Designer Spotlight

Piet Boon’s Muscular Minimalism

Designer Spotlight

Piet Boon’s Muscular Minimalism

Balancing hefty proportions with warm, neutral materials, the multifaceted Dutch designer maintains a distinct point of view in all his projects.

Unlike some of his countrymen, Dutch architect and designer Piet Boon eschews whimsical style-shifting romps in favor of strong minimal lines and forms (photo by Jesaja Hizkia). Top: In the kitchen and dining area of a villa on the south coast of Portugal, a Kevin Reilly lamp hangs over a table surrounded by Baxter chairs; the unit at left is the Piet Boon Collection’s TJERK cabinet. Photos by Richard Powers, unless otherwise noted

Piet Boon grew up just outside Amsterdam, but it would be a mistake to lump him together with other Dutch designers. While the radically whimsical and conceptual creations of Marcel Wanders, Maarten Baas and Hella Jongerius have made the Netherlands one of the most closely watched nations on the international design circuit, Boon’s star has been on a steady rise for vastly different reasons. His buildings, interiors, furniture and accessories make no tongue-in-cheek statements or playful riffs on historical decoration. Instead, his work offers a muscular minimalism, with architectural details and furniture featuring robust, hefty proportions mixed with warm, natural materials.

“Our designs are always feeling very simple,” says Boon, who, as a good Dutchman, has  just arrived at our Manhattan meeting on a bicycle. “A residence should be very calm. If you make things too fussy, you become tired of it in a few years. I think a home should last for a long time and that the materials should only get more and more beautiful with age.”

Boon has been in the game for years, watching different trends come and go, but he has held fast to his particular point of view. Even if you haven’t seen his projects, you’ve probably seen interiors influenced by his trademarks — tall baseboards with simple profiles, cabinetry with thick edges and inset doors, kitchens and bathrooms with beefy stone countertops and deeply plush sofas and armchairs with broad, boxy arms.

 

Piet Boon’s Muscular Minimalism
1 / 8
Piet Boon’s Muscular Minimalism

A vacation villa Boon designed on the Caribbean island of Bonaire — where he frequently works — displays his brawny interpretation of minimalism.

The black-and-white color scheme and rigid geometries of the Bonaire villa’s exterior continue inside, where a central axis lets island breezes flow through the home and a main staircase links the public spaces on the ground floor with private living and sleep quarters above.

Wide slatted windows let in sunlight and connect the villa’s rooms to the outdoors. The interior furnishings were custom made by the Piet Boon Collection.

Left: Paola Lenti’s Float easy chairs line one side of the villa’s pool. Right: Boon styled the home’s rooms in ways that would elegantly capture the island atmosphere.

Boon describes this Portuguese villa’s private courtyard, with its large pool, decking, pergola and palm trees, as “a private oasis.”

Left: The exterior of the house uses local materials — here, sandstone — and strong, simple lines to keep it from standing out from the surrounding homes. Right: The chandelier is by Kevin Reilly.

Left: Sitting on the pool terrace are a GIJS loveseat and ANNET table, from the Piet Boon Collection of outdoor furniture. Right: In one of the villa’s indoor/outdoor bedroom suites, the bench in the alfresco bathroom is actually a bespoke carved-wood artwork by Dutch artist Mathieu Nab.

At the villa, a seating area featuring Flexform’s leather A.B.C. chairs opens onto a small courtyard.

 

The self-taught designer founded his firm as a construction company in 1983. Before long, however, he realized that he was designing much of what he was building — and that when he took direction from other designers, he was often disappointed by the results. “I was always a little frustrated by the designs we had to do for other architects,” he says. “So we started doing more and more of our own designing, which grew bigger than the construction part of the business.” Along the way, he met and married Karin Meyn, an interior designer who became his business partner and Creative Director of Interior & Styling. (They are no longer  married but continue to work together.)

Since then, Boon has become something of a Dutch lifestyle guru, creating projects and products that promise simple, timeless, relaxed living for our frenzied world. In addition to completing private European homes and numerous villas in the Caribbean (some of which are available to rent by the week), his studio of 40 has helped him tackle a surprisingly diverse portfolio of commissions: a special-edition vehicle for Land Rover every year, white porcelain dinnerware with a matte exterior and glazed interior for Serax, light fixtures with simple geometric shapes for Moooi (Wanders’s design brand) and a wide range of hardware, flooring, doors, wallpaper, fireplaces and other products manufactured by a variety of companies.

He also has his own extensive line of furniture, the Piet Boon Collection, which is presented in a permanent showroom in Milan, as well as a newly launched line of kitchens displayed in a dedicated space next to his studio in the town of Oostzaan, north of Amsterdam. And in case the hundreds of photos collected by design bloggers and Pinterest users aren’t enough, Boon has  published five books dedicated to his firm’s work.

