KLM Crown Lounge, Netherlands

Images: Wouter van der Sar | Wilkins Studio

With lighting design from Deerns, Concrete interior design studio created a quirky KLM lounge at Schiphol airport that accentuates the brand of the Dutch airline. 

Late in 2019, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport celebrated the opening of the recently-completed KLM Crown Lounge – a collection of characteristic spaces inspired by KLM, its Dutch background and local heritage that becomes a destination in itself for global travellers.

The lounge, designed by Amsterdam-based interior design studio Concrete, combines the latest technology and high-end service requirements with quirky flourishes that accentuate the brand of the Dutch airline.

Lisa Hassanzadeh, Partner and Head of Interiors at Concrete, tells darc: “KLM asked us to create a whole new lounge to accommodate the brand experience of KLM on the ground. Our brief was to build the best airport lounge in the world, inheriting the characteristics of KLM and the Netherlands.

“It took us years to guide the initial design through all parties, regulations and phases, but in the end we managed to bring the conceptual design into realisation.”

The House of KLM marks the entrance to the new lounge: a two-storey Dutch house that offers stunning views over the runway. On entering, travellers are greeted by a large white marble welcome desk that, together with four Luna globe pendants from In-es.artdesign, and a custom cross pendant designed by Concrete and manufactured by In-es.artdesign, form a giant abstraction of the KLM logo. 

From its grand entrance, the lounge then divides into five different areas, each inspired by the Dutch landscape: The Polder, The Dutch Mountain, The City, The Sea and The Sky. All spaces are connected by a ‘Sunset’ light wall – a 110-metre LED back wall that mimics the colours of the sky throughout the day. This light wall gives the lounge a second, artificial façade, while helping guests adjust to the correct timezone.

The Polder is a spacious seating area inspired by the typical Dutch landscape, with straight lines and a natural green colour palette. While the Sunset light wall provides general lighting to this space, it is complemented by decorative fixtures from Vibia and Piet Hein Eek. The space features an artificial street, in which pillars along the length of the Sunset wall are clad in artificial tree bark, as an homage to the trees bordering the streets and canals of Amsterdam. High tables sit at these ‘trees’, each with their own bespoke copper lamp designed by Piet Heijn Eeek and manufactured by LEdSign.but adapted at the request of Concrete especially for the lounge.

Connecting The Polder on the ground floor with The Sky upstairs is The Dutch Mountain – a giant, wooden, liveable staircase that celebrates Dutch creativity. Various landing platforms offer new places for visitors to linger, from hidden seating niches and co-working spaces, to a smoking area, intimate TV room and even a DJ booth. Two-storey display cabinets showcase an impressive collection of work from established and upcoming Dutch designers, while at the top of the stairs, Delft blue tiles based on images shown in KLM’s safety video provide a backdrop for the DJ booth. The staircase is peppered with striking decorative finishes, such as Studio Job’s Bucket floor lamp, and Moooi’s Rabbit lamp, alongside floor and table lamps from Frandsen. 

At the top of the Dutch Mountain is The Sky, featuring a bar area and Restaurant Blue – a high-end, fine-dining establishment with a menu from Michelin-starred chef Joris Bijdendijk. The bar space is defined by a 15-metre long backlit bar counter, while elevated seating niches opposite the bar offer a more private, intimate setting for guests to enjoy a drink. To the rear of the bar, seating booths open up towards a terrace, offering overwhelming views of the runways. Concrete again worked with LEdSign to develop custom chrome light fixtures in the bar area; 2-3-metres in length, each fixture has the name of a KLM destination at its end, and is pointing in the direction of that location.

Restaurant Blue features a blend of materials; contrasting finishes of marble and wood, alongside the stainless steel open kitchen island create a luxurious ambience befitting the fine-dining on offer. A broad variety of decorative lighting furthers this ambience, from JSPR’s grand Aurora, Moooi’s Random pendants and Lee Broom’s Crystal lamps, to floor lamps from Modo Luce and Atelier Areti.

Elsewhere, The City serves as the vibrant heart of the lounge, with a radial structure clad in oak wood housing the main F&B points at its very centre. Around this central focal point, various seating possibilities are placed, from long, natural-coloured leather benches with individual coffee tables, to communal oak tables, where custom-made copper lamps from Piet Hein Eek provide illumination. A circular ramp from this seating area leads to The Sea; the most remote, relaxed and quiet part of the lounge. Here, spacious lounge seating and niche areas offer a more private space for travellers looking to relax and refresh before their onward journey.

Throughout the myriad spaces of the KLM Crown Lounge, Concrete sought to use decorative fittings to create a more homely, welcoming atmosphere for guests. Hassanzadeh explains: “Decorative lighting plays a major role in all of our designs. We designed the KLM Lounge as a house, a place where you feel at home while travelling. The lighting should reflect this notion – no system ceilings and lots of warm white directional light. Next to this we designed some striking lighting features, such as the Sunset wall, the KLM welcome installation and the light sculptures in the Sky bar and restaurant.”

When developing the architectural lighting for the Crown Lounge, Concrete worked alongside lighting consultants Deerns – a “very fruitful collaboration” according to Hassanzadeh, owing to Deerns’ previous experience of working within Schiphol Airport and other hospitality projects.

The Deerns lighting design team assisted in ensuring that the lighting helped to “create the perfect atmosphere and support the interior design in the best possible way”. A key factor to achieve this was in specifying architectural fixtures that would complement and enhance the decorative elements chosen by Concrete, as Mathijs Sommeijer, Architectural Lighting Designer, at Deerns explains: “The general light from the ceiling was only designed for the minimum level required on the floor and for cleaning purposes.”

As such, the Deerns selected minimalistic architectural lighting fittings that did not draw too much attention to the ceiling, providing enough general illumination, without drawing focus from the statement decorative pieces. “From Lucent Lighting we selected the MiniTrim Round series equipped with a Xicato module and EldoLED driver. For the LED pixels solutions Sakma was chosen as the manufacturer after several mock-up sessions and all cove lighting and stair lights were selected from LEDlinear. Its HydraFlex and Venus lines were used in the project.”

This, Hassanzadeh feels, greatly contributes to the “overall welcoming and homely feeling” within the lounge. As all the elements came together towards the final testing phases of the project, Sommeijer could tell that it was going to be a success. “We as a design team met several evenings before opening to tune the light and create the right scenarios,” he tells darc. “At that point it became clear that we had created a very special project that really created the intimate atmosphere the client and architect were looking for.

“This project stands out because our client was very ambitious, but it really worked as we had planned for; providing a soft architectural basis that creates the right atmosphere to experience all the decorative elements, light and furniture.

“But the best complements came from the floor managers and travellers some months after opening. Many noticed the lighting, which is taken for granted most of the time.”

Hassanzadeh adds: “We are proud of the result! In fact, the build hardly differs from our very first sketches. It is hospitality at a whole different level, because of the short period of time guests spend here and the big amount of visitors who visit the lounge over the course of a day, you can offer more excitement, entertainment and more outspoken design.

“We think that we managed to build our ambition: the best airport lounge in the world.”

www.concreteamsterdam.nl | www.deerns.com