If you have a creative background and are in business you don’t get to produce anything real any more, but I like to have a tangible thing at the end of a day.
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]utch designer Eelke Jan Bles founded the flooring company Solid Floor in 1994. Initially, the company was merely a supporting venture to finance his studies in Amsterdam and London but the company was a runaway success with everyone from Madonna to Tony Blair treading their floors, and Eelke and his business partner Robert Weems now also own the lifestyle and interiors store Solid ID in London.
Eelke has always had tremendous creative flair, initially training as a photographer and later as an architect, and has poured his creative energy into his Spitalfields home, designing and building much of it himself and drawing on his vast knowledge of natural materials, architecture and contemporary art to create a soulful home perfect for entertaining. Naturally, given that he founded a flooring company, wood features heavily in his home and has been used to stunning effect in every room.
Eelke bought the industrial-style unit, previously a sweatshop, in 1999 while working for a property developer. He describes it as being a ‘concrete box without windows’ when he first moved in so set about renovating the space in several stages. Inspired by his previous experience of living in a warehouse in nearby Shoreditch, Eelke wanted to retain the industrial feel of the building while injecting warmth and comfort through his love of wood. He also welcomed the opportunity to make bespoke pieces in his workshop, creating sideboards, lamps and cupboards himself. “If you have a creative background and are in business you don’t get to produce anything real any more but I like to have a tangible thing at the end of a day,” he explains.
One of the first structural changes he made was to install floor to ceiling folding glass doors cleverly linking the inside to the cobbled courtyard outside. Installing windows to the rear of the building revealed views over the famous Christchurch, Spitalfields, and brought much needed light. Initially he planned to live in one open plan space but found that he sleeps better in a small space, which also has the advantage that it is quiet, an essential quality when living in one of the city’s most vibrant quarters. Eelke divided the remaining space into an open plan living room and kitchen, with two bedrooms on one side and a wet room and minimal bespoke storage on the other.
Keen to have the kitchen at the heart of his home, it is this space that invites you in as you step through the enormous industrial-style front doors. Eelke designed the kitchen units himself from sleek panels of bamboo and wenge, while a large walnut and brushed steel dining table that he made sits at the centre of the room, over which hangs a classic pendant light by Verner Panton.
The timber floor in the main living area is a mixture of panga panga and merbau woods, uniting the kitchen with the living space with its vibrant colours and unusual pieces of art. In fact the only woodwork Eelke cannot lay claim to are the white storage cupboards that line the minimalist corridor leading to the concrete wet room. Here, Eelke was able to experiment with his love of unusual textures, choosing to plaster the wet room in concrete, despite the cracks, “I’m tall so I hate to be restricted, which is why a wet room works and the concrete and its textures are lovely with the ceramic sink. Everything I do is about texture.”