designboom interview with studio modijefsky's esther stam
From Booking.com’s immersive City Campus interiors to buzzing bars, bistros, hotels, and spas, Studio Modijefsky’s pool of hospitality projects celebrates the art of creating memorable spaces seeped in color, textures, and tradition. The interior architecture and design practice was established in central Amsterdam by Esther Stam, who built a team of eleven women to kickstart her practice and bring delightful familiarity to social spaces. For each project, Stam relates the design to the context while experimenting with texture and materials, light and routing, height and depth, and sight and tactility — shaping interiors that exceed expectations. ‘Good spaces are great settings for new memories’, she tells designboom in a recent interview. Following that gentle take on hospitality interiors, the studio brought Gitane to life earlier this summer — a restaurant project dedicated to a celebrated young chef in Amsterdam.
Gitane (2023), Amsterdam | all images © Maarten Willemstein
Designed for chef Angelo Kremmydas, whose meals ooze cross-cultural flavors served without pretension, Gitane by Studio Modijefsky (see more here) achieves an ambiance of casual elegance, engulfing visitors in warm wooden tones, intricate textures, and creative geometries. A ground floor, mezzanine, and bar make up the dining space, each catering to different moods and times of day. Together, they welcome a drinking and dining atmosphere where everyone, from food connoisseurs to residents, will feel at home.
A wooden vestibule with colored glass nudges visitors into the ground floor, where a double-height restaurant space reveals a large, dark-orange neon ‘BAR’ sign atop the entrance. The room features a mix of classic and custom furniture and lighting, including vintage café chairs, tall lamps, arched windows, leather-finished barstools, and terrazzo-integrated benches. Two steps below, the bar area holds a zigzag-shaped terrazzo structure with pink accents recalling the exterior’s brick facade. Contrasting the bar is a marbled tiled floor and a dark brown aged mirror ceiling that reflects the lighting spheres and patterns of the sculptural bar beneath, capturing the play between robust, weathered materials, and the fresh tiles and terrazzo. The mezzanine, meanwhile, connects to the ground floor through a geometric rattan ceiling pattern and an original wooden staircase. Studio Modijefsky adorned this level with a railing of metallic brown vertical elements along the edge, large windows, a service area, tables, benches, and a banquette, all endowed with zigzagging details. Lastly, an outdoor terrace along the facade invites a gathering around custom wooden love seats under striped red and orange awnings.
This soothing design narrative ultimately reflects and emblematizes the practice’s mission to reinvent how people interact with an interior. Upon the release of Gitane, we spoke with Esther Stam who unpacked that mission to create memorable interiors — discussing her approach to hospitality design, material compositions, heritage and locality, and much more. Read on as we share the full interview.
Gitane (2023), Amsterdam: a restaurant for Chef Angelo Kremmydas
designboom (DB): When was Studio Modijefsky founded, and what projects did you first start working on?
Esther Stam (ES): Studio Modijefsky was founded in 2009 by me, Esther Stam. When I first started, I worked on many things — from train station tunnels to custom furniture pieces, from office spaces to festival stages. Some of my first hospitality projects were Visaandeschelde — a Fish restaurant in the south of Amsterdam, a collaboration with Studio Molen and Piet de Gruyter — and a local bar in Amsterdam West.
DB: How did you go into hospitality design? How has your style/approach in this sector evolved over the years?
ES: I was always fascinated by hospitality. It’s an environment that inspires me, feeds me, and where people go to enjoy life and celebrate, share stories, and create new ones. It’s spaces where you relax and enjoy a different scenery, experience new flavors and music, meet people, and have different interactions. Good spaces are great settings for new memories. Our approach hasn’t changed in essence. We look at concept, context, history, light, architectural surroundings, spatial features, food that will be served, drinks that will be poured, people that will visit, music that will be played, graphic identity, natural surroundings, and local traditions and materials… There is a big research leading to a strong and unique design language that is site-specific and tailor-made. We refine our research and ways to design. Our knowledge of materials is still growing, as well as our network of professionals, craftsmen, and people we collaborate with, making our designs even more distinctive and refined.
Gitane (2023), Amsterdam: creating casual elegance
DB: Digging deeper into your approach — each of your projects radiates with colors, layers, and textural richness. What emotional responses or impressions do you wish to convey through your compositions?
ES: We approach every project with an open mind and zero preconceptions. Yet time and time again, we are drawn towards the same things: authenticity, craftsmanship, patterns in nature, faded finishes, timeworn materials, daylight moving through a space, unique architectural features, local traditions — and lists. We love long lists. We’re not attracted to all these things because they’re visually appealing but because they spark an emotional response that a pristine finish can’t. A rumpled, distressed surface piques our curiosity and calls out to be touched. The shape of a table leg refers to a chapter of that building’s history. Lighting directs you subliminally to the part of the space you didn’t know you wanted to be.
We provoke these physical and emotional responses with stories rooted in a building’s location. The first step is to delve into a building’s origins, architecture, and former uses. These form the seeds of a concept, the start of a story. To bring these stories to life, we use six tools: materials, volumes, light, color, textures, and shapes. Each tool offers multiple design possibilities on its own, but it’s only when the tools are applied together that they realize their full potential. For example, how colors, shapes, and materials are seen, felt, and appreciated depends on the light and textures we add for tactility. The volume of a space, the size, and shape of the objects we fill it with instigate interactions and turn static interiors into exciting adventures. Combining our tools empowers us to translate the data behind our concept into something much more poetic: the next chapter in a location’s story.City Campusinteriors barsStudioModijefsky’s hospitality she tells designboom in a recent interview. Angelo KremmydasGitanehereUpon the release of Gitane, we spoke with Esther Stam who unpacked that mission to create memorable interiors — discussing her approach to hospitality design, material compositions, heritage and locality, and much more. Read on as we share the full interview.designboom (DB): When was Studio Modijefsky founded, and what projects did you first start working on?Esther Stam (ES): VisaandescheldeStudio MolenPiet de GruyterDB: How did you go into hospitality design? How has your style/approach in this sector evolved over the years?ES:DB: Digging deeper into your approach — each of your projects radiates with colors, layers, and textural richness. What emotional responses or impressions do you wish to convey through your compositions?ES: