5 pioneering female architects

1. Eileen Gray

1878-1976

Eileen Gray, an Irish architect and furniture designer, is known as a pioneer of the Modern Movement of architecture. Her innovative approach not only reshaped architectural norms but also revolutionised furniture design, notably with her iconic E-1027 table. Gray’s versatile creativity extended beyond architecture; she also experimented with lacquer work, contributing significantly to the Art Deco movement. Notably, her Villa E-1027, a masterpiece of modernist architecture, remains an enduring symbol of her design philosophy.

2. Charlotte Perriand

1903-1999

Renowned for her avant-garde designs, Charlotte Perriand remains one of the most influential female architects and designers of the 20th century. Collaborating with architectural giants like Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, Perriand pioneered the integration of industrial materials into furniture design. Perriand’s immersion in Japanese aesthetics, following a transformative journey to Japan, also greatly influenced her work.

3. Norma Merrick Sklarek

1926-2012

Norma Merrick Sklarek paved the way for future generations, breaking down barriers and overcoming discrimination, to become the first Black woman certified by the American Institute of Architects, in 1954. Sklarek’s architectural leadership, showcased in projects like the Pacific Design Center (below), underscores her resilience and visionary spirit. Her enduring impact as a leader in her field continues to inspire aspiring architects from underrepresented backgrounds.

4. Zaha Hadid

1950-2016

 

Zaha Hadid, the first woman to receive the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, revolutionised the architectural landscape with her bold and innovative designs. From the Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan (below) to the London Aquatics Centre, Hadid’s creations defy convention and redefine architectural possibilities. Hadid’s visionary contributions to architecture transcend boundaries, inspiring architects and designers globally. Her indomitable spirit and groundbreaking designs solidify her legacy as a trailblazer in contemporary architecture.

5. Jeanne Gang

Jeanne Gang is an American architect renowned for her innovative responses to environmental sustainability, representing a new frontier in architectural design. Through her firm Studio Gang, she pioneers sustainable design techniques, advocating for the use of recycled materials and biodiversity conservation. Gang’s visionary approach, seen in projects like the Aqua Tower (below), demonstrates her commitment to creating architecture that is in harmony with nature. Her leadership in sustainable design positions her as a beacon of inspiration for future generations of architects tackling pressing environmental challenges.


My favourite places in Rotterdam

My Rotterdam Little Black Book

As an interior designer who's been living in Rotterdam since 2017, these are my regular haunts and worst kept secrets in my adopted home town.

For Gifts and Flowers: s’ Zomers 

If anyone is ever stuck for somewhere to buy a lovely gift - I'll send them here (my husband should have shares!) If you follow me on Instagram you'll see that s’ Zomers often get tagged. They make big beautiful floral offerings, as well as stocking incredible gifts, perfumes, and more.

Image from @zomersbloemen

For Art + Culture: Kunsthal

After so many years spent in sprawling culture-crammed London, I'm thankful we have the Kunsthal here in Rotterdam. With its ever changing exhibitions, art and culture enthusiasts always have plenty to look forward to.

Patisserie: Le Petitjean Rotterdam

I'm not a big breakfast person, but when the mood takes me you can find me in the queue here for the most incredible almond croissants you could imagine.

Image from @lepetitjeanrotterdam

For dinner: Heroine

My number one date restaurant or for a special night. I love it for the food, the decor and also the music - just great vibes.

Image from yellowtrace.com

Fave local spot: La Cazuela

Basically an extension of our living room so you'll find us making our way through the best tapas in town or propping up the bar, more often that we care to admit! Great spot for cosy candle lit dates in the winter, and drinks on the terrace all summer long.

Image from @lacazuela.rotterdam

Best for veggies: Klaargemaakt

A regular we frequent, especially to impress guests - another place that I am so lucky to have on my doorstep. I love the variety of food - I am a lifelong vegetarian, and honestly get so bored seeing the same veggie options on most menus, but Klaar never disappoints. An incredible selection of creative and ever changing vegan and vegetarian options on the menu (alongside the various choices for you carnivores).

For the best wine: Verward

A very cool, lowkey wine bar, where you'll be taken care of and almost certainly learn something about a new wine they have on the menu.

