Story and photo by Diane Slawych
Call it a home away from home, or better yet, make that several homes away from home. One of the first things visitors see when they arrive by train in Zaandam, 19 km north of Amsterdam, is the eye-catching Inntel Hotel.
Its exterior is composed of the facades of nearly 70 historic abodes that are modeled after five different types of houses to be found in the Zaan region, from a labourer’s cottage to a villa.
The 12-storey, 160-room hotel, which was renovated in 2010, was designed by Wilfried van Winden who describes his inventive method of combining the historic and modern in one structure as “fusion architecture.”
The core of the building is concrete, while the house facades are a combination of timber and clapboard. They’re painted in one of four shades of green typical of the Zaan region.
The striking exception is the blue corner house, located high up on the structure, which is said to be the architect’s favourite. The house is an homage to Claude Monet, the French impressionist artist who spent four months in Zaandam with his family in 1871, during which time he produced 26 paintings, including one called The Blue House.
It was based on an actual house, which is now a registered national monument. It’s located at Hogendijk 78, a 15-minute walk from the train station.
The Intel Hotel Zaandam is part of a downtown development that includes several other new buildings constructed in the traditional styles and colours.
The interior of the hotel, which is equipped with all the modern conveniences, reflects the rich history of the area. There are windmill-shaped lamps and hallway carpets designed to represent the flowing Zaan River.
Each room is unique, though all the décor is inspired by the pioneers of the local industries and products of the region such as cheese, mustard, biscuits and chocolate. This is reflected in the photographs and wall-sized reproductions of antique product labels and ads.
From the Factory Design Room you can see the historic panoramas of nearby factories. The hotel is particularly proud of its Tsar Peter Suite, designed entirely in the style of the Tsar Peter house, the oldest house in Zaandam, where Peter the Great stayed in 1697 while he was learning the ship’s carpenter trade.
To the north of Zaandam is Zaanse Schans, an open air conservation area where you can visit famous mills, tour a shipyard, a clog factory or the cheese makers – and see the famous Zaan houses that are the model for the hotel’s façade.
The Inntel is a chain of six Dutch hotels typically situated in beautiful locations and designed to blend in with their surroundings. Each one is completely different. And you can bet there’s not another quite like the Inntel Zaandam.