Renny Ramakers, Director of Droog

First-time travelers to Amsterdam — perceptive ones, anyway — need only to spend a day navigating its cobbled streets to notice what makes the experience so singular. The buildings are old and narrow, and many seem perilously cockeyed. With their decorative facades and fanciful gables, they resemble oversized gingerbread houses. And when you walk by them, you witness a sight even more peculiar than all of the above: an unobstructed view straight into the living rooms and kitchens of the people who live inside, who refrain from hanging curtains even at ground level. As a locally based friend explained to me on a recent visit, the Dutch may value privacy just as much as the rest of us, but they also take a certain pride in proving they have nothing to hide. This was the thought running through my mind the day that Renny Ramakers, co-founder and director of the influential Dutch design laboratory Droog, let me wander around inside her home unsupervised, snapping hundreds of voyeuristic photos of her possessions while she worked calmly away at her dining table.

Ramakers probably had better things to do that day than attend to a journalist with an amateur camera who seemed strangely eager to ask questions about her tattered cookbooks and travel souvenirs, busy as she was transferring the contents of Droog’s ill-fated New York store to a glitzy new Las Vegas location and prepping for the launch of a game-changing initiative during the Milan fair. But the open-curtain policy prevailed, and she was not only a gracious host but a jovial one, hobbling up and down the stairs on a recently healed knee injury just to tell me more about the staggering view of the city rooftops she gets to take in from her nightly bath. Being an editor of Sight Unseen, after all, I hardly cared about the interior of the duplex Ramakers and her husband converted from what was once two classrooms of a 1923 school building — I was more interested in what the objects she kept inside it revealed about her life, work, and general perspective. While I didn’t get quite enough time to hear all her stories, the slideshow at right does offer a nice peek at how she lives, and the things she lives with.