Cinema: KINO

Although it now boasts 6 screens, it still shouts boutique picturehouse to me and reminds me of London nights out at the Ritzy in Brixton or Shoreditch house screening room. A great cocktail bar - and drinks are allowed in your seat.

Image from luukvlamings.nl

Have somewhere to recommend to me? Let me know over on Instagram!


Interior colour trend predictions for 2024

by Charlie Esson-Figee, founder of Studio at No. 11. Studio at No. 11 is a boutique interior design studio based in Rotterdam.

A new year brings an exciting new colour palette - each year paint companies and designers try to predict what might be popular for the year ahead in colour trends.

Here are my predictions of colours and combinations to watch out for in 2024. I can foresee a real divide in colours - they either get very earthy or very vivid.

The earthy tones and strong neutrals are new iterations of colours I’ve been using recently in my interior design projects. I’m looking forward to working with my clients to incorporate some of these in my interiors this year.

1. Earthy Greens

Approachable and muted greens aren't going anywhere this year. These nature-inspired colours evoke a calming quality that most people find comforting, which explains why people continue to choose them for interiors.

Green always makes an appearance in my interiors in some form, but in 2024 greens will get deeper and earthier than ever.

A muted earthy green-brown tone - such as the Cardamon paint colour by Farrow and Ball’ will definitely be amongst the colours I choose this year.

Inspiration image by Farrow and Ball

2. Deep Rust

I’ve been firmly in love with aubergine and burgundy for my interiors for a while - now the colour will go one step further - to a deep reddish brown. Combine with soft pinks or warm ochre for a delicious combination.

Inspiration images: housebeautiful.com / paintandpaperlibrary.com

3. Strong Neutrals (with a hint of yellow)

It's hard to describe exactly what colour this is (it changes from one paint company to the next) - and that's exactly why I love it. This is an earthy yellow-toned neutral. It's a brave choice, but a chameleon too, and it can be happily paired with earthy brown/greens or reds (above) for very different effects.

Choose this as your warm neutral and watch your space transform.

3 yellow-toned neutrals to inspire you: Cats Paw by Farrow and Ball, Bath Stone by Little Greene, Bracken Salts 2 by Dulux.

Inspiration images: Little Greene / Farrow and Ball

4. Bold Blues

Paint company Benjamin Moore revealed in October 2023 that one of their colours for 2024 would be ‘Blue Nova’ - is a mid-toned blue that balances the warm with the cool. Just as fashion is embracing lilac and purple tones, so too are interiors. With tones of violet this bright yet soothing blue would be incredible for a blue-themed boudoir or bold bathroom.

Inspiration images: Blue Nova by Benjamin Moore

5. Peach Perfect

Amongst these heavy hitters, Pantone announced their Colour of the Year for 2024 as being the pretty ‘Peach Fuzz' - an antidote to the earthy tones above.

Peach, amber or even a burnt orange can bring ease, comfort and connectivity to a space.

Here are a few of my favourites from that corner of the colour spectrum: Dutch Pink by Farrow and Ball, Sella by Mylands, Orange 03 by Lick.

Inspiration images: Mylands, Lick

Want even more colour inspiration? Have a look at my recent projects or take a look at my Instagram.


5 things to consider when buying a new build home

by Charlie Esson-Figee, founder of Studio at No. 11. Studio at No. 11 is a boutique interior design studio based in Rotterdam.

Are you thinking about buying a new-build property? You may be offered the option of buying a house “off-plan”. It's the usual way new developments work, especially for inner city new-builds.

What does buying off-plan mean?

Buying your home “off-plan” means purchasing a property before construction is complete and, in some cases, before building work has even started. It’s buying based purely on plans, which can sound risky, but there are actually some surprising benefits.

As well as options for personalisation, there will be no onward chain, and less work to do when you move in when buying off-plan. And whilst you can’t view the final property before buying, most reputable developers should be able to give you a handover date and when you can expect the building to be ready. Most will offer viewings at show homes that are very similar to the home you’re interested in, so that you can get a feel for the space. At the very least, developers will provide you with a pack of computer-generated visuals and detailed floor plans to give you a clear understanding of what you’re buying, along with their in-house team and list of the suppliers involved and (at least in the Netherlands) a project liaison to support you on your journey.

