Where to begin with this gem of a boutique hotel. Situated in the UNESCO heritage-protected canals of Amsterdam, the Pulitzer can be found in one of the city's most upscale neighbourhoods and is an exceptional addition to the continuously rising luxury hospitaity scene. Comprised of 25 merged canal townhouses from the 17th and 18th centuries, the hotel showcases a unique and contemporary design whilst holding onto its rich history and timeless elegance.
Behind this stunning four-year project is none other than Jacu Strauss, creative director of the international hospitality firm Lore Group and lead architect and interior designer in the hotel's largest-ever renovation. The South-African native has an impressive list of experience, formerly senior designer at Tom Dixon's Design Research Studio in London where his works included other hospitality standouts such as the Sea Containers hotel in South Bank.
We had the chance to sit down with Jacu and talk all about his past experiences, work for the Pulitzer and his love for the city of Amsterdam.
Jacu, can you tell us about your past experiences in interior design and architecture?
My experience goes back to starting my studies in New Zealand and subsequently moving to London to continue my studies at the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL. Following university, I found a rare opportunity to work for Tom Dixon, which has led me to where I am today and the opportunities that I am able to have. My job heavily revolves around project-based work where an assignment can take months or even years to fully complete before I move onto the next, and I absolutely love it.
How did you end up taking on the leading role in the redesign project of the Pulitzer?
I was offered the role as designer and creative director following my work on the Sea Containers hotel in London. It was obvious to me from the outset that the Pulitzer was a particularly special project that happens once in a lifetime. This was a unique opportunity in one of the world’s great cities, and I knew that it suited the way I approach my work – it meant that I would be in Amsterdam for four years, living and breathing this project.
Did relocating to Amsterdam for the duration of the project play a role in inspiring your design vision?
Very much so – I lived in Amsterdam for four years and immersed myself completely. I would take every bit as an inspiration, whether it would be a masters painting in the Rijksmuseum, a detail on a canal house or a boat trip through the canals. I was inspired by the rich history of the houses and the ones who may have occupied them over the past hundreds of years from the Golden Age onwards. The result was an eclectic yet elegant look, showcasing original and historic features mixed with luxurious modern-day elements.
What is your favourite part of the hotel?
There is no shortage of special, small and grand spots throughout the hotel. The corridors are a labyrinth and you will find there are secret spots everywhere. My favourite area is seen by almost no one – it contains an antique roll top desk, above it a small oval window looking out over the church next door.
If you had to describe your work in three words, what would those be?
Eclectic, appropriate, rhythmic.
Boasting 225 rooms, the structural nature of the many canal townhouses means that no two rooms in the Pulitzer are the same. Each holds a unique finish, decorated with custom furniture pieces to highlight the architectural character as well as including elements in design that reflect Amsterdam’s abundant history and quintessential Dutch charm. Sophie Janssen, Public Relations Manager for the Pulitzer, shared with us some details that make this hotel truly one-of-a-kind in the Dutch capital.
The Pulitzer name holds a tremendous amount of history – can you explain how the hotel has developed to where it is today?
Amsterdam’s upper class occupied most of the canal houses which were closest to the old town of Amsterdam from the 17th century onwards. It was in 1960 when founder of the Pulitzer Prize Joseph Pulitzer’s grandson, Peter Pulitzer, decided to purchase twelve canal houses on Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht after seeing their potential – those canal houses comprised to become the city’s oldest five-star hotel. In the course of the following 30 years, the hotel grew to the 25 merged canal houses it is today. 2015 and 2016 saw the hotel undergo its largest-ever renovation to bring a unique balance between traditional elements and a contemporary edge.
How would you describe the hotel’s aesthetic?
The Pulitzer is truly unique – not just in Amsterdam, but also across Europe’s hospitality scene. After its renovation completion in 2016, the Pulitzer managed to pair its historical and classic elegance together with a modern comfort which was quite difficult to execute effortlessly. If I had to describe the hotel in a single sentence, I would say it’s eclectic yet elegant.
Your hotel includes many distinctive elements from a design perspective, particularly your four extraordinary Collector’s Suites. What is the design and story behind these suites?
Each room portrays a homely residential feeling in a real Amsterdam apartment with its historical heritage but modern comfort. The themed Collector’s Suites are an extension of this. At first it was a practical decision to combine what would have been eight different rooms into four magical suites. This allowed us to extend the design concept of the rooms and highlight their unique characteristics in line with the histories of those who likely occupied these buildings over the last 400 years. It provides guests with a rare opportunity to feel like they are living in Amsterdam, part of its history and with their own private entrance on the Keizersgracht canal. This marked a shift away from the conventional hotel experience into something that makes you really feel like a resident of Amsterdam for your entire visit. We decided on having an art, book, antique and music Collector’s Suite. From this, we then looked at building on each theme – sometimes with a twist like with the book arch in the Book Collector’s Suite and trumpet wall in the Music Collector’s Suite.
What makes the location so special?
Our hotel occupies two of the most well-known canals in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam, known for its beautiful views, art and vintage-oriented boutiques and galleries, and home to the popular Negen Straatjes. Originally, this area housed the working class and immigrants from the 17th century onwards, and it was only starting as of the late 20th century when the neighbourhood was discovered by artists, students and young individuals who completely changed it to become the art-infused hub it is today.