15 October 2012

An interview with Froukje from Healthy Homes

An interview. My goal is to get a deeper look inside the lives of entrepreneurs whom I admire for who they are and for the great work they are delivering.
With every interview you read, bear in mind that it is a little time-capsule: opinions frozen in time. Our thinking and acting changes with time. Luckily!

I discovered Healthy Homes on the internet. The philosophy and the aesthetics of this ecological interior design company immediately caught my eye. I got curious about the person behind such visual poetry, and was very happy when Froukje agreed to get interviewed.


1. Tell us about yourself and about your business

I'm Froukje, mother of Lieke 9 and Rosa 4. We live in Spaarndam (Netherlands), on a canal. It's like living on the countryside, close to the sea and on the other side of the dike you have Amsterdam and Haarlem.
Even a lot of Dutch people don't know what a great place to live our village is. For me it's a safehaven - literally and figuratively.

I'm an independent interior designer, with ecological solutions as my specialism. On my website www.healthyhomes.nl you can find an extensive description about my work (in Dutch). I'm also discovering more about the ecological solutions as I go on with my work.

I have some criteria for choosing the people and materials to work with: the materials should be natural and organic, preferrably of ecological and sustainable produce. I prefer to know the manufacturer personally, and mostly I work with small-scale manufacturers or Dutch designers. I want to get to the essence of every project. Sometimes I have to take shortcuts - for example when the material I finally choose for has minimal natural origins. In that case I press on the supplier to look for local and sustainable materials in the future.
Recycling is OK upto a certain point...when scrap wood has been used up, one must not go and manufacture it. Upcycling plastic bottles for a chandelier is fun and inventive, but it is not the solution in the long run.

My first choice goes for local professional workshops for artisan-made furniture, curtains, rugs and art. When we want to re-use something old, we get it repaired and polished-up for it's new function. In this way the local artisans have work, and the heritage of traditional artisanal professions gets a longer life.

A beautiful interior shouldn't just be pretty - there is of course also a statement behind it. An interior is not something that's apart from how you live your life, and that's also why interior design is different with every customer.
Someone wants to make an envionmental statement, whilst another customer chooses an interior that is absolutely free from toxic gasses (from paint, plywood etc.). Sometimes there is a more personal reason for  tweaking the interior, to give it more chi, for instance.

I think I'm successful because I'm a good stylist, but also because I understand my customers. I can feel what they want and what fits them, without pushing them into the direction of my own style. I never go and get a quick interior fix from the popular megastores. It is a peaceful process, also because people need to get used to the changes, and because my choises fall outside the mass-production solutions people often are used to. I call it slow-design... You need to believe in it, that is a must if you want to work with me...because this way of working is quite unusual in my sector.
What I just described is also the reason why I find my work so exciting and what makes it different every time. At the moment there is a lot going on in ecological interior design, and I think it will be a matter of time that I will no longer be one of the few doing this work, but there will be new colleagues, as well.

2. How did you end up doing the work you're doing now?

Haha...where shall I start? Perhaps the blueprint was made when I was born in Geleen, next to DSM (nowadays a life-sciences and bio-sciences company). A lot has happened before I landed where I am now. As a child I was always drawing couches with different patterns. I spent a lot of time in nature, which was one of my favorite places to be - I felt happy and safe.
The education I had (Fashion Academy Montaigne in Amsterdam and Esmond in Paris) has given me the opportunity to play with form, colours and materials. I studied some economics, which made me realize I can better understand it in practice than in theory. Also, I have my own vision on economics, it seems.

I've lived a couple of years in France and Belgium. I had various interior design projects in those countries with the partner I was living with at that time. We were living extremely isolated and so incredibly in the nature, that it changed my life. That's what nature and silence can do with you...
Now I can't imagine living without a horizon and greenery around me anymore. Unseparably with that change came healthy food - it is so vitally important, and I've discovered a lot in that area. With this new knowledge my ambitions and longings changed.

So...at one point our ways separated, and I came back to the Netherlands with my two daughters, at that time 8 months and 5 years old. I had to reinvent myself at all fronts. The situation made me choose how I wanted to live my life, also taking the children into account.  I have cooked for large groups, and had a part time job on the side, but working for a boss proved impossible with the working times and the kids. Had I stayed in my job, I wouldn't have seen my children much. It wasn't worth it for me.
I picked up my occupation as a stylist again, and started interior designing for houses that were put into the market for the sale. But I was missing something - it wasn't quite what I wanted, at least not this way.

