Being in a world where there are so many interior designers out there to choose form, Robert Kolenik, the Dutch interior designer, has decided it’s time to stand out! Kolenik’s designs scream “Luxury, Coziness and Chicness” along with his eco-design concept that guarantees you the ultimate in natural results. Believing in his amazing talent, Stylish Eve Magazine interviewed Robert Kolenik to allow everyone get to know more about him. Just read on to discover more about this innovative designer!!
1- Tell us about yourself, where you grew up and where you live.
I grew up in a little village close to the German border. I had quite a tough youth as my mother died when I was 8 years old. At that time I didn’t have any friends and I grew up quite lonely, trying to analyze that puzzle which is called ‘life’. After finishing high school, I decided to study Marketing Economics. During my studies I also started working as a model and was able to travel to many beautiful places and discover different styles of design. After finishing my studies, I decided to work at my father’s building company. After only 5 months he unexpectedly died. This was January 2005. At this point I had to make a decision whether to try to find a job in the marketing field, or continue his company. I chose the latter, and was able to expand it successfully with two additional employees that year. I started rebuilding restaurants and bars, as well as the houses that we were renovating. Late 2007, an international brewery asked me, after finishing a project, if I could also design interiors. I never had, but I felt it was my dream and told them that I did. It was a typical example of ‘faking it till you make it,’ but after the second project, which was nominated as one of the most beautiful cocktail bars of the Netherlands, I felt I had found my real passion. All difficulties I had encountered in life created a deep desire to get the maximum out of my life, to not waste a moment and instead live my dreams to the full, as you never know how long it might last.
2- Your designs are totally modern. Is it a preference, or do you believe it’s better and more practical and functional nowadays?
It’s just what I find most beautiful. I like interiors that are minimalistic but warm and luxurious. It creates peace of mind as less is more, subsequently creating a space that is easy to experience, easy to clean, easy to live in.
3- Your design firm goes for Eco Chic Design. Can you tell our readers what the concept of your Eco Chic Design is, and why you both choose and recommend it?
As my style was already based on the use of many natural materials, I felt the need to develop my concept on a more ecological basis. The name Eco Chic came up as strong statement of my signature.
I have personally always been eager to live a balanced life, both mentally and physically, and am very aware of what I am eating and thus doing to my body. I believe that most of this century’s diseases are stimulated by stress and processed food (injected with hormones/ antibiotics etc.). Besides the food we consume on a daily basis, we live in our houses built with many toxic materials that affect the health of, for example, carpenters working with them (think of all the glues containing formaldehydes that are used in products like MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) etc.), and unnecessary CO² emissions that are created by all of this. I just think that we should start thinking differently and realizing that we can easily live with a warm and luxurious interior without making direct concessions yet still be sustainable and responsible with what we have. This thought was brought further into my projects my using Eco-boards as the base for making my furniture and using ecological glue to attach the veneer (oak or walnut etc.) to it. Besides that, we are also integrating Home Automation (by Bits & Bites, Belgium) to retain full control of our energy consumption in our houses. With my partners we are developing all these techniques to become more sustainable and self-supporting, so that the basis of the house is becomes more eco-friendly (human friendly) without losing any quality or esthetics.
4- What was the first project you worked on? What experience did you gain from it?
The first design project was for a local restaurant in my home town. My client gave me carte- blanche but told me she wanted to have turquoise colors integrated in to the design. And so I did. I noticed I wasn’t sure about the design, It didn’t feel good or so. Full of enthusiasm I tried to give the presentation to my clients. They weren’t convinced. Then I decided to share my thoughts that I had the feeling perhaps not to integrate the turquoise color and that I would like a second chance to present the project, after doing what I thought was best. This was my big lesson which taught me to always follow my feelings, as the client was totally enthusiastic after the second presentation, even though there was no turquoise used.
5- What was the best project you’ve worked on and why?
A private residence project – Residence Rotterdam. These clients became very close friends during the construction of the residence, and so the process was amazingly pleasant; like a big group of workers, all with one goal; creating their dream villa.
6- You’ve been running the KOLENIK Eco Chic Interior Design Firm since 2008. How do you keep your work up to date and continue to be one of the best interior designers nowadays?
From 2005 till late 2007 I was only renovating houses and commercial premises. This period gave me all my knowledge regarding materials, construction and the technical limitations of materials. From day one (after finishing my first design project in 2008) I realized designing is my true passion and noticed that I always wanted to design custom-made interiors and to develop myself and keep on developing. By doing that I decided to stay relatively small employee-wise, in order to be able to always stay in direct contact with my clients and to create the concepts myself, even though I have a team working out the details for me. This is a different approach compared with some of my colleagues who tend to follow a more production-line way of working. I choose my projects, working with clients that I feel a connection with and feel a passion for the project. This is an important basis for me to get inspiration. Every project deserves attention and is unique, so that is the approach I choose, and it fulfills me as a person.
7- How has the firm’s policy and plans changed from 2005 to 2014? How have your thoughts and perspectives changed??
