Dutch Treat: Amsterdam's Canal House Hotel

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Canal House

Serious stuff A somber color palette predominates in the Canal House's thoughtfully designed interiors, but the effect is cozy rather than confining

Darkness and gravity are not the qualities most hoteliers would aim for in fashioning an enticing new property, but Curious Group owners Jessica and Peter Frankopan, who run L'Hotel in Paris and the idiosyncratic Cowley Manor in England's hilly Cotswolds region, thrive on being stylishly different. Their latest venture, built into three refurbished 17th century houses in Amsterdam's Jordaan district, is no exception. Chiaroscuro, velvet and leather, and a color palette befitting Rembrandt's most somber canvases combine in a way that is tastefully enveloping rather than claustrophobic.

The Canal House has no formal reception. Guests enter via a narrow marbled corridor, lined with modern takes on traditional Dutch paintings, that leads straight into the black-walled bar with its ornate ceiling and inviting sofas.

Dramatically proportioned aeries at the top of the hotel (for those not scared of dauntingly vertiginous staircases) have stunning views of one of the city's grand canals and lead the eye downtown, past ridiculously picture-perfect bridges toward the Nine Streets district and its boutiques and cafés. Interior decor in shades of black and mauve is metropolitan with a bohemian edge (even if some of the poppier modern art is a little jarring). Many rooms feature luxuriously deep baths.

The Great Room, which links the three adjoining merchant houses and where meals are served, is dramatic and features black walls offset with Marcel Wanders lighting. The menu gives emphasis to local and seasonal specialties like Oosterschelde lobster, which merits the gastronomic kudos of its Slow Food Presidia status.

Landscaping of the large walled garden was recently completed. The space, a considerable rarity in central Amsterdam, includes water features and a charming summerhouse. Head there for a little Van Gogh sunshine when you need an antidote to all that Rembrandtish shade.

For more details, see canalhouse.nl. Rooms from $315, including breakfast.