opening doors
Posted in guest quarters October 19th, 2009 by zoe


Friends, this post is quite poignant, and has been a difficult one to write. So I hope you will forgive me some waffle.

Way back, many months ago, when I first met Pia, I sent her an invitation to my own private (shamefully neglected) blog which I write for family and friends back home. One post in particular caught her eye, after I visited a wonderful museum in the heart of the canal district: the Van Loon house.




The grand double-fronted canal house dates from 1672, and was once the residence of Ferdinand Bol, one of Rembrandt’s more successful students. Throughout the 19th century, the Van Loons, a wealthy and influential family in Amsterdam, made the house their primary residence.




Various Van Loon family members were at times city councillors and mayors of Amsterdam, and held key positions within the Dutch East-India Company.



The last resident of the house prior to its conversion to a museum was Thora van Loon-Egidius. She was Dame du Palais (friend, confidant and lady-in-waiting) to Queen Wilhelmina for forty years, and as such entertained royal guests and important visitors at the house. The current Mrs van Loon occupies a similar position in the court of Queen Beatrix, and lives in the house next door to the museum.






My new friend and I visited the house (and another similar), during which Pia made an astute observation: despite the grand, opulent surroundings of the reception rooms and family apartments, my attention was firmly occupied by the less celebrated goings-on behind the scenes. It turns out I like to know what’s behind closed doors! The life and work of the unseen members of the household – the housemaids, the cook, the butler and others – these were the stories I wanted to hear. Their attic bedrooms are not accessible to the public, but the light, cosy kitchen and “below stairs” rooms are, though I doubt they would have been particularly light and airy with that huge range running constantly.







This visit was the beginning of a beautiful friendship (corny, I know) and I have been saving it for a special occasion, reminiscing.

As I write this post, I have left Amsterdam for Bristish shores, to embark on a very exciting new phase in my adventure overseas. I leave behind many wonderful friends, but I take with me many more wonderful memories. One particular friendship, the one I’ve spoken of that started with the Museum van Loon, has been instrumental in giving me the courage to pursue my dream career, even though it has meant moving away. As a book editor I love to work with authors who are passionate about their pet subject, whatever it is. As I got to know Pia I began to realise that I would be a better editor if I could work with authors who were passionate about the same pet subjects as I am. And so, I have left my years of academic editing behind, to try and make it in the world of baking and craft, gardening and design, interiors and exteriors: all the things I love in a book.







This was going to be my last post, but Pia is so, so busy with a couple of huge projects at the moment (stay tuned – I know they’ll be worth waiting for!) and has asked if I’d stay a little longer. So you’ll see a little more of me here over the coming month or so as I pop by every now and then to let you know how I’m getting on. At the moment I’m really loving the ability to communicate with ease, though never let it be said that speaking the same language means instant understanding – there are accents over here that I cannot fathom a word of!!

Wish me luck!






All photographs and text by Zoë Yule.

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  1. Linda says


    Your photographs are beautiful – you capture completely the mood of the home. Best wishes as you pursue your dream – may doors open magically for you.

    October 19th, 2009 | #

  2. Lisette says

    Much luck with your dreams on British shores, and thanks for the delightful post and beautiful photos. Looking forward to the next instalment!

    October 19th, 2009 | #

  3. nadia says

    absolutley stunning images. I wish you all that you desire i have no doubt that you will find it or that it will find you!

    wonderful post what a gorgeous voyage it will be!

    October 19th, 2009 | #

  4. S@sha says

    Good luck, I’ve enjoyed your posts for this site!

    I too often find the behind the scenes rooms the most interesting parts of historic home tours/museums. I think it’s because they relate more to life today, where people create homes without the aid of servants. The public rooms are often so opulent that it is difficult to translate their beauty into an everyday home, whereas the kitchen or pantry might actually have useful ideas that you can borrow since functionality is key.

    October 19th, 2009 | #

  5. nikole says

    lovely, good good luck to you.

    October 19th, 2009 | #

  6. Yvette says

    HEY ZOE!
    Of course I wish you the very best there is. I can only tell you from my own experience that following your dream is always the BEST decision you can ever make.
    I think you are very brave doing so, and now you will see that you will succeed! Just because you are determinant.
    So I will send you love and lot’s of happiness,
    please stay in touch, even if it’s only by showing us your pretty work,
    xxxxx Yvette

    October 19th, 2009 | #

  7. Ann Marie says

    Thanks so much for this post. I love every word (and photo!) of it. It’s a scary thing to follow dreams for some strange reason. You have given me a little boost as I try to follow mine. I wish you the best of luck, and can’t wait to see what your dreams have to offer!

    October 19th, 2009 | #

  8. Hedy says

    Dear Zoe,
    Wishing you all the luck in the world and thanking you for the beautiful posts you have written in Pia´s guestquarters.Following your heart will turn out to be an unforgettable experience.Always.
    Good luck!

