Proef Amsterdam by Marije Vogelzang

Once an experimentation site for conceptual dining, the studio space of this “eating designer” becomes a laid back bar and restaurant. Text Anna Bates

“I got a bit bored of the whole design thing,” says Marije Vogelzang. “Design is not really so important – in fact, I feel I am a designer less and less. Maybe it’s a bit big to say, but I’m becoming more interested in philosophy than design.”

It’s not a statement you’d expect from Vogelzang, the highly conceptual “eating designer” famed for tap-water tasting events, baking on the shades of Angelpoise lamps, and making diners eat through dough table cloths to get to food. But the declaration explains the shift we’ve seen in the designer’s recent projects. She is taking fewer private dining commissions and getting more involved in ethical and community projects – she’s currently working with a local hospital to design out malnutrition.

But perhaps the biggest shift is the change to her studio space. Once an experimentation site for conceptual dining, Proef (meaning to taste) is now a laid back bar and restaurant, considerably different to her first “over designed” café in Rotterdam, where diners sat in one-offs, eating from limited edition crockery and cutlery.

“It’s super simple,” says Vogelzang. “The food is seasonal, local and fresh, the chickens run around the garden, and we grow herbs and fresh flowers that we use in the food and cocktails.” With the exception of Dutch brand Arco’s furniture, “it isn’t so styled.” Much of the materials used are reclaimed, and the crockery is from second hand shops. Plants preside over everything.

But, of course, there’s still a smattering of Vogelzang’s signature interventions; food arrives in old jam jars and then there’s those cheeky illustrations that decorate the walls and menus. In terms of atmosphere, it’s more like going to a friend’s to eat than a sit down restaurant. She provides blankets and hampers so you can take the food off to the near-by park if you don’t want to eat on site. All the emphasis is on sharing, so food is served like tapas: “You tick the box of what you want and get lots of little things and share them,” says Vogelzang. “Even the soup is served in a teapot so you can share it with your friends. It’s much more about what’s important – good food and creating a good atmosphere.”

As for the displaced design studio, “that’s wherever I am,” Vogelzang says. “I like that it doesn’t really exist in a space anymore.” Anna Bates

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