Dutch designer Jan des Bouvrie, known as ‘the grandmaster of white interiors’, succumbed to prostate cancer on October 4, at the age of 78.
Dutch designer Jan des Bouvrie, known as ‘the grandmaster of white interiors’, succumbed to prostate cancer on October 4, at the age of 78. The co-founder of the ‘Jan des Bouvrie studio’, in his 50 years of work has designed furniture, interiors, architecture, and arts and accessories. Bouvrie’s studio took to Instagram to announce the passing.
Bouvrie was known for his use of white, open spaces at a time when audacious and traditional interiors were in trend. His introduction of clean, minimalist designs in the Netherlands put the country on the design map of the world.
“Jan des Bouvrie, colorful as he was, made the world light and white,” said Bouvrie’s studio in an Instagram post, adding “Jan knew everything that is truly great and inspiring must be created by an individual who can work in full freedom.”
“Supported by an iron will and murderous discipline, constantly fed by an unbridled fantasy, Jan turned what seemed impossible into an opportunity. Death loses its horror when, like Jan, you have mowed away all obstacles and restrictions and, surrounded by everything dear to you, you hurl your last breath into the world.”
Jan des Bouvrie, born in 1942 in the city of Naarden, just east of Amsterdam, in a family of furniture retailers, studied arts and design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. After working for some time in his father’s company, he started designing furniture himself. With his wife, he established his design cum lifestyle cum restaurant studio in 1993 in a former 17th-century military building.
His design of the iconic Cube chair for the furniture company Gelderland in 1969 rose him to fame. The chair that is still in production today is also featured as a part of the permanent collection in the Stedelijk Museum and Utrechts Centraal Museum.
Bouvrie initially started designing furniture and interiors and then gradually designed commercial and residential buildings for the affluent and well-to-do. His designs made use of pure white symmetrical volumes.
A designer for both the rich and the poor, Bouvrie collaborated with both mass-market brands like Gamma hardware stores and Phillips and high-end brands like Lintello and Quasar. Jan des Bouvrie became a household name because he designed everything from small-scale household objects to large-scale architectural projects.
His biggest contribution to the Dutch household was to make them light and airy. Having been brought up in a house with no windows, he understood the importance of bright, well-lit spaces. He replaced the dull brown furniture with his signature white furniture. White was his favorite color. He was often seen dressed in white from head to toe.
“I have always sought the light”, said the designer.
A bon vivant, he also had a great affinity towards art. Bouvrie integrated the subtleties in artworks into his designs and interiors with great elegance. He advised parents to take their children to museums and galleries from a young age. “A whole world opens up for them. Parents discover that children display an original, frequently unexpected interest in what they see. They discover entirely new things that have a very positive influence later in life”.
Besides being a designer, he was a famous media personality and social figure. He regularly hosted an interior design show on television TV Woonmagazine from the 1990s to 2013. In 2014, he participated in the show as an interior designer. The media coverage helped him reach every home in the Netherlands and helped him add famous Dutch people to his clientele.
In recognition of his contributions to the design world, he has two design colleges named after him. He has won many awards and distinctions for his work including the Culture Prize of 1974, the Style Prize in 1990, and the Furniture Prize in 1999. He is also conferred with the ‘Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion’, the country’s oldest and highest civilian order of chivalry, for his achievements in the field of art and design.
Many people contributed to the life of Bouvrie on Instagram, from football players and actors to real estate tycoons and design leaders. The Dutch design studio, Piet Boon paid a heartfelt tribute to the works of Jan des Bouvrie in an Instagram post, “…It is an incredible thing, that when the Dutch think of the color white, they think of you.”
As stated in their Instagram post, Jan’s studio, under the leadership of his wife Monique, ‘will continue his autograph, his vision, his optimism, and his joie de vivre’ through their work.