The breakthrough came with an invitation to the Trend Union in Paris in 2010, with Lidewij Edelkoort. My eyes fell upon a French hemp textile brand, Couleur Chanvre - it is so pure and beautiful... in the train on the way back home I knew it for sure: ecological interiors! I was determined that this would be the way to go for me.

My personal story (relationship&health) and my study and working experience were essential in order to get to where I am now. But this is not the end station! There are still a lot of areas where more life may flow in. But you see; good things come out of even limiting situations, you just need to follow your heart.

3. What is your favourite tool and material?

My 3m Stanley Powerlock, a measuring tape...I carry them with me always. My material choice changes from moment to moment...there's so much to choose from! It's the combination of materials that intrigues me...structures and colours. I always want to touch everything...there are also so many materials that have been forgotten, or that we haven't discovered yet.

4. What have you learned from the past?

Personally: I hope that the past has learned something from me...I have a deep anchored trust in myself (feeling/intuition), that is the first thing that comes up. It's sometimes difficult because you get influenced by others with their advice and their worries and fears. But as you grow stronger, your surroundings change with you, and new possibilities and friendships are born. I notice that I have a positive influence on others, and that I inspire them through my work and through my way of life.

Never force things, that is counterproductive... what doesn't come easy now, will come later - or not, but then something else will arise. It's very important to stay flexible, time and patience are one and the same thing.

I believe that everything you want or envision is given to you. Everyone has the luxury to choose how they want to go on about their lives. In this way you find out what you really want and what is good for you and suits you. Questions get answered, if you like it or not. Eat it!

There's no big without small, everything and everyone is equally important for the whole. If everyone would make an ecological contribution with their work, with the goal of having a more beautiful world, we'd be out of the economical&ecological crisis in no time.

Business: A good businessplan is all you need. You don't need a loan.

5. What are you  grateful for in this moment?

The people I'm having a relationship with (in private life & in work) to make it all better.

6. Are you preparing something at the moment that will soon get out there in the world - something you already want to share with us?

Aquamarijn: At the moment I'm developing, together with Henriette from Aquamarijn a natural paint and a colourchart.
They are a Dutch paint manufacturer, making paints on flax oil. In my opinion it is a step into the future with the knowledge of the distant past...this paint will adhere to its base material in an inherently intellectual way.

The eco-lounge couch: We're working on a modern lounge couch that's being made from natural and ecological materials only. As far as I know it it's the "greenest" couch in the world. Bastiaan is the maker, and had the guts to go for it.

scarForlove: Next to my "house"work...I'm working together with Meli, a great talent in knitting and crocheting, to make shawls with eco-cotton. We're letting it grow without too much pressure and we'll see where it goes. I like it that way. A shawl with a story.
The material is incredibly soft. A lot of attention and time goes into making the shawls, that's what makes them so attractive...they're often given as presents between friends, and I find it such a beautiful gesture.
For the winter we're making outdoors-ponchos from wool, and the ultimate scarf for men is in the making. Super soft, warm, tough and, above all, practical. We're working slowly and in a very personal manner and are not very profitable at the moment... The material is very precious, Meli is more expensive than outsourcing abroad and we don't make collections in advance. We're going against how things usually are done in the fashion world here, but we'll see where it takes us and slowly does it.
(You can find scarForlove via Twitter by following Healthyhomes. There's a weblog in the making. You can also just email Froukje.)

7. Who is your hero, source of inspiration or idol?

My hero...is someone I still need to meet...I do have two little heroes.

My inspiration is nature. Nothing is as inplacable and healing at the same time, you can find happiness only there. The rest is playing around and if we're playing fair we may also use some input from nature for extra happiness or added value. Luxury, joy and pleasure. I think that there's enough for everyone. Some people just have taken too much for themselves.

8. Do you have other things you're passionate about, next to your work?

They change. Cooking is one that stays, and I can do it every day. Music and dancing are like oxygen for me. I love walking along the seashore with my children and dog. I'd like to travel more, but there will be a time for that too.
I'd like to be more creative and do handicrafts, at this moment I'm sitting a lot behind the laptop and being on the road for meetings. I also see a beautiful workshop for Healthy Homes in the future, where I can design the Healthy Homes collection.

This interview was originally published on my website on 15th October 2012.