'Beautiful, but cold,' is how Erik Bär of Tinker Imagineers describes his initial reaction to the collection of the Nederlands Zilver Museum (Dutch Silver Museum). Called in to redesign the space, Bär and colleague Joost Luk found 'lots of shelves, little labels everywhere and too much grey. The silver collection itself,' says Luk, 'lacked meaning or context.'

The team set out to humanize the museum by stressing the functions of the items on show. 'The challenge was to bring the silver to life,' says Bär. Because many of the pieces were designed as tableware, Tinker added a 14-m-long table to the main space. Exhibits on the table appear to be ready to use; the effect is reminiscent of Dutch still-life paintings of the 17th century.

A series of display cases shows objects grouped according to use. One, devoted to tea drinking, combines napkins folded into flowers and gloved mannequin arms in a dynamic collage. Another features dramatically lit mannequin hands – painted blue and rosy pink – clutching covetable items from the collection.

'This approach was a risk for our client,' says Bär, 'but we ran workshops to help them change their thinking. They love the rich ambience of the result.'