Piet Boon’s Muscular Minimalism
1 / 4
Piet Boon’s Muscular Minimalism

The HERO side table, from the Piet Boon Collection, available in brass or bronze. Photos by Stefan Ammerlaan

The collection’s FINN cabinet, in glass with a matte steel frame

The plushly upholstered BELLE fauteuil

The KYO console, available in various colored marbles

Showroom - Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Phasellus suscipit porta posuere.
Boon’s Amsterdam showroom displays his eponymous collection of furniture. Photo by Arjan Benning

“A home should last for a long time, and the materials should only get more and more beautiful with age.”


This past October, Boon’s design for the Jane restaurant, run by chefs Sergio Herman and Nick Bril in the chapel of a former military hospital in Antwerp, Belgium, took top honors for an international eatery in the U.K.-based Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. The dining area features an enormous 39-foot-wide black starburst chandelier that weighs nearly a ton, tall quilted wall panels in a muted sage and contemporary stained-glass windows by Studio Job beneath a soaring vaulted ceiling left in its time-damaged state.

 

Piet Boon’s Muscular Minimalism
1 / 6
Piet Boon’s Muscular Minimalism

One of three residential developments Boon is currently handling in New York City, the Oosten occupies a full block in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. All 216 of its units face a large courtyard.

Oosten’s floor-to-ceiling windows maximize the apartments’ East River views. The building recently set a price-per-square-foot record for the neighborhood.

In Manhattan’s Financial District, Boon’s 101 Wall reimagines a 1931 Art Deco tower as a 52-unit condo building. Nearly half of the apartments have sold ahead of their expected completion later this year. Photo courtesy of 101 Wall

At 101 Wall, new oversized casement windows, wide-plank herringbone floors, tall custom baseboards and beamed ceilings define Boon’s interiors. Photo courtesy of 101 Wall

For Huys, a new condo building on Manhattan’s Park Avenue South, Boon carved 58 units out of the commercial office space contained in a neoclassical property dating to 1917. Photo by Paul Barbera

Boon’s goal at Huys was to infuse it with comfortable luxury. Photo by Paul Barbera

 

At the Jane — a two-year-old Boon-designed restaurant occupying the chapel of a former military hospital in Antwerp, Belgium — a 39-foot-wide black starburst chandelier hangs from a soaring vaulted ceiling. Out of respect for the original building and its history, Boon left the ceiling and several other elements largely unrestored.

Boon is now having a major American moment. Developers, it seems, have realized that his brawny, simple details are just as appealing to U.S. home buyers as they are to Europeans. In New York, three major condominium projects have received the Piet Boon treatment: Huys, a 17-story building on Park Avenue South in Manhattan, which sold the majority of its 58 units before it was completed in 2014; Oosten, a 216-unit, full-block development in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which recently set a square-foot-price record for its neighborhood; and 101 Wall, a converted 1931 Art Deco tower with a white-glazed-brick facade, which has sold nearly half of its 52 units ahead of its expected completion this year.

John Lari, principal of Claremont Group, which developed 101 Wall, says his company chose Boon because it wanted a designer who could blend a fresh, contemporary aesthetic with the building’s historic bones. “Piet Boon exemplifies that very balance, with clean lines and refined minimalism,” he says. “There’s this sense of permanence and everlasting quality that is often missing in new construction.”

Farther afield, Boon has just been tapped to design a new Park Hyatt hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, and a development of upscale cottages in Antigua. But no matter how busy he gets, the designer says he continually reminds himself to focus on the basics — light, air, views and the simple pleasures that are intrinsic to every project site. “We want to find out where the sun and wind are going to be and identify the nicest places to sit,” he says. “For me, it’s very important to look at these things and how our design interacts with the natural elements.”

He may have a signature style, but by working this way, he believes “we can make each home a little bit different from what people are used to.”


Piet Boon’s Quick Picks on 1stdibs

“I really like Rick Owens because we share the same passion for materials that age beautifully, like patinated bronze.”

“Kate Moss is stunning in this picture, which has a certain chic allure.”

“Nacho Carbonell was a classmate of one of our designers at the Design Academy Eindhoven. We’ve watched in the last ten years as he has become one of the biggest talents in the applied arts.”

“This design classic is one of the first designer pieces I ever bought — it’s beautiful and timeless.”

“This is just one of the most beautiful daybeds ever made. As an architect, Mies van der Rohe is an inspiration.”

Loading next story…

No more stories to load; check out The Study.

No more stories to load; check out The Study.