Holtkamp's Cake and Pastry Shop at Vijzelgracht 15, is proof that small can be beautiful. Very beautiful. The Holtkamp family founded a bakery on this spot in 1885 but in 1926, the son of the first baker commissioned Amsterdam School architect Piet Kramer to re-fit the shop in modern style. The result was what visitors see today - 18 square metres of varnished light oak fittings, dark coromandel wood and stained glass.
It is said that Kramer wanted to give the impression of entering Ali Baba's cave as customers came through the door, and like that gentleman's cave, Holtkamp's is full of treasure. That first baker's son clearly had good taste and an eye for the moderne as he also secured the services of artist Pieter den Besten to paint the wave like illustrations above the shelves. And these are not the only visual treasures. There is shelf upon shelf of cake, biscuits and pastries that would tempt even the most demanding of customers. And there is proof of this - as you enter you can see the coat of arms of the Dutch Royal Family above the door, proudly displayed by the owners to indicate that the shop is an appointed supplier to the Court.
In 2002, the store closed for one month to enable careful and sympathetic restoration overseen by architect Wim Quist. Mr. Quist has a very hard act to follow. Kramer and den Besten were leading lights amongst the highly influential Amsterdam School architects and their associates in the 1920's. Just before completing this small but perfectly formed project (!), Kramer had finished work on the de Bijenkhof department store in Den Haag and den Besten was responsible for amongst other things, the murals inside the stunning Tuschinksi Theatre on Amsterdam's Reguliersbreestraat - both highly significant achievements in Dutch art and architecture. Mr. Quist can be proud of himself. The shop is a delight.
Of course, with my architectural interests I love this little shop but I also love the products - some of which are beautiful enough to be considered works of art in themselves! In addition to this, there is a very welcoming atmosphere with the staff knowing many of the customers and making tourists (like me) feel very welcome by giving a smiling "yes" when I asked if it was OK to take photographs.
Amsterdam is full of little treasures like this - many of which are undiscovered by the majority of the city's visitors. You can read more about the amazing achievements of Dutch artists and architects before the Second World War here and here, whilst you can see more photographs of Amsterdam's architectural heritage here. I suddenly feel the need for coffee...and cake!