TALL and broad-built, Piet Boon cuts a looming figure as he walks into the lounge area of the hotel where we meet for this interview. The renowned Dutch designer is in Kuala Lumpur for a luxury condominium project he is involved in.
With hotel, restaurant and private villa projects all over the world, from Antigua to Hanoi and Las Vegas, Boon and his team have been making waves since the 1980s, when Boon first set up his studio.
Last year, The Jane restaurant in Antwerp, Belgium, designed by Amsterdam-based Studio Piet Boon won the top prize at the annual Restaurant and Bar Design Awards in London, an independent global awards based in Britain.
The two-Michelin-star restaurant was converted from a 19th century chapel into a beautiful dining space that retains much of its original flavour, one being the aged, faded- looking ceiling.
“That was a very interesting project because it was a monument.
“The design brief was to transform an abandoned military hospital chapel into a high- end, contemporary restaurant fitting 150 persons where experience is key. (The design also had to reflect) the personality of Michelin-star chef Sergio Herman, resulting in high quality service and fine dining with a rock ‘ n’ roll attitude,” explains Boon, 58.
The restaurant’s interior is bathed in natural materials like stone, leather and oak wood, with the highlight being an 800kg, 12m x 9m chandelier bearing 150 lights designed by Beirut-based design studio PSLAB.
The original altar was turned into the front of a glass- encased kitchen to immerse guests in the cooking process.
Another design highlight are the building’s windows, which consist of 500 unique panels of various drawings portraying a contemporary translation of the old stained-glass windows.
“We designed a contemporary, multisensory restaurant experience that enables guests to witness something beautiful wherever they turn, be it art, music, historical elements, an extraordinary design feature or exquisite food,” says Boon.
In New York City, Boon and his team have also converted an 84- year- old office tower on Wall Street into high-end residential apartments.
Known as 101 Wall, the building was constructed in 1931 and features a glazed brick façade and landscaped setback terraces bearing strong geometric lines commonly seen in the Art Deco era.
The lobby features a honed limestone floor and concierge desk, with the original ornate brass elevator doors maintained.
Meanwhile, here in Kuala Lumpur, Boon is behind the interior design for the Aira Residence by Selangor Properties Bhd, an 18-storey, low density condominium on an elevated point along Jalan Batai in Damansara Heights.
Offering 105 apartments sized between 240sqm and 715sqm, the project was named after the Arabic word “aira” that carries the meaning “the breath of life”.
Says Boon, “The difference with this project is we were trying to make it a home in a residential building and I think that’s a very important part. The moment you walk into the lobby, you don’t feel like you are in a hotel lobby, and the gardens at the end of the lobby really give you a homely feel.”
The apartments’ layout is practical, with a lot of straight lines. As one enters the space, there is also a small entrance which can be turned into a small art gallery.
Owners will also get a set of Piet Boon tableware, along with the chance to customise their units with various interior design, lightings, furniture and fittings options.
“The signature Studio Piet Boon style is evident in Aira Residence,” reckons Boon.
“We managed to blend our concept of spatial arrangements with the East-Asian way of living. For this, we researched Malaysian culture, way of living and interior customs. From there, we were able to embed Western spatial arrangements according to the function of the spaces, use of natural light and clear sight lines in the Eastern way of living,” says Boon, who is also known for his wallpaper and flooring concepts.
Born in the Zaanstreek, near Amsterdam, Boon’s love for craftsmanship, natural materials and design is rooted in the traditionally creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the Zaanstreek region and family upbringing.
He first pursued his studies at a technical school in Amsterdam before beginning his career as a building contractor.
Boon’s technical insight, knowledge and experience with materials and craftsmanship, as well as his frustration with design work that was not well thought-out, led him to open his own studio in 1983.
“We speak the language of the clients, construction workers and project managers. This helps a great deal because we then are not only the design team but also become a valuable discussion partner. We know what works and what doesn’t,” says Boon.
Now a multidisciplinary design firm, Studio Piet Boon initially started as a small design practice in the traditional town of Oostzaan near Amsterdam, specialising in designing tailor- made homes.
Today, the studio creates bespoke contemporary architecture, interiors and home products.
The Studio Piet Boon furniture collection was established in 2005 and now includes Studio Piet Boon Living, Dining and Outdoor Collections.
The firm also designs a wide range of interior materials such as flooring, hardware, lighting, and tableware.
Piet Boon Kitchens became available in 2015, offering seven concepts, each representing the studio’s philosophy of “balancing functionality, aesthetics and individuality”.
The Dutch designer defines luxury living as “well-thought-out design with rich natural materials, exquisite details, natural light and an exterior-interior connection”.
“My style is minimalistic, which is of course very hard because then it’s all about the details,” he says.
Boon has a penchant for natural materials like wood, marble, driftwood and concrete, especially those that age well. ”
In our projects, we try to use materials that will age beautifully, for example, in 10 years, your wooden or stone floors will become even more beautiful,” says Boon.
How does he ensure that every project has individuality in its design?
“Deeply understanding our clients’ lifestyle, values and environment enables us to breathe life into each bespoke design, shaping its unique identity.
“I love designing hotels because we can be edgy and surprise people. I love working on private homes too, because you can do something beyond your expectation,” he says.
The studio released its fourth book, Studio Piet Boon, which contains a mix of private and corporate total concept projects and also products the studio worked on.
“The book showcases what we are doing with our different projects all over the world, be it residential, apartments hotels, offices, or our collaborations. It shows the different things we do in different cultures and settings,” says Boon.
The established designer has this advice for young practitioneers: “Go for it, believe in your dreams and follow your passion. It’s getting easier in design today due to so many things and ideas that you can get from the Internet,” says the avid kite-surfer, who has a son and daughter.