An urban space project called SWEETS hotel has transformed the way tourists can enjoy Amsterdam’s famous canals with its unique hotel concept comprising 28 individually designed “bridge houses” situated all over the Dutch capital. Guests can explore beyond the facades of the city’s remarkable architecture and enjoy the UNESCO waterways from these one-of-a-kind suites, fashioned like a compact studio apartment.
For decades – centuries even – industrial and commercial buildings have thrived along the ancient canal paths, locks and waterways. Small-scale buildings stand as a testimony to time and heritage – some built as far back as the 1600s – originally constructed as bridge control houses and to shelter the bridge watchers of the many canals, known as the Grachtengordel, and the passing boat traffic. Over time, the bridge control system became automated and the houses lost their use and their live-in bridge masters.
Turning these abandoned waterside dwellings into individual hotel suites for two, the SWEETS hotel urban project honours the architecture and traditions of the canals, whose embankments are at your front door.
Each house transforms into a creative time capsule, where colour palettes, distinct style, curios and novelties are part of the characteristic design concept. Vintage finds, design pieces, even some flea market collector’s items, are meticulously colour-coordinated and placed in situ.
SWEETS hotel is an initiative founded by a creative collaboration between Amsterdam-based architecture office Space&Matter, project development partner Grayfield, and the design consultancy practice Seven New Things. Together, they composed each space of industrial heritage with an individual design concept, rooted in its context yet with modernity at its heart – perfect for today’s design-savvy destination tourist.
The most luxurious (and priciest) of the suites is the Amstelschutsluis (no. 206), located in the centre of Amsterdam, in a lock in the middle of the river Amstel – accessible only by boat with your very own private captain. This house dates from 1673 and offers the most unique of settings. Across from the Royal Theatre Carré, built to house a circus, boats meander by and early risers will be able to experience the pace of the nearby rowing club’s morning trainings. Reclaimed tiles from a historic building in the Eastern Docklands of Amsterdam complement the professional kitchen (a private chef can be arranged on request), where black, contemporary units are topped by warm wood and pots hang on the walls to save space.
The bedroom reveals an old chimney under the ridge of the roof, and painted wood panelling adds period detail, a nod to the age of the house. The interiors visually brings back to life its golden days, thanks to a colour specialist who has applied vintage colours from centuries past on walls and woodwork. Within a built-in storage unit behind the double bed, books, earthenware and glasses (solid steins as well as the finest antique crystals) are displayed, peeking out from behind chicken-wire doors.
A little further north, not far from Central Station and The National Maritime Museum, the Scharrebiersluis (no. 203) is a squat, compact house next to a traditional Dutch cafe. The walls lean in at angles, so the design team played upon this, curating bookshelves that slope against the wonky backdrop, humorously accessorised with spirit levels. Maximising on space, the double bed is sandwiched between a lime-green shelving unit and a small avocado-tiled bathroom, whose wall acts as a headboard (pictured, top of page). A comfortable seating area at street level offers views of the canal and the bridge master who still controls access to the waterways.
At the other end of the design spectrum, the Nieuwe Amstelbrug (no. 207) offers a minimalistic Scandinavian interior of white walls, untreated plywood and open shelves within its tiny build. The space has been cleverly designed with a queen-size bed elevated atop the bathroom and surrounding storage and shelves.
Each SWEETS hotel bridge house complements the era of the original building and takes advantage of the 360-degree views the bridge masters once relied on to keep an eye on passing canal traffic. Each house is an architectural gem that truly captures the imagination, where a room-with-a-view can be booked based on personal design preferences including location, budget, style and creature comforts – all within the city limits of one of Europe’s most sought-after destinations for today’s discerning traveller.
Laura Brown is co-founder of Lawrence Travel PR, and a travel journalist and writer.