The Dutch Touch
Wherever he lands in the world Gerard Bos unpacks his shipping container and makes a comfy home.
Six weeks ago Bos moved to Hamilton from Tokyo where was he was Customer Experience Manager for Ikea Japan
“My container arrived from Tokyo and then I’m like a little animal about to go into hibernation. It has to be all unpacked I just need to have it finished. I have a busy job, I’m travelling a lot, and it’s important to me that I don’t live out of boxes for three or four months.”
When Bos signed on for a three-year assignment as Customer Experience Manager for Ikea Canada, he naturally assumed he’d live in Toronto. “I thought that was the place to be,” he says.
But it took just one rush hour drive from Toronto to Ikea head office in Burlington for Bos to change his mind.
He started to look for a place to live close by. Location agents showed him 20 rentals mostly in Burlington and Oakville, but missing was the spark of the big cities he’d lived in across Europe where he worked for Ikea and before that for British Airways.
"Being in the home furnishing business, home is important to me, I need to feel at home the minute I open the door, particularly when you live in different countries over the years, that’s even more important.”
So Bos, a native of Holland started his own home search and focused on Hamilton. "I started to look on Realtor and Kijiji, than driving one day I spotted the building and thought “This is lovely.”
The building was in the Stinson neighbourhood, a former factory converted to lofts. Bos walked in and said ‘This is it.”
And it is lovely, with warm wood floors, exposed beams, and big windows with deep sills. The street with houses dating to the 1870’s, is “like stepping back in time” Bos says.
When the container arrived it didn’t take Bos long to put things in order. His pieces are well travelled, Switzerland, Belgium London, Glasgow, the island Jersey, Tokyo and more.
"This is why home is so important, you gather your own things, develop style, the minute your container arrives and you take your things out and find a home for them that suits that layout, and somehow it always works.”
Though the loft in Hamilton is two floors, most time is spent on the open space main floor that encompasses the kitchen, dining area, living spaces, office and bedroom.
Walk in the front door and you’re immediately in the living space. An antique chest of drawers purchased in London in the 90’s and a slim wooden shelf mounted by the front door help organize arrival and departure clutter.
To the right is the living room, with a gas fireplace glowing and morning light coming in the from the east. “This has the loft look but it doesn’t have that emptiness you sometimes get in lofts because the ceilings aren’t that high. I like a warm, cozy feel in the home,” Bos says.
A big leather sofa faces am iconic Noguchi coffee table Bos bought in Belgium 20 years ago, and two Italian designed chairs, are also well travelled. “I love their shape, and they are very comfortable.”
Factory sized windows have minimal coverings, and the deep sills are all used for displays of pieces collected over the years.
“I grew up at home with plants and flowers on the window sills, that’s quite common in Holland. These sills are almost like cabinets and great to display the things you love. I do love my Dutch touches.”
A compact and efficient kitchen faces a small dining area where Bos has grouped “up-cycled” wooden chairs with a mango wood table.
Beyond the kitchen and framed by hefty wood pillars and ceiling beams another sitting area showcases a beautiful antique glass cabinet that stores dishes, cups and books. It has moved seven times with Bos. A striking orange two-seater sofa divides living room from bedroom. “I spotted it in Sweden in the Ikea design centre before it was launched and had to have it.” Bos swapped out the wooden legs for metal ones for a modern look, using Ikea’s clever mix and match theory of flexible design. He did the same at his window-facing desk, resting a rectangle of bamboo wood on top of an Ikea set of drawers for a warm approach to office decor.
In many ways Bos’s loft is like a living lab of design solutions. Storage space is at a minimum, so he uses cabinets, trolleys on wheels, and chests for storage. “I’m not a minimalist, but I don’t like a lot of clutter,” he says. To expand the sense of space at night he uses small Ikea floor lamps in each corner of the room.
Ikea’s philosophy of accessible design and flexible solutions comes naturally to the 52-year-old.
“Because (the loft) is all open space you need to think about colour schemes, using similar tones, and then creating compartments within the open space, for sleeping work, and dining. If the flooring is the same throughout it helps.”
Between getting to know Ikea’s 13 major stores across Canada, Bos wants to get to know Hamilton. “I appreciate the diversity and creativity, there’s a nice feel about this city that I like.”
And it all looks better through the windows with “the Dutch touch."