A bold, modern yet inviting interior for Café Marcella in Amsterdam

At just 39 sqm, this snug old bar on the corner of a canal in Amsterdam is the smallest ever designed by Studio Modijefsky.

But what it may lack in size, it more than makes up for with charm and elegance. A bold, modern yet inviting interior will make Marcella one of the city’s new hotspots.

People have been welcome for a drink on this meeting point between Amstelveld and Prinsengracht since the late 1800s, a history of hospitality which is captured by the Dutch word ‘Welkom’ written in traditional hand-painted letters on Marcella’s front door.

A bold, modern yet inviting interior for Café Marcella in Amsterdam

Hypnotising colors

Once inside, your attention will be captured by the hypnotising swirls of yellow ochre, brown and blue on the marble ceiling. Usually this painting technique is used for walls, but Studio Modijefsky applied it in a new way, just as time-honoured materials and techniques are given an innovative twist throughout the interior.

Drag your eyes away, and you’ll notice a soft glow radiating across the room. It’s provided by a long yellow neon light that outlines the silhouette of the zigzag ceiling. This play of glares, textures and figures bounces off the many mirrors to transform the tiny café into something much more spacious and dynamic.

marble ceiling

The bar is another example of how Studio Modijefsky plays with tradition in Marcella: designing a dramatic structural element made entirely of terrazzo. A carefully composed blend of ivory and yellow was commissioned to add depth and warmth to the space. Triangle shapes made of wood and brass add a refined edge and soften the bar’s appearance while alluding to the main entrance exterior. Smaller brass details grow into sculptural shapes, creating a modern look that blends seamlessly with the classic location.

The backbar provides the perfect canvas to the iconic bar. It’s illuminated by a golden mirror overlapped by rows of glass. In front of it a steel structure and vertical textured glass lightboxes sit on a wooden bottom block that takes up the entire length of the back wall. Triangular light accents add another dimension to the backbar, reflected in the ceiling, and on a smaller scale, in the bar itself.

Custom-made details

A pattern of wooden squares placed diagonally on the floor, delineated by a fine brass line, host a cluster of small custom-made wooden tables paired with vintage chairs. A custom-made bench in one of the café’s two big windows offers guests a perfect view of the square outside. The bench’s hard wooden structure is counterbalanced by the soft leather of the cushions – the same leather that wraps around the straight-lined railing.

custom-made bench

To honour the building’s history, Studio Modijefsky worked with an experienced local craftsman to develop a suitable patina for the aged mirrors that cover the entire other wall of the café space. The result is a unique weathered texture for the mirrors that form a composition on the adjacent wall. Their reflections combine to bring the outside world inside, with shades of green from the ancient trees that fill Amstelveld.

Outside area

Outside, wooden chairs and bistro tables surround the corner the café sits on and the adjoining strip along the canal. The tabletops feature sketches of an idyllic day on Marcella’s terrace, made by the Amsterdam-based illustrator Ted Struwer. On these sunny days, the terrace is bedecked with striped parasols made from a mix of fabrics. A tree sits in the very middle of the waterside, wreathed in a custom-made furniture element that serves as both a seating element and a service station.

Café Marcella Amsterdam Outside area

A red neon light on the café’s brick facade catches the eye on this narrow junction. It symbolises the way Café Marcella invites people sailing past, either on a boat or bicycle, to pull up and find a seat to enjoy this fresh, funky spot on one of the city’s favourite squares.

Location: Amsterdam
Area: 39 smq Interior and 75 sqm Exterior
Design: Studio Modijefsky
Design Team: Esther Stam, Agnese Pellino, Ivana Stella, Natalia Nikolopoulou, Felicia Ureña, Christel Willers
Photos courtesy: Maarten Willemstein