Piet Boon: The Rosewood Questionnaire
The celebrated Dutch designer on working with clients, kite-surfing, and creating spaces that endure.
Amsterdam-based architecture and design firm Studio Piet Boon has become a favorite of the design cognoscenti for spaces that speak quietly but carry a big impact. Founded by Dutch-born designer Piet Boon and creative director Karin Meyn, the firm has worked on projects that range from Paris penthouse residences and custom yachts to condominium towers in New York City—and soon, Rosewood Half Moon Bay, opening in Antigua in 2022. What do those spaces have in common? Ample use of light and open space, a seamless flow between indoor and out, a spare color palette, and a decidedly Dutch sense of functionality and restraint. That doesn’t translate to austerity—just look at Boon’s spectacular interiors for The Jane, a restaurant located in the chapel of a former military hospital in Antwerp, its massive spiked chandelier and colorful stained glass windows set against a lofty Gothic ceiling.
For Rosewood Half Moon Bay, the studio is designing both the resort, which consists of 47 pavilion-style suites tucked into a dramatic bluff on Antigua’s southeast coast, as well as the Rosewood Residences. Located within an untouched landscape overlooking a spectacular beach, the project is intended to blend seamlessly into the environment, using materials that take the site’s Caribbean character into consideration.
Boon recently sat down with Rosewood Conversations to discuss his approach to design, his plans in Antigua, and his travel philosophy.
When did your passion for design first come about?
At the very beginning of my career, when I was working in construction. Tasked with bringing to life the architecture and design created by others, I soon realized I had a different opinion on a lot of the designs. I wanted to treat dimensions, spaces, and finishes differently, combine functionality with timeless aesthetics, and execute with the best-quality materials available.
When you start a new project and the drawing board is blank, what’s step one for inspiration?
The client—always the client. We want to see the world through their eyes, understand their needs and dreams, develop an intuition for their likes and dislikes. And then not shy away from challenging them from time to time.
Once we feel comfortable with the client perspective, we look at the project location, surroundings, culture, and nature. And bring all of it together with an infusion of our design identity, our heritage and opinions.
In your own words, what’s one distinguishing factor of all of Studio Piet Boon’s designs?
Every design we create must stand the test of time. The design must feel aesthetically relevant over time, it must be functional long after it was conceived, and our client must continue to feel completely at home no matter how much time passes. One of our guiding principles is whether a space or material can actually improve over the duration of living or working with it.
What are some of the elements from your residential design projects that you’ve incorporated into your work on the Rosewood Residences at Half Moon Bay?
Our work has always been focused on creating a sense of homeliness and effortless belonging. Those are intangible qualities that you experience when you live in our spaces. It’s something our clients understand and appreciate, and that we’ve become very adept at applying to our projects.
How are you incorporating cues from Caribbean heritage in the plans to create a Sense of Place?
We have taken inspiration from local architecture in the materials we work with, in shapes such as roof structures, and in creating an atmosphere that feels like a natural fit with local culture.
So much conversation around contemporary design centers on sustainability. What steps are you taking to help “future-proof” Half Moon Bay?
To us, it’s all about the quality of design and materials. If done right, they will stand the test of time and create inherent sustainability. Not having to upgrade or refurbish is a very sustainable approach over time. We also believe in working with local, natural materials and integrating into the local landscape as much as possible. In addition, we work closely with specialists to incorporate and provide the platform to integrate sustainable technology.
Who’s your ideal travel companion, real-life or fictional?
My wife. We are very much in sync when we travel and love to seek out new experiences.
What’s the one thing you never travel without?
Predictably, my phone and earphones. But whenever I can, I bring my kite-surfing gear.
What’s a place that’s touristy but worth it?
Amsterdam. It is such a diverse and cultured city, with just enough rawness to stay interesting and relevant. The Canal District is what most tourists flock to, but it’s the surrounding neighborhoods that you should seek out.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in a new destination?
After taking a moment to unwind and refresh, I love to put my earphones in and immerse myself in the area: Walking, cycling, really connecting with the environment to the soundtrack of my favorite music.
Are you a trip planner or an ad libber?
Ad-libber pretty much. I like the unexpected.
What has been your most embarrassing travel faux pas?
Other than trying to board a flight without my passport? Nothing.
Where are you off to next?
Tokyo, for a new project that I’m thrilled about. And it happens to be one of my favorite cities!
Sum up your travel philosophy in one word
Am I allowed two words? Direct. Flights.