Dear Shaded Viewers,
One of the big highlights of my European holiday last month was my 3-night stay at the fascinating Lloyd Hotel, located up in the Eastern Docklands of Amsterdam–which are blissfully far afield from the hordes of pot-crazed tourists, yet close enough to the otherwise magical city center via the nearby tram stops.
Built from 1916-1920, the Lloyd opened in 1921 as a stop for Eastern European emigrants who arrived in the port of Amsterdam on their way to South America. After a medical check-up and a shower at the Quarantine Building next door (now the Cafe De Cantine), they stayed at the hotel for a few days before their departure. The hotel went bankrupt in 1935.
Things got a little dark after that. From 1939-40, the Lloyd was a refuge for Jews hiding from the Nazis. Then in 1941, the Nazis converted the building into a prison and members of the resistance movement were imprisoned there. After the war, it remained a detention center but in 1964 it was turned into an experimental jail for juvenile deliquents. As there were no bars on the windows, a lot of the kids made escape attempts.
That lasted until about 1989 when the Lloyd rented out the former cells as studios to artists. In 1996, the municipality organized a competition for new hotel plans, which led to the opening of the Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy in 2004.
The hotel is set up with an egalitarian philosophy, with 1-to-5 star rooms (the only hotel in the world to do so) but with everyone sharing the same level of service: free, super-fast WiFi and satellite TV, use of the art library, 24-hr room service, and use of the shop and the Cultural Embassy. So, a backpacker could stay in one of the 1-star rooms (which have shared toilets and showers, like at a hostel), while someone with Champagne Socialist tastes can opt for a grand 5-star room. I stayed for two nights in a 2-star room and was upgraded to a 5-star room on my third night. (More on that later in this post.)
The Lloyd’s Cultural Embassy organizes free events that take place around the hotel: a mix of high and low art, design, fashion shows, performance, video installations, textile and jewelry exhibits, photography shows and food events.
I was obsessed with the old tiles throughout the hotel (I have a mad tile fetish–for example, my favorite thing about the new-ish Ancient Greek & Roman hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC are the meticulously recreated ancient Greek-style tiles on the floor. I go there about 3 times a month just to look at them.) The tiles at the Lloyd were handpainted in the ’60s by bored 12-year old boy prisoners. Divine!
The “Hoppity Hop” lamps here are by Dutch designer Richard Hutten (oh, how I adore Dutch design and the Dutch in general now. The Dutch are on the menu, as Sebastian Venable would have it). Does anyone remember these Hoppity Hop balls for children? My cousins and I had them and we used to have races.
This staircase: So Dutch.
And here is the 2-star room I stayed in: Prison-cell chic! I loved the dark-maroon-painted floor and the outsized white cupboard whose sole function was to store 3 or 4 towels on a lone shelf –but couldn’t be used to hang up your clothes. The room was surprisingly spacious and the big bed was supremely comfortable. The Richard Hutten lamp provided the one modern-design accent. Overall: stark, restrained and oh, so Protestant.
Of course the open prison-style shower in the middle of the room had the starring role–with a squeegee to clean up the water! Naturally, this shower conjures up more than a few prison-sex fantasies, sans the overt (Catholic) vulgarity one might find in other trendy hotels. (I’m thinking of the tacky sex toys, condoms and lube in the minibar at the annoying ME Hotel in Barcelona. Minibars should only be for Red Bull, small bottles of champagne and chocolate-dipped macadamias.)
The chairs in the room are made of rubber.
From an exhibit that details the history of the Lloyd: I think this is what my room used to look like. (And what my bedroom in New York has always looked like.)
During the Lloyd’s Nazi-prison period: a blurry glimpse at bygone atrocities.
I adore wide-open, semi-desolate places, so it was a delight to stroll around the Eastern Docklands on a gloomy afternoon. Everyday is like Sunday. Armageddon, come Armageddon, come.
I enjoyed hanging out at Cafe De Cantine next door–their bitterballen are superb. (My favorite foods always seem to be shaped like balls: bitterballen, Spanish croquettes, takoyaki.)
My last night at the Lloyd was a dark and stormy one (it rained cats and dogs), so I dined at KHL, a warm and cosy restaurant just two doors down from the hotel which features astonishingly affordable food. Dutch cuisine doesn’t have the most sparkling of reputations (Vandaag, a Dutch restaurant in New York which served food that looked and tasted like dried mud and swamp foam, closed abruptly after only a few months, despite much hype), but the food at KHL is sublime.
The chef employs generous Asian touches, but this is not some ill-advised fusion venture. I started with a pumpkin-and-cilantro soup (yum!) and my main course was this artfully constructed tower of rib-eye steaks, cassava fingers and Asian vegetables in a hoisin jus de veau. Divoon. (I live for hoisin sauce and it’s probably my favorite thing about Peking duck.)
Above: 2 photos from an exhibit of pictures shot in the Lloyd. The photos piqued my interest in some of the crazier-looking rooms in the hotel, so I asked one of the desk clerks to show me around….
This is the outside of the bathroom in one of the suites which had the effect of a sinister-looking trailer being plunked down in the middle of the room. Apparently the architect feels that “bathrooms shouldn’t be hidden” but should take center stage.
And here’s the inside….I think I may have gone insane in this bathroom. It’s like an Invaders from Mars version of my Zaha Hadid bathroom at the Puerta America in Madrid.
A bed big enough for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice AND the Three Stooges! Orgy, orgy!
This duplex suite boasts a show-stopping staircase. But keeping with the austere Dutch sensibility, it’s not meant to be extravagant, only surprising and humorous.
Above: 2 more views of the suite. I didn’t stay in this room–it’s more for CEOs who want to sleep in the same space as where they are holding meetings (there’s a long conference table in the suite.)
And voila–my 5-star room, tastefully appointed and very comfortable. Certainly one of the more conservative rooms in the hotel. It was located at the top of the hotel inside one of the building’s formidable and classic Dutch gables. The floor-length window you see here looked way down into the restaurant and there were outside views on either side if you craned your head. Keeping with the DIY approach of my last room (the squeegee), the light could be shut out if you were willing to lift up the large board leaning against the wall and hang it on steel pegs above the window. (Next thing you know, they’ll be asking guests to milk cows and gather eggs in the hen house for breakfast every morning.)
My bathtub was long and deep enough for Michael Phelps AND Ryan Lochte to do laps in. The star of the room is this giant photograph of an expansive pool, wonderfully echoing the outsized tub, at a hotel in Havana, Cuba.