Home & Design

A Colorful Dutch Apartment Where Everything Is Under $200

In this special “Risk Month” edition of Real Cool People, Real Cool Apartments, we check out the Dutch home of Man Repeller community member Laura Steenge. Our intentions behind the creeping: to learn what she’s all about. As with clothes, the way you decorate a room expresses your personality. In its most ideal form, it signals to guests how you interpret yourself. Take a peek into her home and brain, and meet her in the comments.


Utrecht city center in the Netherlands


Living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom

What do you do?

I am a waiter and a student. I’ll be graduating soon with a bachelors degree in Communication and Media Design. After that I’m going to look for a job in a creative field. I love concept and visual design, but making clothes is my main interest is at the moment. I’ve always had a passion for clothing, but recently there is nothing that makes me wag my tail more than making my own.

How long have you lived here?

I’ve been living here for two years now.

Who do you live with, animals included?

There are four people living in my building, including myself. I share a bathroom and kitchen with someone else. Two of those people own a cat. I don’t own any animals myself, but I do get the perks of cuddling with them.

What do you like about living in Utrecht?

There are so many things that I love about Utrecht. It’s a smaller town with incredible architecture, and there are many stunning canals and buildings. I love that I can get around anywhere by riding my bike. It’s not a very car-friendly city. It’s also pretty central in the Netherlands, which means I can get to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or the Hague in under an hour. Sometimes you need a little change of scenery, and it’s very easy to facilitate that here. When I was 20, I lived in London for three months. It was hard to meet people there because it’s such a big city. I encountered new people every day, but I knew I would probably never see them again. I wanted to live somewhere where I could have a balance between being anonymous and running into familiar faces, although anonymity is harder to maintain after living here for eight years. Some say there isn’t enough to do here, but I am never bored.

How does the area, if at all, influence your interior design choices?

Utrecht has a lot of antique shops and you can tell the city center has a lot of Jugendstil and Art nouveau influences. I never get sick of taking in my surroundings.

What’s your favorite thing about your home?

It’s hard to name one thing in my home that’s my favorite. Probably a little table I got from my mom. It was the first item she ever bought when she moved into her first apartment. Finding an affordable living space in Utrecht is very difficult, so my other favorite thing about my home is that it’s located in city center, with high ceilings and a bedroom separate from the living room space, and the fact that  I don’t have to share my toilet with sixteen other people. Beyond that, I love that there is so much happening when I look out my window. Every day I wake up happy that this is my home.

Do you ever work from home and if so, what’s that like? Is it important to you to have a dedicated work space or do you work from bed/the couch?

I work a lot from home. I do all of my sewing on my dining table and I love it. It does get a little messy sometimes, with threads everywhere. When I’m working on a project I can’t stop, and when I’m at home I don’t have to. I used to live in a smaller house, which frequently forced me go out to coffee places to study, but I’m so happy that I now have enough space to sew and study from home. I don’t have any particular place in my home that is dedicated to doing work. I would work in the shower if I could somehow prevent my laptop from getting wet.

Did you have an overall vision in mind when you started decorating?

My ultimate dream house is the one Yves Saint Laurent shared with his partner Pierre Bergé. It was simply incredible. I love it when you walk into a room and don’t immediately understand what’s going on — a space where every corner contains something you’ve never seen. I’m not saying my house is anything like that, but that’s my fantasy.

The Biba department store in 1950s London is another place that absolutely crushed the decorating game. My mom told me that she sometimes went to London for a day to specifically shop at Biba. You should really Google it right away. That place is gorgeous. Places like that definitely inspire the crap out of me.

There are tons of other places where I get my ideas from, though: music documentaries, certain musicians, the 20s/60s/70s, a movie or simply just browsing through Pinterest. For me, personally decorating is a process that can hardly be accomplished in one week. My place is never really “done.” I want to add so much more. I’m on a continuous hunt for new nice things. For my next project I would like to create a mural painting of clouds (although because I’m renting this place I’m not allowed to paint the wood — otherwise it would be all kinds of bright at this point).

What did you think about when decorating? What was the process like?

The first thing I wanted to do was paint my walls a darker/brighter color. Everyone said, “No don’t do it. It will make you space look smaller,” and I thought, Fuck it, let’s make the damn room look smaller, I want to have colored walls. I’m not one of those people who craves rooms with a lot of light. I actually like darker spaces.

After that I went on a hunt for furniture that I loved, antiques in particular. I’m a sucker for velvet, so the velvet couch was the first thing I bought. I looked everywhere for the perfect one. I originally wanted a bright blue one, but couldn’t find one I could afford. Velvet couches can be so bloody expensive, but eventually I found my green one for only 75 euros. At first it looked horrible with my green walls, but when I added more items to the space it all came together.

Most items I own are stuff people needed to get rid of after their grandmothers passed away — I kid you not. I also scavenge the Dutch Craigslist equivalent constantly. The most expensive thing in my house is my rug, which was 160 euros. The rest is all way less expensive that that. Almost all things can be traced back to (same thing as Craigslist), thrift-shops and antique stores.

The thing I have to replace most often is my plants. The plants in these photos have probably already died by the time you see them. RIP. Being a plant parent is hard sometimes, but then again, being my plant child is even harder. If I ever have the budget where spending 300 euros on a tree wouldn’t be a ridiculous thing to do, I would buy an indoor tree for my living room.

What “risks” did you take during your decorating process?

Well, to begin with, painting my walls green. I had no clue if that was going to work out. Even though I think about everything I buy, I also try not to overthink it and just say YOLO (yeah, it’s 2018 and I still use that acronym more often than any human should.). Even if it doesn’t end up looking quite right, I try to make it work anyways. Just do it and if it doesn’t work you’ll worry about it tomorrow.

My apartment is filled with bright, clashing colors, but for some reason it comes together. Every time I buy something online I take a risk. That antique closet is a good example. I thought it was waaaay smaller than it ended up being. I thought I was buying a cute little dressoir! I learned that lesson the hard way while attempting to carry upstairs (thank you, Willem).

Do you have any “rules” in the home, like no working in bed, no eating on the couch

No, a house is there to be lived in. I don’t think I have any rules at all.

Photos taken by homeowner, Laura Steenge

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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