Part of the developer’s plans involve designing, specifying and selling the majority of the apartments or houses “off-plan”, well before they even start building. It’s an exciting process and with these purchases, you can usually add some customisation into the build. However, as with any house purchase, it comes with its own unique challenges, and therefore you should gain a full understanding of the pros and cons to buying off-plan, before diving in.

Here’s 5 things to be aware of when buying a new build property

1. Know what and where you're buying

When exploring new developments, get to know the area - especially if you’re not that familiar with it already. Next, make sure to find out about the future plans for the area - you could be snapping up a deal ahead of the curve in the area, or be buying in one of multiple planned skyscrapers - and the next one could block that beautiful view! So take the time to do your research and know what you are buying.

Here’s how you can do that:

  • Research online: Look for information about the neighbourhood's demographics, schools, and amenities. Websites like Funda can be helpful.
  • Visit the area: If possible, visit the area during different times of the day and week to get a feel for the neighbourhood’s atmosphere and any potential drawbacks.
  • Check local government websites: Check the websites of local government or city planning departments for information about future developments, and infrastructure projects in the area.
  • Speak with local realtors: Real estate agents often have insights into upcoming developments and can provide information about the growth potential of the area.
  • Check city planning documents: Look for city planning documents that outline upcoming skyscraper projects. Start by visiting the official website of the Municipality of the city you live in. Municipal websites often provide a lot of information on city planning, development projects, and zoning regulations. These documents may detail the height, location, and timeline of these developments. Look for a section or department related to planning, urban development, or city planning on the municipality's website. It may be called something like "Stadsontwikkeling" or "Ruimtelijke Ordening" in Dutch.
  • Speak with other developers: If possible, reach out to the developers of planned projects. They might provide information about their projects and how they could impact the area.
Little C development, Coolhaven, Rotterdam. Photo from littlecoolhaven.nl

2. Budget for items not included by the developer or builder

When a developer constructs a new property, they usually include basic fixtures and features like bathrooms and kitchens as part of the standard build. These are functional but may not necessarily meet your specific preferences, requirements or taste. In my experience, your initial budget can increase by between 10-30% once you start upgrading basic items to suit your needs. Watch out for these extra costs, and budget sensibly for more.

3. When selecting features, consider resale value

One of the benefits of buying a new construction home is choosing your own upgrades and features. However, when choosing which features you want to include, consider how they will affect the future value of your new home. Your kitchen is one of the best places to add upgrades, as most will consider it the centre of any home. Taking a “casco” option, and taking it out of the specification of the build, getting a little budget back and doing it yourself, will often be a much lower cost than asking the developer or selected supplier to add or customise what was intended. Making these decisions early and planning ahead is a lot easier than during the building process.

4. Don't assume you can't negotiate with the builder / developer

There are often more possibilities than you might initially imagine when it comes to altering the internal layout or lighting design, for example. While builders may prefer that you stick with their standardised apartment design, believe me, it's truly worthwhile to ask for adjustments early on. It’s your home after all! Don't underestimate your ability to negotiate with the builder or developer.

5. It is never too early to ask an interior designer to get involved

It’s never too soon to ask a professional interior designer to get involved in your project (especially as we may have a waiting list). Interior designers play a crucial role in assisting with initial steps and important choices about the layout, and can suggest changes or upgrades, to ensure the long-term value of your property. Making these decisions early on and proactively with a professional planning your interior layout during the construction phase makes everything easier further down the line and ultimately, means you can plan the work from the moment the key is handed over, and so also the date you move in.

If you are planning to purchase a new build and would like to discuss your interior design needs, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Studio at No.11 offers creative direction and guidance with new build choices as well as a full interior design service.

Get in touch to discuss how we could work together.

Loft apartment by Studio At No. 11

5 invaluable interior design tips from a Rotterdam interior designer

After working as an interior designer for more than 20 years, I have had the pleasure of designing spaces for clients with a range of tastes and needs. During that time, split mostly between London, Milan and Rotterdam, I have learned the importance of creating functional and beautiful spaces that reflect the client's personality.