After the beginning of 2008 not much (before that I didn’t know I was going to design at all). I got more refined and feel that I am still developing my feeling for design, this is a never-ending process as new materials are being developed every day, by us or other artists/producers. Following my feelings regarding choices to make (even though I had learned to make internal and external (SWOT) analyses in marketing) brings me to where I am now, and enabling me to create inspiring designs.
8- If you ever reject a project, what would the reason be? Have you done it before? If yes, why?
Yes I did. If I don’t have a good feeling I don’t take it. I really need to have a click with my clients, because it’s all about enthusiasm. When I am enthusiastic about a project I get inspired and motivated to make something beautiful, to surprises my clients and providing them with the interior they have dreamed of.
9- Private projects (residential) differ greatly from public/commercial projects (hotels/resorts/clubs/etc.). How do you prepare for such difference and what considerations do you keep in mind before starting either type of projects?
Places open to the public are more restricting as, in general, they have to be more hard-wearing, which consequently creates a limitation with regard to the use of fragile materials. Otherwise I don’t think they are so different. I always search for a cozy home feeling, a place that can be enjoyed by two people or by 50. A great design is both esthetically and functionally based, as it can be totally enjoyable when either number are present.
10- How do you make sure you fully understand what your clients want in their projects?
First of all, clients approach me because they are attracted by my signature. This makes it easier to understand them. I noticed that most clients don’t want to tell me all their wishes (only practical ones, like where a home cinema or bathroom is wanted). This is because some are afraid that they will limit me in my creativity, something that won’t happen, but ok . They want me to surprise them with my ideas.
11- Luxury seems like a MUST in all of your projects. How do you make sure you maintain that?
It’s just something that (in my opinion/taste) makes the design complete. Every person has a richness of potential and is unique in themselves. Therefore you should allow yourself to enjoy all this luxury around you when you can. We are all worth it.
12- How does technology help you with your work? What else helps?
This is the core element, as I am always trying to create a ‘wow!’ feeling, which involves untraditional ideas, thus sometimes requiring technically difficult designs. I have a team of out-of-the-box artists and producers around me that triggers me to push the project to the max.
13- If you get the chance to meet with the architects of a specific project before working on it, what would you like to change about the architectural plan? Would you have certain preferences, conditions, or requirements before the plans are agreed?
This depends on the architects. Many times I work with architects. The best projects are those where the architects see the added value of my work. In these projects we create a 1+1=3 situation, keeping the result of the project as final goal.
14- You’ve designed the interior of the Fletcher Hotel in Amsterdam. Tell us about that experience and how it has been useful to you.
As the architectural basis of the tower is a circular shape, it was a great adventure integrating all the client’s wishes. All hotel rooms were divided as ‘slices of pie’ in order to integrate 120 hotel rooms, all with the same comfort and equipment. The sky bar and sky restaurant, based on the top floor of the hotel, were another challenge. As the structural basis of the hotel (elevators and emergency staircases) has a rectangular shape, we chose to continue these lines and build the facilities, like wardrobes, toilets and kitchen around it. This was in order to keep all the outer space available for the guests to allow them to enjoy the great skyline of Amsterdam.
15- I’ve seen that the “Fletcher Hotel” has been nominated ‘Best Hotel Design 2013’. How does that reflect on you and increase your motivation?
I was happily surprised to hear that. It’s great to be nominated as Best Hotel Design when working within a tight budget and competing with other high-end hotels. Such things are stimulating me and give me energy as it rewards me fully to see that people can fully enjoy the places I have designed.
16- “Club Touch” is another public project you’ve designed. What did you have to do to successfully design it, especially in a way that makes it serve as a restaurant in daytime and a club at night?
That was indeed a great challenge. A daytime restaurant requires a different approach, especially in such a local towns as Nijmegen. Lighting and daylight are very important factors in this respect, as guests don’t want to enter a dark restaurant during day time. At the same time this ‘darkness’ creates coziness and therefore it is an important factor for a successful club. We found a great balance in these two contradicting elements that gave us a multi-functional public space.
17- You won the Millionaire Fair Award in 2011. Tell us how rewards keep you on track and motivate you to do better?
Winning awards and being nominated for my designs stimulates me to do even better and to dream about bigger things. The sky’s the limit I found out, and dreaming about the unreachable makes it reachable, as long as you fully commit yourself, go for it, and follow your heart and passion.
18- What architecture/design blogs do you check out regularly? How do they help you with your work?
There are a few design blogs that I follow as I like to source for new design pieces made by relatively unknown designers.
19- Have you ever heard about Stylish Eve before this interview? What do you think of our website?
Yes of course. I think you have a great selection of fashion and designs (these two I personally follow), it gives a good view on the latest trends and can inspire many people on different fields. Keep up the good work!
20- Finally, what are your plans for 2014?
Quite a few plans. This year we have some national TV documentaries planned that will follow me and our projects. I was also asked to do a weekly design show, where I design interiors for some selected families that have problems with their houses, producing a luxurious home makeover. Besides that we are currently working on our first Coffee Table Book, with a selection of the designs of the last three four years. This book should be launched around q2/q3 this year. Besides that, many prestigious international projects are starting this year, as well as some new licensing projects and moving into a new office next month!