Top Designer Spotlight: Exclusive Interview with Ethnic Chic
Started by Robin Toetenel, Ethnic Chic began as a quaint home design and décor shop in the heart of Amsterdam and has progressed into a top design firm. Headed by designers Toetenel and Ingrid Steyrer their interior design philosophy focuses on adding heart and soul to their interiors with their eye for materials and love for quality craftsmanship. KOKET was recently featured in a lavish canal house project designed by Ethnic Chic, and sat down with top designer Robin Toetenel to discuss Ethnic Chic, what he loves about design and his upcoming projects. Read below for KOKETs top designer spotlight and exclusive interview with Ethnic Chic.
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KOKET: How and why did you get into the interior design industry?
Robin Toetenel: Already 11 years ago in 2005, I met my previous business partner. Together we opened up a boutique in the heart of Amsterdam with all kinds of interior products you could not find around. From that more and more interior project requests came, from where I started the design studio Ethnic Chic. Going back even further, I was not even 4 when I always wanted to enter every church to look at the architecture. My parents always gave me books about it, so the passion started soon, very soon.
KOKET: How would you describe your style? Do you have a signature touch as a top designer? Do you have any kind “signatures” that help to identify your projects?
RT: I always get nervous by this question haha! I hate putting myself in a certain corner or determine our style by only one thing. To be honest, our projects really do reflect a lot of what the clients feels like to us, how they present themselves and what they feel comfortable in. Also the design for a lobby is really quite different from a home in Amsterdam or in Dubai, and this is what we also reflect in our projects though all determined by custom design custom made furniture and the love for fabrics, sort furnishings and craftsmanship. Without craftsmanship [there is] no soul and this is exactly what I want to add. We only work with the most beautiful materials; no compromises being made!
KOKET: All artists need some inspiration to work, and interior designers are artists too. So, what or who really inspires you?
RT: Inspiration is everywhere. You don’t need to go to one specific place but live life, enjoy the moments and dream away. I notice that many times my focus point is quite differently [sic] from others around me. I look at some very small details even though it could be a split second. Travelling is one of the things I do a lot for work. This is tiring and not what many people always think is for a nice holiday haha. It really is for work and it feels different, but what is the best after a long day of work is to go to a nice bar and restaurant, soak up a different culture, new and special design and get inspired from everything around you. This does not necessarily mean you need to go to fancy places, a small detail which is part of an old restaurant can inspire you to do something completely different then [sic] you initially had in mind. Travelling gives me the time to think, sketch and really design while actually being more productive and making more hours than I already do in the office. It is simply different but away from the daily life…
KOKET: What inspired you to do this project? Describe it a little bit (Refer style, curiosities, brands, pieces in particular, etc).
RT: Every project has its own unique concept. All quite differently [sic] from one another taking in account the structural changes, working on distance or the timeframe. Some projects literally take years to complete while others may take a lot less time. This project was somehow from a different category. We were commissioned to finish the house in just 3 weeks. All communication went through the internet while we were building, laying floors, building bathrooms and getting special vintage cabinets & tables flown in from all over the US. I think we all hardly slept those weeks trying to get as much done as possible.
There are two rooms I love most in the house: the special ‘in-door’ garden kitchen and the bedroom. Both with complete distinctive designs and feels. The indoor garden almost feels like a vintage Hollywood setting with its stunning blue cabinet, faux bamboo chairs and banana leaf hand printed wallpaper, while the bedroom had a complete tone-on-tone feel with luxurious fabrics. In the bedroom there is a stunning KOKET chaise and chandelier which I love both.
KOKET: Do you have any room, piece, shape that you love most about this project?
RT: I think I already explained quite a bit of this in my last answer, but if you are talking about shapes I think the living room with a grandeur high ceilings, view on the canals. There could not be a better twist then the two crazy Koket consoles we proposed for this project. It really turned the whole living room around from being a beautiful setting to a place with a twist and character. I like that in specific pieces, to have that kind of feeling. To add a bit of spice
while playing it on the edge. It certainly worked for this project!
KOKET: What do you love about being a top designer?
RT: One of the key parts of our job is to challenge ourselves every day again. Come up with different solutions and designs for our clients. I love this part of the job! Never a dull moment and certainly not the feeling to be stuck on a day-to-day job. Traveling around and going through inspiring journeys while having a close relation with our clients but also our partners and brands! Without them we would never function this well! Many brands are open to fun and different requests which makes it possible for us to come up with new design solutions every time again.
KOKET: Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about? Any new projects?
RT: OEHHH these are always the secret questions 😉 We are currently working on some very exciting projects actually. One of them is a huge lobby / restaurant design in the Middle East. I can’t say any names but this luxurious hotel will hopefully get a top-to-bottom design by us, with every piece custom designed by us! All in combination with amazing fabrics, colors and finishes! Besides that, we are finishing an amazing lake mansion at Lake Como with a huge park, and designed a new luxury fair coming up in November in Amsterdam, called Amsterdam Avenue.
KOKET: What is your philosophy on design and life?
RT: I really love life! I love every second of it and when something goes wrong you turn it around and make something positive out of it. For sure never give up this is not a way to succeed is it? 😉 Love life and the people around you.
See more: Top Designer – Laura Lee’s Texas Apartment Project
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