Before you start

Before beginning any interior design project, it's important to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, as well as what you are willing or able to invest in these changes. Take the time to consider what the space will be used for, how you want it to feel, what your style preferences are, and what you want to prioritise in your interior design project.

If you’ve got an interior design project in mind, you've probably been saving lots of images and spending evenings on Pinterest. However, it can be easy to get sucked into the vortex of Pinterest and come out even more confused, so I always tell my clients to follow their gut feelings rather than the current trends that might be dominating their social media feeds. Having a clear vision will help guide your design decisions and ensure that the end result meets or exceeds your expectations.

Here are my top 5 interior design tips

1. Understand the importance of space planning:

Effective space planning is the foundation of any successful interior design project. Before diving into decor and furnishings, take the time to analyse the layout and flow of the space. Consider the functionality of each room and how you envision yourself and others using it.

Plan furniture arrangements that optimise traffic flow and create comfortable areas. By understanding the importance of space planning, you can ensure that your design is not only aesthetically appealing but also functions harmoniously.

This is always the first step that I take with a new client, looking at the layout together and seeing how the space can work best for them. In a recent project, we completely swapped the positions of the living and dining room to better fit the needs of my client, and to maximise the space that we were working with.

Rotterdam Townhouse II

 

2. Use colour to set the mood:

Did you know that colour has a powerful impact on our emotions, and the overall atmosphere of a room? Consider the mood you want to evoke in each space. Soft, cool tones like grey blues and muted greens create a calming ambiance, while warm colours like burgundy red and terracotta promote energy and vibrancy.

In my projects I emphasise the significance of using colour strategically. Looking at my portfolio of past projects, you'll see I don’t use bright colours, but instead use colour washing and subtle layering of tones. Neutrals can provide a versatile backdrop, allowing you to inject pops of colour with accessories or artwork. We’ll experiment with different colour palettes to find the perfect balance for each room.

Rotterdam Townhouse I

 

3. Invest in quality pieces of furniture

Furniture and decor are investments that should last you for years, so it's important to choose quality pieces that won't fall apart quickly. I usually suggest investing in a luxury sofa, or bed, which will actually save you money in the long run as you won't have to constantly replace them. Well-made pieces also add a touch of luxury and sophistication to any space. I always prefer to invest in key pieces and then choose lower priced accessories or items that compliment them. You can update the smaller accessories over the years to refresh the feeling of the interior.

Penthouse, The Hague

 

4. Play with textures and patterns

Don't be afraid to mix and match textures and patterns to add depth and interest to a space. A chunky rug, woven throw, or velvet cushions can add warmth and comfort to a room, while a bold colour, wallpaper or even thick weave curtains can create a statement wall. Just be sure to balance out busier patterns with more neutral pieces to avoid overwhelming the eye.

In a recent Rotterdam Interior Design project, my client wanted an almost completely off white living room - to give space and relevance to his artwork. We layered tones and materials; a concrete floor, fabrics, tiles, wood, stones all in tones of off white, but still created a dynamic interior, with the artwork providing pops of colour and standing out like the client had imagined.

Zalmhaven Terrace, Rotterdam

 

5. Consider lighting carefully

Lighting is an often underestimated aspect of interior design, or at least it's often not the first priority. But the right lighting can dramatically influence the mood and functionality of a room. A combination of both natural and artificial lighting sources is important.

Natural light is always ideal, but if that's not possible, invest in warm, inviting lighting fixtures. Avoid having only harsh overhead lighting, and instead opt for floor lamps, table lamps, and sconces to create a layered, cosy atmosphere. Use task lighting for specific activities, such as reading or cooking, and add accent lighting to highlight architectural features or artwork. Dimmers allow you to adjust the lighting intensity according to the time of day or desired atmosphere.

Rotterdam Townhouse II

 

I hope these interior design tips will help you consider how to create spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and personalised. From thoughtful space planning to understanding the impact of colour, achieving balance and harmony, paying attention to lighting, and incorporating personal touches, these tips will guide you in transforming your home into a haven that reflects your style and enhances your daily life.

To discover a selection of my Rotterdam Interior Design projects, click here.

If you’d like to work together on your Interior Design project, please feel free to get in touch.