward van Vliet takes Milan!

Edward van Vliet conquered Milano with his Masterly Hotel, he chose one of the best spots in the city the beautiful Palazzo Francesco Turati and transformed the original Le Sale Nobili rooms into a welcome hospitality concept together with his partners in crime JEE-O, Leolux, Moooi Carpets, Gardelux, Modular Lighting en BN wallpaper.  WOTH spoke to the lovely gent earlier this year.

On any other day, Edward van Vliet would cycle to his studio in Amsterdam West, but today it’s raining so incessantly that he’s allowed himself the luxury of an Uber, he confesses. He’s not only blessed with one of the seven signs of beauty – dark hair and bright blue eyes – but he also has an awfully nice voice. If his designing career ever runs to ground he can just as easily make a new one recording audiobooks. But nothing indicates that it will. The older he gets, the better his career goes, it seems. He likes it, ageing. ‘It takes some getting used to physically, but spiritually it’s fantastic. At last, there’s balance. In the past, I never knew what to choose. I did everything at the same time. Now I know exactly what direction to take.’


He started out 27 years ago as a fabric designer at Benno Premsela. ‘I even learned to weave there. When I recently visited the Italian fabric maker Rubelli, that fact surprised them. Hardly any designers know how to weave.’ From fabrics he moved on to carpets and furniture, followed by fairly-tale-like Oriental lamps and finally whole interiors. From the Amsterdam Radisson Blu Hotel, where he was inspired by the rich history of Amsterdam, to the delightful-looking Coral Lodge in Mozambique for which he designed luxurious tents on the beach. Not to mention the interior of the Scheepvaartmuseum during the EU summit that was held in Amsterdam. For the world leaders, he designed a dark blue meeting space that looked like our planetary system. ‘To help them put themselves into perspective.’

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'Le sale Nobili' fabulous scenery
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Hexagon shaped footstools for Leolux
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mirrors to double the beauty
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dressingroom with Gardelux
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New chair jill for Leolux
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photo's by Nicole Marnati

The time of ‘designing any old product’ is definitively over. ‘That doesn’t interest me anymore. What I prefer to do is look for the identity of a brand or company with a client and design an entire world of experiences and products around it.’ Since earlier this year, that’s exactly what he’s been doing for the Dutch furniture brand Leolux, as its strategic creative director. The designer has long doubted whether he would take the job. ‘In the first interview I said: “I’ve always considered Leolux exemplary of the way I wouldn’t handle things. Your collection is all over the place. There’s no consistency.” “Yes, they said, but that’s precisely why we want to work with you”.’

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Bathroom line Bloom for JEE-O
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Facet to round shapes in the design of the showers and washbasins
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Wallpaper by BN
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photo's Nicole Marnati

He invented a completely new DNA for the brand and the solid Leolux now actually radiates glamour and sex appeal. ‘We introduced new fabrics with new patterns and velour, something the brand never dared to do.’ He shows a picture of the Palone chair, covered in velour. ‘And the leg is not chrome but beautiful, matte bronze. It’s suddenly a very different chair. Isn’t this just like a Minotti?’


And then there is this other project, or call it a mission. With a mysterious gesture, he produces a thick dark blue book in a beautifully quilted case. It’s about the seven accommodations of Omar Owen, an erudite philosopher-explorer and storyteller invented by Van Vliet. The computer-drawn images seem lifelike. An enormous dome-like building in Istanbul, complete with a hammam and massage spaces. An enormously exciting club in Hong Kong where you can try your luck with all kinds of gambling games. A yoga resort in Mozambique. Each accommodation has its own cultural rituals, which Omar Owen and his kindred spirits use as they ponder art, books, philosophy and life. Something that Van Vliet likes to do, too. ‘The book is a tribute to the most beautiful places in the world,’ he says. The reflections and thoughts in the book are his, but he engaged an author to do the writing. ‘I’m a good talker, but when I write I have trouble keeping up with my thoughts.’ The mysterious book is also – it’s Van Vliet himself that introduces the commercial term – a marketing tool, to seduce investors. It’s his dream to realize all of the fictional accommodations in the book in a series of exclusive Omar Owen hotels. The kind of accommodations he would like to stay in when he travels.

He calls himself an explorer by nature. Edward van Vliet likes nothing better than to travel. ‘Not knowing where I’m headed. Looking around. Absorbing. And not judging.’ He prefers to travel alone: if he has company, the impressions are less strong. He doesn’t take much luggage and immerses himself in the culture. This started when he was 17, when he went to work on the avocado plantation of his uncle in southern Spain, travelled around and was inspired by the Moorish patterns in the Alhambra. They’re still visible everywhere in his work and interiors. ‘They say that the impressions you gather in your adolescence are crucial to the rest of your life, and I absolutely believe that.’ But carp from Japan, fishing nets from Mozambique, and the colours and nature of South Africa also found their way into his work. He mixes and matches everything and the result is never unbecoming.


He is hopeful that his Omar Owen accommodations will materialize one day. ‘I was in Venice recently and had an appointment with a few manufacturers with whom I would love to work together for Omar Owen. I noticed that the book I came in with made them very curious. In the past, I had to work hard to get a foot in the door. Now people invite me in. They want to be part of my world. I’m my own master now and I can be particular about the people I work with. And that feels good.’


Interview Emilie Escher



Masterly Hotel, in collaboration with JEE-O, Leolux, Moooi Carpets, Gardelux, Modular Lighting en BN wallpaper.

Studio Edward van Vliet


This interview was published in WOTH issue No6 still available in our shop