    October 19th, 2009 | #

  9. joanne says

    This post was lovely

    October 19th, 2009 | #

  10. Leanne T says

    so loved reading this story and seeing the beautiful photos. well done, its not easy stepping out onto the seemingly unknown path but your determination and passion will fuel you. i’m sure you’ll do well!! i also love the unseen rooms. we’ve just gotten back from Paris. one of my favourite days was visiting versailles where we got to see marie antoinette’s beautiful small chateau. the food warming room (the kitchen was in another building)had gorgeous vaulted ceilings and seemed so cosy and inviting. i’ll be posting photos on my blog soon. thanks for the inspiration!! leanne xx

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  11. Sarah says

    Wishing you the dreams you dream .. and your beautiful words and pictures surely set the scene .. one of my favourite quotes is “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud wa smore painful than the risk it took to blossom” (from Anais Nin) .. believe and it shall be Zoe

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  12. vanessa joie says

    What a beautiful post – in both images and words. You are so brave to go for what you love and what drives you. I am working on building up the courage to do the same. I wish you all the luck in the world and looking forward to hearing how it is all going in your new life. xo

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  13. Anna says

    Zoe, this is so heartfelt and poignant. I was really taken with the images (as usual) and commend you for following your dreams. Sometimes it seems impossible that they will make it, but hearing what you’re doing revives the desire to persist in the pursuit of them. Best of luck to you. (And I can’t wait to see some of the books you’ll edit! Keep us posted!!)

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  14. theaxx says

    GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    May nice warm breezes send you on a happy path 🙂

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  15. Christina says


    Best wishes on your new endeavor. A dream is always best pursued!

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  16. project blancoyd says

    Man! How did I miss this place back in March. I totally would have went here if I would have known. *palm smacking forehead*

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  17. Cassandra says

    Dear Zoe,
    I did the same just over a year ago – just a little further from NZ. It will be hard, but it will make you better.I have no idea where you are staying in London, but here are a few places that could lift your spirits. Marlyebone High Street on a Sunday morning – the loveliest food market behind the main street and Daunt Books. The ground floor cafe at the V & A – housed in rooms designed by Morris et al. Battersea Park – On the river, with a great big gold buddha and a tiny english garden amongst others. Petersham nurseries – get off the train at Richmond an walk along the river and through the park to get there and last but not least – Macaron – an authentic french patisserie in Clapham Common – with angels painted on the ceiling and dogs under the table (including mine!) it is my own little haven. Whatever corner of London you are, look for the delightful corners as it can feel overwhelmingly ‘gritty’ but I’ve squeaked with delight many times just by turning the corner.

    Good luck!!!

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  18. Victoria says

    Dear Zoe,
    This is to wish you luck, endurance and joy in your new life in Britain and many blossoming friendships in the month to come.
    I have changed many times from East Germany to the West when I was a very young woman and to America, when I was in my 30s….I know a thing or to of new beginnings! Your great attitude will carry your endavors.
    Your pictures are beautiful and particular the attention to details. I admire your ways of viewing life in those great houses, life of the poeple who serve to make it all run smoothly.
    And the ones who can afford them.

    Will stop by many times from now!
    All the best in London!


    October 20th, 2009 | #

  19. Anna says

    Dear Zoë,

    This is incredibly exciting and you are very brave! I know from present experience how difficult it can be do make a break away from a place where you’re comfortable to pursue something other. I’m currently entrenched in a PhD program that I’ve almost completed (nearly ABD), but am finding myself drawn to other pursuits. I’m trying to stay rooted for now, but can’t wait to be free to do something else, however difficult that may be.
    I’ve loved your guest posts here beginning with the very first one you did of the gardens behind those wonderful old canal houses.
    It seems that your quest to go behind the scenes translates-luckily for you – to a similar desire to get to the heart of what you want / need to be doing with your life. Hurrah! Best of luck to you. This is inspiring.


    October 20th, 2009 | #

  20. vicki archer says

    Good luck with your move and thank you for the beautiful, beautiful images. xv

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  21. zoe says

    Wow, thank you everyone, so much, for all your good wishes and encouragement! It’s both exciting and a little scary to take a leap like this, but I know, as your collective wisdom also advises, that following your heart can only be a positive move, regardless of the final outcome. Thanks again for your support, and I’ll be sure to keep in touch with more from “across the ditch”!

    October 20th, 2009 | #

  22. josephine says

    i know i’m a little late with this, but congratulations on your adventure! i had a similar experience where someone put a “bug in my ear,” which has since opened up even more possibilities for me. looking forward to hearing more about your travels and experiences!

    October 23rd, 2009 | #

  23. Paris Parfait says

    Zoe, no doubt you’ll be successful at whatever you attempt. Bonne chance et bonne courage!

    October 25th, 2009 | #

  24. gwen buchanan says

    glorious and heartwarming altogether.. and beauty everywhere…

    I am sending you the very best in following your dream in life… It can be done… sometimes there are tough spots but because of the effort needed to overcome them, they usually turn out better than all the rest.. and puts your confidence on the next level of “I can do this”… and “I am glad I am doing this”… Happiness.

    November 5th, 2010 | #

  25. DDekor says

    Beautiful photos, good luck

    January 20th, 2011 | #

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