Wave of the Future: Joyce Urbanus and Dax RollJune 9, 2018
If you’re from Amsterdam, design is inevitably and predictably in your blood. That was the case for Joyce Urbanus and Dax Roll at least. “I thought I would have a creative profession,” Roll says, while Urbanus, even as a kid who could “barely spell interior architect,” knew “it was my one and only dream,” she remembers. It was certainly fated. They both helped their families redecorate their homes, with Roll joining his mom in painting the house and Urbanus transforming her room every few years. “My mom gave me the freedom to experiment with colors and fabrics,” she adds.
One day, not long after they met and fell in love, “we passed by a flea market where Joyce was hunting for treasures, and we found that we saw the same things for the same projects,” Roll notes. “That’s the moment where we decided to work together.” Not long after, in 2011, they founded Nicemakers, combining Urbanus’ interiors experience with Roll’s background in fashion, production, and sales.
SLA, a salad bar concept in Amsterdam, put the now 10-person firm on the map, leading to their most well-known project to date, the guestrooms of the Hoxton Amsterdam—a bespoke property that comprises five historic canal houses and 111 rooms (divided into 50 different room types) that offer a cozy, midcentury take on a historic building. “It was our first big hotel project, it was a huge challenge, and we gave it everything we had,” says Roll.
Every project, Urbanus points out, “is interesting in its own way.” Take a residential project in Maastricht in the south of Holland, where the duo transitioned a 1960s-era Brutalist-style building into the modern era with concrete, marble, and wood finishes. “We designed every single detail and collected rare vintage furniture pieces from all over the world,” notes Roll. Soon to come is the boutique 46-key Vondel Hotel on Rozenstraat in Amsterdam (among other locations of the brand), where the duo will restore another historic building to its former glory.
Ultimately, the twosome thrives on creating spaces that people could only dream of, Urbanus explains, by using their signature mix of natural materials, lush fabrics, rich colors, and vintage pieces. “Seeing those people living in it, and it fits perfectly,” she says, is the ultimate reward.