NOORDWIJK – When Michiel van den Berg and his brother Martijn needed an architect to refurbish the run-down hotel they had just bought in the Dutch town of Noordwijk, they immediately knew whom to ask: their long-time youth friend Bart Akkerhuis, who at the time still worked at Renzo Piano’s office in Paris, but now has his own design studio in the French capital. 'I have known Martijn since I was 16,' says Akkerhuis. 'I was born and bred in Noordwijk.'
The small bathing town on the North-Sea coast has a long-standing hotel reputation. 'There were only two kinds of hotels though,' says Van den Berg. 'Luxurious, large hotels and small family-owned hotels in various states of disrepair.' Hotel Clarenwijck, the one purchased by both brothers, was an example of the latter. The core of the building is a nineteenth-century beachside villa that was turned into a hotel in the twentieth century and extended various times. After its heydays in the 1980s, it had faded into gloominess by the moment the brothers first walked into the building.
The Van den Berg brothers were no newcomers to hospitality. They already owned two beach clubs, Bries and Het Zuiderbad, right in front of their new hotel, which they christened Vesper. They knew exactly what they wanted: very luxurious, but not corporate. 'A small, personable place that gives visitors the feeling they’re visiting friends rather than a hotel,' says Van den Berg.
Enter Akkerhuis; he renovated the existing building from a sad, board-clad ghost of a building into a beautiful, white hotel brimming with light. During the demolition phase, various old elements resurfaced, like an art-deco tiled floor in the lobby and a stained-glass roof window above the stairwell. Akkerhuis decided to keep those. For the lobby, which doubles as bar and restaurant, he designed a large shelving system that goes all the way up to the roof window, tastefully filled with bric-à-brac from a jumble sale in Amiens, France. 'We rented a truck and drove there and back again in one day,' says Van den Berg. Many pieces of furniture throughout the hotel also originate from this adventure, such as most of the chairs in the lobby, adding to the personal touch that the owners want the hotel to emanate.
Akkerhuis was also responsible for the design of the 27 rooms. The bathrooms feature prominently in all of them. They are equipped with Grohe sanitary products, such as rain showers with integrated lighting and music. Some rooms even have private steam cabins and saunas. 'After a day on the beach, there’s nothing like taking a good bath,' says Van den Berg.