Interview with Rik and Ambra, founders of Van Ons

We met Rik and Ambra, founders of Van Ons, at the Design Icons fair . Their stand immediately drew our attention with their beautiful selection of iconic design objects.

Rick and Ambra – a very nice, professional and positive couple who are engaged in the sale and restoration of mid-century furniture. From the beginning we wanted to learn more about the guys and make an interview with them, so took a chance and popped up to their store for a cup of coffee and a very interesting chat.
Rik and Ambra, Van Ons
When and how did you decide to sell mid-century furniture and open the shop?
We know each other since 14, we grew up and formed the taste together. We always liked mid-century modern, although at that time we knew nothing about design.
In 2007 we decided to move in together. We did not want to buy furniture from IKEA, and bought a few vintage items from the 60’s instead.
Rik is very handy, and the pieces we bought were very nicely restored by him. Then we bought even more pieces. The mid-century modern design is lightweight, functional and timeless and it is in demand. When these items no longer fitted in the house, we decided to start selling them.
Within two years we learned how to restore furniture. It was a two-year trial and error period, and we learned about all sorts of wood and how to work with different wood types.

Now we are widely known for our expertise in restoration. People who buy from us know that the item will be in perfect condition.
We’re selling both to private customers and other dealers.
Rik and Ambra, Van Ons
How do you select items for your store?

Based on our own taste. We buy only things we like, bring them mostly from Denmark. We go there in our van, and if it is summer, the trip is extended by two weeks. These trips are a real vacation for us.

Over 5 years we got a lot of contacts and usually we buy items for our collection from them. Traveling to Denmark – is our life style. We like that we are our own bosses. If we are tired of the store, we get in the van and leave in search of new pieces.

We thought that the Dutch have a big personal space, and they are quite restrained. It turned out that the Danes are even more reserved people. But when you get closer to them, and they begin to feel sympathetic to you, they open up, let you into their houses and become friends.

If we see an item that’s not in our style, but we know colleagues who are interested in this object, we will bring that to them. Colleagues do the same for us. So it is not only competition but also cooperation.

Often people in our community bring us their vintage stuff. If these things don’t fit our style, we recommend where to take it.
Rik and Ambra, Van Ons

Is it difficult to give away your pieces?

We like 80% of the items that we sell. There’s lot of love and effort put into them. Our shop is called “Van Ons” – “Ours” and when we buy things we ask each other – is this thing “Van Ons” or van ons? This means is it for our store, or for us, that sounds the same.

Sometimes a person comes and says: “I like this cabinet, but I want to paint it black”. And we will not sell the cabinet to that person – we’ll try to convince him and tell that the item immediately loses its authenticity and value. If a person does not understand, then we do not want to sell the cabinet. Take an iconic object from the famous designer and paint it – this is nonsense.

We love our items, our house is filled with them. We have a small apartment, and we must sell things from time to time.
Rik and Ambra, Van Ons

Do you sell only Danish design?

No, we sell also Dutch design. It is not as well known as Danish, but becomes more and more popular all over the world.

For example manufacturers such as Pastoe, designers Gerrit Rietveld and his sons, Cees Braakman.

Dutch design is more minimalist and practical and it has less decor than Danish.

Our most favorite designers are Finn Juhl and Cees Braakman. Objects by Finn Juhl are very rare, expensive and they are more for collectors, whereas our shop with more affordable prices is for average people. Most pieces of our collection are not much more expensive than IKEA items and we have a variety of prices.
Rik and Ambra, Van Ons

Do you take orders from customers on the search for specific items or furniture from a particular designer?

Yes. Sometimes the search may take six months. If the client agrees to our terms, we accept the order. But it is difficult to find the item for the price which the customer expects. The market is changing rapidly, prices are rising. Over the last 5 years, they have doubled.

Pastoe know us, know that we sell and restore vintage items of their production. If the client will come to Pastoe with broken furniture, they will send him to us. We also helped arrange an exhibition dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the company.
Rik and Ambra, Van Ons

What is the most popular item in your store?

We do not know. We are particularly known for our collection of mirrors, lamps and Pastoe furniture in good condition, but it’s hard to say if we sell them the most. There are seasons in our business. For example, in winter we sell more lamps.

So guys, if you have any interest in mid-century modern design come and visit us and we would help you to find a special item that could fit in your budget and interior.


Photos courtesy of Van Ons.

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