One of our #Dylandiscoveries is a hidden gem on the prestigious Prinsengracht, our neighbours at the back: Anouk Beerents Antique mirrors. We’ve had a little chat with Anouk, and she told us about her beautiful workspace, her craftmanship and also the story behind the mirror which proudly adorns our lounge, which she curated for us..
Tell us a little bit about yourself..
I was born in 1961 in Amsterdam and grew up in the city with my brother and sister. We had a creative upbringing, with two parents that owned their own businesses in the fashion industry. This is where I first cultivated an eye for beautiful things and the eagerness to one day own my own business as well. Nowadays I live with my husband Hans and two daughters, Cato and Anna (18 and 20) in the Plantage neighborhood Amsterdam, near the zoo.
How did you start this unique craftmanship?
After finishing my law studies in Leiden, I followed my heart and decided to make a job out of my hobby. My passion started in the early days, as our family house had a lot of antique mirrors. Back then I was always hunting for nice presents at flea markets. For me, an antique mirror is not only a unique decorative piece from the past, it serves to enlighten and enrich any place. The flaws in the mirrored glass, weathered by ravages of time show history in its imperfect beauty.
In 1989 I started my business. I specialized in importing and exporting antique mirrors, which I sold from my parents house, an old tobacco factory on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal. In the beginning it was mostly friends and family who asked me to hunt for them. Which grew into friends of friends and so on. In combination with my participation in antique fairs and slowly gaining publicity, my hobby sure enough turned into a business.
How did the gallery come into existence?
In 1995 I managed to find a large, 450 square meter manufactory hall on the Prinsengracht, just around the corner from what is now The Dylan. The place was far too big and way too expensive, but I fell in love with it the moment I saw it! 50 meters deep with two immense skylights in the middle; even space to park your cars inside.
Originally the space was divided into many small little sections. Together with my husband, who is an architect, we removed all the partitions and redesigned the space, dividing it into an area for my mirror workshop and one that could be used as his architecture office.
We used antique “orangerie doors” for the studio and luggage racks from the old train “ De Hondekop”. We lighted the place with large-scale lamps I sourced from a chicken hatchery – formerly used to keep newborn chicks warm. As well as French street lighting from old factories.
It was a major investment, but one worth it as it has become a world of my own. Located in the heart of the vivid Jordaan, along a canal where we have lunch in summer on the sidewalk, watching the boats pass by and with such special neighbours like hotel The Dylan, we are constantly reminded of how lucky we are and how we made the right choices so long ago.
How has it evolved since it opened?
The atelier now houses a collection of around 450 antique mirrors made in the 18th and 19th century. Most of the mirrors come from France or Italy and are assessed upon arrival to determine what restorations are necessary. We use traditional techniques to return the mirrors to their former glory while maintaining their aged patina.
The mirrors are hung three or four rows deep, attached on iron chains to a rail system. This allows visitors to easily sift between the large yet delicate pieces.
For the past 25 years I’ve been working with Doménique Boon – my left hand woman – who started as an intern and hasn’t left since. The two of us source and restore all the mirrors in the atelier.
Where do you source your mirrors?
Our collection is constantly changing as we travel across Europe searching for new treasures. We operate on an appointment only schedule due to the fact that we need to travel many times throughout the year.
In the beginning our clients were mostly from the Netherlands. In the last ten years it has evolved to a more international clientele. We sell and ship all over the world. While some buy online, we still love the face to face interaction we get with people who come to see our space in person.
What is the fondest memory you have from the atelier?
The first time when we found the place. I was completely overwhelmed by its scale and glorious skylights. And although it needed a lot of work I was convinced we could make it ours! When we were reinventing the space we started by breaking it all open – removing all the ugly small rooms. At the end we had one huge open space with a leaking ceiling. In those days it would get much colder – temperatures of -10 degrees were far more frequent. We even considered having a pop-up indoor ice rink. But after thinking about how much water it would actually take we ditched the idea.
Do you have a current favourite piece? And what piece would you never sell?
Is it too cliché to say they are all my favourite? I mean, it’s why I source them in the first place – each one being spectacular is my main criteria.
A good example of a particularly special mirror is this one from the early 18th century. Look at the splendid quality considering the piece was made by hand roughly 300 years ago. After that only touched by time, and never again a human hand. Beautifully aged patina and with its original mercury mirror glass. A true museum-quality piece.
Every mirror in my collection is for sale. I like the flow. And it makes me happy when a client is as excited about a mirror as I am. That’s also a precious part of my way of living.
One of your mirrors proudly adorns our lounge, can you tell us the story behind this mirror?
The mirror is French and dated around 1750. The style of the mirror is Louis XV – this style is light playful, delicate and asymmetrical. It is characterized by flowing scrolls, frills and rather curly stylized decorations. Nature has been the major source of inspiration here – as you can see the floral decoration. A very nice mirror for this location. Traditionally mirrors were hung above fireplaces and in between windows. The function has always been providing light, space and grandeur. It enriches the elegant lounge of The Dylan and welcomes you upon entering..
Are you curious to find out more about Anouk Beerents and her carefully curated selection of antique mirrors? Studio visits are by appointment only – our concierges are always delighted to make a few calls for you..
Photos by Don Freeman