Full disclosure: I like stores that have coffee shops in them.
Part two of full disclosure: I kind of hate stores that have coffee shops in them. Because I love them.
Oh the curated, artisan, local design, lifestyle, deco store and coffee shop. You know exactly what I’m talking about. We’ve all been in them. In fact, we’re all lured to them. Seduced by their well-designed logos and their succulent plants in the doorway.
And so you enter.
You kick yourself for liking the space because you know it’s been orchestrated just so, with the intention that you will like it. They know your kind. You like nice things, even if you can’t really afford them. You dream of the countryside even though you live in an urban environment. You like bicycles, and while you ride a beat-up 10-speed, they know you’re longing for something nicer. You like being able to get a coffee in a place that’s not a traditional cafe. You like oak cheese boards, and architecture books on treehouses and striped scarves. Yes, you like all of these things.
You think you’re unique, maybe even a little bohemian, until you walk into this space, where you suddenly have a love/hate relationship with everything, because loving everything in this mecca of calculated design means you’re just like everyone else.
You page through the book on treehouses, internally screaming at yourself for liking treehouses in the first place. Then pause and ask yourself if any of the well-dressed staff working here, perfectly moulded mustaches and all, would ever be able to cut it living in a treehouse full time. Of course they wouldn’t. But you could, you tell yourself, to make yourself feel like you’re apart from the crowd. And you would hand-grind your own beans and make French presses all day if you lived in that treehouse.
Hutspot Amsterdam is one of these places. The kind of store that you hear about and say “I want to go check that out.” It’s a store, but also there’s a barber shop and there’s a cafe. It is not, in fact, Amsterdam’s only cafe/barber shop combination. Apparently that’s a thing. A barber shop in a coffee bar that’s also a retail den; this is just one of so many modern trend pathways on which we, as consumers, are free to walk.
The backstory to Hutspot feels familiar. The brand is billed as a “curator to an urbanized life,” according to their official website, which says so much and so little at the same time. It was founded by three youngsters in 2012 as a pop-up store. (Of course.) Then they expanded and became a full-time store. Then they expanded again and became an even bigger store. Concept with a capital “C.”
According to their website, Hutspot claims to look for “new and interesting brands, designers, artists, and entrepreneurs” in their endless quest to stock the space. “Everything in the shops is for sale. Except of course for Gumbo, the dog.”
You cannot help but love this space, but you also secretly resent it, because it’s “curated” to the extent that said curation is forced, and there has to be a limit to how far we as a nice-stuff-appreciating society are going to allow our buttons to be pushed. That dull, pointed buzz I feel at the back of my skull: Is it pain? Irony? Recognition? Every corner is an Instagram post waiting to happen; you will consider making an Instagram at least a half dozen times as you walk through Hutspot, and this is not by accident. And yet you want to curl up and stay awhile. Soak in this beautiful life that’s being handed to you on a plate, a plate that’s better than any other plate you’ve seen before, and certainly better than the one you’ve got back home in your humble cupboard.
You go upstairs for coffee, locally roasted by Bocca, and choose to sit in the funky space that feels moderately North African, if you had ever been to North Africa and knew what that was like. There are decorative pillows in bright colors. You want to sit here and nurse a soy latte all day. This is allowed.
You order an iced coffee and take it all in, under some sort of spell that makes it impossible to accurately or subjectively assess said coffee. You wonder if you should buy an oversized light bulb that doubles as a terrarium. Wouldn’t you feel more tranquil in your kitchen with that?
The space is full of furniture, tables, and things that can be described as accoutrements. You almost wonder if the people sitting and working on their MacBooks are part of the display, hired actors or subversive agents or lifestyle-porn stars. There’s a collection of cakes made from seasonal fruit delights. In the back, there’s a black single-speed bicycle. Behind it sits its box. It says “F*CK CARS.” You swoon. It is a real emotional moment within a wider simulacra of emotional moments.
You finish your coffee after playing a round of pool (yes, the pool table is for sale–remember, everything but Gumbo) and go back downstairs to the main floor. You have business to attend to. That cheeseboard.
It will be perfect for when you bike to picnics and bring your Swiss army knife to slice your artisan cheese. These things are undeniably good: useful tools, delicious food, the picnic concept itself. Humans have been eating food outside for countless millennia. You’re no different from a caveman; it’s just, well…your tools are a bit more, ah, curated. You need that cheeseboard. It’s so small and FSC-certified, and those diagonal cuts on the edges are a genius design detail. It will fit perfectly in your backpack. You’ll be able to bring cheese anywhere.
You will spread that cheese on bread made from locally milled flour and feel good about it. You’ll bring a Thermos of coffee and it will be the best picnic ever. Coffee and food always taste better outside; the caveman was no dummy. Your picnic will probably get documented, with the right camera filter I hope, because this is your life, and it is beautiful.