René van der Leest and Sigrid van Kleef are specialized in the restoration and modern renovation of monumental and striking buildings.
"We are always looking for special places, places with a story"

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Designers René van der Leest and Sigrid van Kleef started their company Studio Ruim in 2003, after completing their studies in design and architecture. The creative duo has put some very successful projects to their name and has shaped and established their signature in theatre and architectural form. In 2020 they have been selected as one of the best dutch interior designers by HOOG. Devoted to their designs, they supervise themselves every project from design to construction and from lighting to furniture, thus keeping the work a streamlined process in which all parties are equally involved.

René van der Leest and Sigrid van Kleef

What kind of projects do you do?

We specialize in the refurbishing of old and monumental buildings. We are always on the lookout for special places, places that have a story to it. The building itself is as much an inspiration for us as the clients wishes and dreams.

What is your working method?

We always start with an elaborate intake. We put several questions down to paper to help the clients think of what they really want for their new home. Practical issues aside we always try to find out what their true dreams are. Especially, since you're probably going to be living there for at least several years. That's why we always take our time to get to know the client. We visit their "old" house to see where they are coming from and of course we'll go to the new building together to find out what places in the house they are drawn to. Each project is like a new painting to us. We start out with a blank canvas and make a custom-made design that is unique for each and every client.

How would you describe your style?

Modern, elegant, light and spacious. We always use real materials, like wood, steel, glass and stone, because we find that those materials truly fit the nature and ambiance of an old and monumental building. We also pay a lot of attention to our lighting design, because daylight and artificial light alike should emphasize the strong features of the architecture. A good lighting plan literally highlights the soul of a building and makes it radiate and that is precisely what we want. With our modern design we create a synergy between the new and the old characteristics of the building, thus making it sustainable for the future while at the same time respecting its history.

Where do you get your inspiration from for your designs?

The building itself and the clients are our biggest inspiration. But other than that we get inspired by art, performances, opera, museums, design fairs and life in general. As a designer we are trained to look, so we absorb things that inspire us constantly and store them in our minds to use them when needed. It could be as simple as the colors you see while walking down the street or a shape of a dress from your kindergarten teacher. Anything can pop up and be useable.

Studio Ruim is specialized in both theatre design and interior architecture. How do the two combine?

When we just started Studio Ruim, people told us we should pick one or the other, but we were opinionated enough to decide to stick with both disciplines. Initially they were two totally separate things we did, but slowly they started to blend in with one another. For example, we tried shapes and colors on stage that we would later on use in our architectural design. Also, the way we design our lighting plan for interior architecture has strong similarities with lighting used in theatres. After we had done our most famous project at the Herengracht in Amsterdam, a journalist wrote that in order to understand the drama of these kinds of monumental buildings you have to have a theatre background. Of course we couldn't agree more. In our current work of refurbishing monumental buildings the two come together perfectly.

What are your plans for the future?

We want to keep on doing what we're doing: refurbish old and monumental buildings by restoring its former glory and adding new and modern design to make them sustainable for the future. We like to dig up the soul of these buildings and make them shine again by highlighting its architecture with our designs.

"We create a synergy between our modern design and the old characteristics of the building, thus making it sustainable for the future while at the same time respecting its history."

Curious what we can do for you? Please don't hesitate to contact us. We'll be more than happy to answer any questions and help you out with the refurbishing of your space.

Call Us

René van der Leest:
+31 642 10 11 74
Sigrid van Kleef:
+31 641 50 20 06


Herengracht 572A
1017 CH Amsterdam
The Netherlands

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