Hospitality Interiors visited the design-led, Accor-owned city hotel brand TRIBE’s first venture in Amsterdam, to dissect how its forward-thinking interiors help tell the story of the city’s edgy underground scene.
Amsterdam is a multifaceted city with several distinct characteristics. From its infamous Red Light District and loose cannabis regulations to its rich art scene and historic architecture, there are a million things from which to draw inspiration when designing a hotel here – the key is not to get sucked into a world of cliches.
It is therefore a joy to see that the designers have relied more on the city’s edgier cultural heritage for the hotel’s interiors. TRIBE Amsterdam finds itself in Amsterdam Noord, an up-and-coming area known for its redeveloped wharf area, which now houses a thriving hub of culture and activity with restaurants, art galleries and music events. The location is intentional – TRIBE chooses areas that matches its hospitality mantra of offering “contemporary design-driven accommodation (without the cliched extras) in progressive, central locations that don’t leave your wallet bare”.
TRIBE’s concept is to provide hotels that correspond directly to the wishes of modern travellers – easy and essential, cutting out the old-fashioned principles of a five-star hotel experience while remaining an upscale institution with empathetic service. The essentials include: sleep (provided through supremely comfortable beds, plush pillows and pristine bedding); wellness (provided through quality bath products supplied by Kevin Murphy, rainfall showers and soft towels); and spaces to socialise (provided through large communal areas designed for interaction and socialising).
As is stated on TRIBE’s website: “We started TRIBE to create an accessible luxury alternative – where the modern traveller’s needs and desires become our central focus. We aspire to become synonymous with contemporary, intelligent, forward-thinking design and be the affordable hotel benchmark. We call this the democratisation of good design and it’s at the heart of everything we do. So we got rid of the pricey mini bars, stuffy spas and hidden costs to instead focus on creating an edited experience that gives guests everything they need and nothing they don’t.”
The ideal guests for a stay at TRIBE are those seeking experiences, accessibility and social interaction, connected by a spirit of adventure, a love of design and a new understanding of what a functional, contemporary hotel should be. This has truly been achieved at TRIBE Amsterdam, and the hotel could not be more tailored to the young crowds that the Dutch capital currently attracts.
The designers bringing TRIBE’s ethos to life are London-based studio Feix&Merlin Architects, which describes itself as an LGBTQ+ led design practice, located in Peckham’s Bussey Building. The studio, which is headed up by co-founders Julia Feix and Tarek Merlin, is behind some exciting projects on home turf too – it has put its distinct mark on other recent hospitality ventures in the city such as boutique hotel Henry’s Townhouse in Marylebone, and The Conduit social clubs in both Covent Garden and Mayfair, as well as collaborating with Russell Sage Studio to redesign the cafe at the National Gallery.
The practice is driven by a reversed approach to design and architecture. “We design buildings from the inside out, rather than from the outside in, because these are the bits of the building that you use every day,” states the brand. “What’s unique about our approach is that we like to look backwards at the same time as looking forwards. In every project, at every scale, we look for what’s come before just as much as what’s about to come.”
Initial impressions suggest that the studio has perhaps taken inspiration from its own local surroundings in London – there is a distinct East London hipster feel to the hotel, which, to be fair, is a lifestyle that is also thriving in Amsterdam, from the city’s vibrant club scene to micro-breweries staffed by beanie-wearing, beard-studded Millennials.
But the underground club scene in Amsterdam is admittedly not so underground any more. It is increasingly becoming a stronger part of the city’s cool identity, boosted by stylish people on bikes dressed all in black. And these dark and edgy vibes are apparent in the 192-key TRIBE hotel, whose design palette includes materials that play with perspective and distorted imagery, reeded mirror, fluted glass blocks, and translucent fabrics.
Entering the hotel, a mere five minutes’ walk away from the Amsterdam Noord metro station, visitors are met with a double-height, black-cladded lobby, featuring a steep and dramatic staircase. The space is brightened by a large curtain in white translucent material, lining a mirrored ceiling. If taking a moment to stop on the stairs and look up, one’s reflection is framed almost like a picture, which makes for a striking effect (and will look infinitely cool on any Instagram feed). Colourful furniture, portrait art and a mirrored wall add further texture and balance to the area.
At the top of the stairs, which are lined with a dark patterned carpet, one enters the restaurant and bar, which turns from breakfast buffet bonanza in the morning to vibey cocktail bar at night. The menu is co-created with French bartender Matthias Giroud, and there is a large selection of low-ABV cocktails up for grabs.
During the day, the space doubles as an all-day social hub, which matches TRIBE’s ethos of being a new type of hotel that offers design-driven but functional spaces – somewhere to work, eat, drink, chill and socialise. The interiors certainly fit the bill, with contemporary, mid-century furniture in the same bold and colourful shades seen in the lobby, that add vibrancy to the large space. The room still feels intimate and inviting, especially thanks to the curtain dividers in the same light and transparent material as those hanging over the staircase. When Hospitality Interiors visited, the area was teeming with young professionals on business trips tuning into Zoom calls and meeting for coffee.
LED strips in the ceiling form crosses in a playful and gentle nod to Amsterdam’s coat of arms (the famous three X’s) throughout the restaurant. At the centre of the dining area is a circular semi-private dining space, separated by curtain dividers that frame yet another mirrored ceiling.
Artwork plays a huge part in the overall interior aesthetic, and the two seamlessly integrate, with customised artwork on the walls and large-format graphics embedded in the carpeted floor.
Moving up to the guest bedrooms, art takes on an even bigger role. This is most noticeable with the feature wall-cum-headboards’ customised black-and-white portraits, distorted using a series of narrow vertical panels for a rippled, reeded effect. The models displayed in the portraits (each room offer a unique one) relays the effortlessly cool energy that the Dutch capital exuberates, and it feels intentional and aspirational.
Vertical panels as a theme are applied elsewhere throughout the rooms as well – wooden ones form the bottom half of the headboards, engraved ones appear on mirrored wardrobe fronts, and there are some visible in the texture of glass dividers. They all contribute to different layers and tactility, elevating the seemingly simply designed rooms to something special.
The effect continues into the bathrooms, with vertically panelled tiles in a 50/50 colour display of aubergine slabs at the bottom and maroon ones for the top half. Further texture is added with a chipped effect on the tiles’ surfaces. Just as the darkness is juxtaposed with light materials in the lobby, the hardness of the bathroom tiling is softened by gentle shapes to the mirrors (all round and big) and slopy edges to the bathroom fixtures.
The contrast between harsh, angular surfaces and more gentle soft furnishings is clever and apparent elsewhere in the guest bedrooms, in the form of thick, circular rugs, plump pillows, and colourful ottomans. Yet, the most interesting design feature is the pink-hued armchairs, undoubtedly inspired by the Hortensia Chair by digital 3D artist Andrés Reisinger. The rooms are also highly efficient, offering warmth, comfort and relaxation, exactly in touch with TRIBE’s hospitality philosophy.
It is always beautiful when functionality, excellent design and storytelling meet in perfect hospitality harmony to offer a solid guest experience. And in that regard, TRIBE Amsterdam is a real triumph.