Rocking Amsterdam’s most Eccentric Restaurants, Bars and Clubs since 2000
Casper Reinders is Amsterdam’s legendary hospitality entrepreneur, interior designer and collector of authentic design oddities. Distinctively different from other clubs, bars and restaurants, Casper’s interiors are always exotic, Rock ‘n’ Roll, classic, bohemian, unique, rugged, and hedonistic. Anything goes, except uniformity.
I meet Casper Reinders on a Wednesday morning in November in the charming and rustic ambiance of his Libertine Café Café in Amsterdam’s 9 streets neighborhood. The reason for our meeting is the release of the inspirational book Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Interiors: The Eccentric World of Casper Reinders. The book tells and shows the compelling stories behind almost two decades of Reinders’ interior design in his – and Amsterdam’s – most remarkable, trend- setting and ever-distinctive clubs, bars and restaurants.
Described as everything from Amsterdam’s king of hospitality to an interior design guru, let’s ask him how he describes himself. Reinders: “Well, I ‘do’ cafes, bars and restaurants. That’s how I see it. There are many hospitality entrepreneurs in Amsterdam who are bigger and better than me. My quality is developing interiors and concepts for hospitality venues, always creating a distinct atmosphere. I’m more of a stylist and collector than a designer, creating the perfect chaotic harmony from a collection of rare materials, curiosities, oddities, antiques and artifacts.”
Inspired by life
“I don’t look around for inspiration; I’m too stubborn to do so. I never, ever copied anything from anyone in my life. I get inspired without knowing where the inspiration comes from. I’m inspired by life, so to say. With every venue my team and I have designed, it’s fair to say we’re at the start of trends. In the early zeroes we started giving restaurants separate lounges, skilled baristas, cocktail bartenders and contemporary Asian cuisine in eclectic venues, which was totally new to Amsterdam.”
“If everyone likes what we do, we have done a bad job”
“How would I describe my style of interior design? It’s eclectic, with a wide range of influences. I’m truly a collector of artifacts from all over the world. I always choose natural, original materials, regardless of the cost or effort it takes to get them over. Other entrepreneurs don’t dare to make those decisions, but I just make them. Me and my team work fast and based on feelings, rather than budgets or business perspectives. It’s all about creating something different, something distinctive and totally new. If everyone likes what we do, we have done a bad job.”
“I have used influences from Papua New Guinea, Australian Aboriginal art, Chinese and Japanese cultures, industrial design and timeless design classics. I know a little bit about everything and I combine it all, but it has to be genuine and real. That’s just who I am: my house is filled with an unlikely collection of original, exotic and antique curiosities and materials.
If you look at interiors like Joya, Lion Noir and the former restaurant Nacional, these are designs close to my heart. I have an extreme obsession for interior details, and using the best (construction) materials and fabrics. My main trick is to bring them all together in the best way.”
“I started my first café 23 years ago, when I was 25 (Grand Café Fortuijn, Haarlem, 1996). After three years I wanted to go back to Amsterdam, and I started Asian noodle restaurant Noa on Leidsegracht. I then began to do a lot of clubs, bars and restaurants, in some periods more than others. Next to cafes, restaurants and bars, I also designed the interior for the Holland Heineken House at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.”
“Currently I’m doing a lot of different projects, like developing the interior design for a music venue in Alkmaar and a strip club in Amsterdam. My future will be more in interior design than operating hospitality venues myself. Currently, my company Tao Horeca Group owns eleven different cafes, restaurants and bars.”
“My favorite project of all time? That’s without a doubt night club Jimmy Woo, which turns 15 this autumn. That’s my baby, and it was and is iconic for Amsterdam nightlife. But I have different feelings for different bars and restaurants, too. Today I start my day at Libertine for breakfast, and at night I really enjoy the Vietnamese food and vibe at Bo Nam.”
What’s most important when walking in to a bar or restaurant? “You have to feel the love, the hospitality. Not only in the food, the drinks and service but the place has to look and feel well maintained. Automatically, the interior design is one of the first things I look at. The most fascinating interiors are always the ones that reflect the essence of the people who occupy them. But there is a fine line between nice and truly great restaurant design. It’s almost unnoticeable, but it’s there.”
“There’s a fine line between nice and truly great restaurant design.”
When developing a new bar, club or restaurant, do you already know it’s going to be a hit? “I consider myself a builder; I am building interior designs and hospitality concepts. But do I know for sure if it’s going to work? You can never be sure. There’s always a factor of luck involved. Three weeks after we opened Jimmy Woo in 2003, we had George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon clubbing.”
Rock ‘n’ Roll Interiors
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Interiors inspires through great photography and surprising elements that define me. It’s more than an interior book – it’s about the bigger picture. I would say it’s an inspiration book. But, I don’t fucking like that name. It’s not rock ‘n’ roll if you put that label on it, right? But, I guess people generally define my style of working as rock ‘n’ roll.”
“It’s a book about surprising people by combining interior design and hospitality. It’s about daring to make decisions to create something unique. The book really represents who I am. It’s about the edges, and not simply about interiors. The photography is a dazzling collage of images by Kwabena Appiah-Nti, Roel Ruijs, and Sharon Jane Dompig, and artwork by Alljan Moehamad (Skulljan). There are different styles of photography in the book, from raw and edgy to 80s vintage design, and from very slick and shiny to monumental.”
“The book is a true product of love and craftsmanship. I have to give credit to the crew at publisher MENDO, the photographers and the art direction. It’s not at all a commercial product. Just look at the materials that are used, the cover and the layout. I was stunned when I saw it for the first time. The book is not about me, but about the things I have built and created. It’s about inspiration, about the interior of past designs and current projects, about my house, about the materials I have used and explorations. It’s not so much about the hospitality concepts, but more about how the interiors have come to life.”
“Good taste has improved a lot, and I’d like to think we’ve contributed a fair share in that development.”
Amsterdam’s hospitality scene
Who are the hospitality entrepreneurs and designers that are making a difference in today’s Amsterdam? Casper: “Hmm, that’s a tricky one because I don’t keep up with the developments or look around that much. But there are so many groups of young entrepreneurs that are doing a great job. The same goes for designers. But if I have to mention one, I think the design duo Nice Makers ( Joyce Urbanus and Dax Roll) is doing a great job.”
“If you look at the city of Amsterdam over the past 20 years, the landscape of bars, restaurants and clubs has definitely changed for the better. Good taste has improved a lot, and I’d like to think that we’ve contributed a fair share in that development.”
Rock ’n’ Roll Interiors – The Eccentric World of Casper Reinders Get it at MENDO’s flagship store in Berenstraat (9 Streets) Amsterdam or order at mendo.nl