I Married Adventure
Over 100 years ago, a husband and wife adventure team introduced the American audience to the wilds and wonders of the world. Martin and Osa Johnson were explorers in the truest sense of the word. Going where no one else had gone before, together, studying the peoples, culture and wildlife of faraway places in Africa and the South Pacific Islands. For many Americans, the couples’ romantic and riveting accounts of these places were a first encounter with the world outside of their comfort zone.
A first edition copy of Osa Johnson’s autobiography I Married Adventure rests on the coffee table in the middle of Creative Director Dan O’Kelly’s living room. A gift to his wife, the little book speaks volumes of the type of life Dan and his family lead in their tree top house looking over the wild West of Amsterdam. The O’Kelly’s home is filled with treasures, hints of past adventures and suggestions of more to come.
Originally from New York, Daniel’s Amsterdam adventure started about 18 years ago when he took a job as pr director for Tommy Hilfiger. Fast forward some years and you find him as the creative director of the brand, responsible for the look-and-feel of Hilfiger showrooms all over the world, as well for Calvin Klein and consulting for Karl Lagerfeld.
Daniel’s most recent project is People’s Place No. 5, just across the street from the PVH headquarters and tucked behind the People’s Place Deli. Adjacent to the original People’s Place, No. 5 is the latter’s smaller, more intimate little sister. As a restaurant open only on Thursday and Friday nights for no more than 40 guests, No. 5 maintains the warm wood tones and sleek interior of the venue next door, yet exudes an exclusive identity all its own.
People’s Place No. 5 is located in Oud-West which happens to also be the neighbourhood the O’Kelly’s call home. It’s right by Vondelpark, the city’s most popular green paradise, and despite being the centre of town, maintains a residential feel. Small, tree-lined side-streets with stately old townhouses and hardly any traffic lead off from busy main streets chockfull of shops and restaurants.
“It’s a fantastic neighbourhood, such a charming vibe,” Dan gushes, and mentions the three times he moved, he never left the area. Not intentional, mind you, it just so happened.
Much like how he came across his current home. Dan and his wife Marielle were wandering around the neighbourhood with their dog and simply walked by.
“We saw the construction going on outside so we dipped in and just asked,’ Dan recalls. The house wasn’t on the market yet, and the contractor was just getting ready to redo it. Perfect timing for an adventurous Creative Director who prefers having a say in what goes into a home.
The Less Rules, The Better
The O’Kelly’s house is a warm, bright, colourful place in which wood and greenery play a big role.
“I like green, I like life,” Dan explains. In every room, wood is the principal feature; from the custom-made kitchen to the kids’ rooms and even the bathroom.
Nearly every piece of furniture and accessory comes from some faraway place Dan visited for work. He travels across the world looking for perfect, unique objects to use in his showrooms, collecting items with a story to tell. While exploring antique auctions in New York or yard sales in the middle of nowhere, Dan tends to bring many of the pieces he finds into his home, creating a carefully selected treasure trove.
Yet he can’t really pinpoint to what extent his job influences the interior décor of the place.
“Each of the projects is different, I jump around between the Hilfiger showrooms and Calvin Klein, consulting for Karl Lagerfeld and doing my own studio projects,” he says.
“When you look at my Instagram account (@danokellystudio), there’s pictures of the house and then after that images of a hotel room I did in Copenhagen. There’s a difference, but the warmness is there.”
One of those differences is the flexibility of what goes into the house.
“It’s not a showroom, the more rules you try to put into a house the more you’re setting yourself up for failure because the more rules there are, they’re gonna be broken,” Dan explains.
Especially with three young kids, you can’t be too precious about your home. Several items have already perished to the enthusiasm of childhood, and the more expensive pieces remain in storage.
“Except for the leather couches; luckily, leather just gets nicer over time.”
Away We Go
Despite the lovely neighbourhoods and the variety city life brings, many Amsterdam families eventually choose to swap their city dwellings for suburban bliss. So far, the O’Kelly’s are not one of them.
“Every couple has that conversation where, do you move outside of the city or not?” Dan admits. But living four blocks away from the office means he can come home for dinner most nights at 6 and go back to work afterwards, plus take the kids to school in the morning. The best of both worlds.
Yet a new dream home might have to be found outside of the city limits after all.
“I could see it as some kind of farm, an old farm, with a modern extension,’ Dan envisions. One where his wife’s love for all things rustic and his fondness of modern amenities can be perfectly combined.
“There’s nothing better than a heated floor in the bathroom. Or working lights and doors that shut properly. But I love an old barn.”
And despite being quite happy living in Amsterdam, Dan doesn’t exclude the option of moving away entirely.
Not back to the States; new adventures need to keep being made. There are other countries to be explored, more treasures to be found. Perhaps you’ll find the O’Kelly’s somewhere in Asia, continuing to create their own tales of adventure one country at a time.
Images: Henny van Belkom
Article originally published by Lotus Publishing