Caroline Kruijssen & Karlijn Timmermans | KOKO Coffee & Design
Located in the heart of Amsterdam's most notorious neighborhood, the red light district,
KOKO Coffee and Design
is a quiet
refuge, a sense of calm amongst the craze. Combining their love for fashion and coffee, Karlijn Timmermans (1984, Den Bosch) and Caroline Kruijssen (1982, Sekondi, Ghana) have curated a
beautiful place full of warmth. You'll find great coffee made from
, loose teas and delicious cakes and a stunning collection
of handpicked designs including clothing
, jewelry, home decor, totes and prints by illustrators like
, and rotating exhibitions (currently of paintings and drawings by illustrator
until March 12th). We talked to Caroline and Karlijn about starting KOKO Coffee & Design.
Can you tell us a little about yourselves?
(Karlijn) After studying Media & Journalism in Rotterdam, I worked at a media research agency. I soon realized it wasn’t my passion and went back to work part-time at a shop in Den Bosch, selling designer clothing, where I met Caroline. I was working at the shop to save money so I could travel for half a year (that half a year turned into a full year in Perth, Australia, where I worked at the Dome Coffee ). It was hard to come back home but when I did, I decided to move to Amsterdam with Caroline.
(Caroline) I’ve always been very interested in fashion and studied Lifestyle & Design at the Willem de Kooning Academy. After starting my studies, I realized that I’m more practically based, and began to work as a freelance stylist. I found an internship at ELLE Magazine, where I developed my skills as a stylist. It’s hard to find a position in this competitive world, and I decided that I wanted to add something instead of wait for a styling job to come up. I took things into my own hands and set out to create a place where beautiful clothing, good service, and client-centricity could come together. They’re cliche words but they’re so important when starting a shop. We strive to do this everyday at KOKO.
What brought you to Amsterdam?
(K) Caroline and I moved to Amsterdam to work at a new clothing store on the Spiegelgracht. After I started, I didn’t feel like it was the right place for me, and just wanted to make coffees all day! One day, Caroline told me to start my own coffee bar, and I decided to change career paths to get more experience in the coffee world.
(C) We both had the idea to move up to Amsterdam. I’ve always been in love with the city. Amsterdam offers many more opportunities than Tilburg, where I grew up.
What inspired you to start KOKO Coffee & Design?
(K) We share a strong vision of what a store should be. When we moved to Amsterdam we couldn’t find a place where we could drink good coffee, find inspiration, and shop for interesting clothing. We’ve seen the combination of shops and other concepts in other cities, and we believed it could be possible to do this but that all the aspects should be carried out with love and passion. That’s very important to us, and underlies the basis of KOKO Coffee & Design. Everything you can buy here has been collected with care. We like the products and hope our clients do too. It helps that we (Caroline and I) have always worked well together – we complement each other in many ways. Starting off as colleagues, we have become great friends. And when we go to buy new products, we often select the same things, that’s really special.
(C) After my internship at ELLE, I wasn't sure about what I wanted to do. I remember Karlijn and I were hanging out one night and we started working out all of our ideas – her plan to start a coffee bar and my ambition to continue with styling. We decided to start a shop with an espresso bar, to create a place where our passions could come together under one roof. We wanted to create an honest and approachable place where people could feel at home, have a cup of coffee and take a peak inside our closet (and buy the pieces too!)
Would you say that the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
(K) The freedom that I’ve always felt in Amsterdam inspires me. And Amsterdam continues to surprise me everyday - I can bike around and suddenly see something I’ve never noticed before. It never gets old.
(C) Amsterdam is always lively and there’s always something to do. When I’m in Amsterdam I feel like I’m part of the world. You find so many international people here, but at the same time, Amsterdam can feel very small, much like a town.
Can you take us through a typical day?
(K) KOKO opens at 9am and I’m usually here by 8.30am to get everything ready. The mornings are usually quite busy but during quieter moments, I check emails and discuss the week with Caroline. We close the shop at 6.30pm and usually take another hour to clean up before we head home or grab a glass of wine.
(C) We open at 9.00am. I start my morning with a flat white, take a photograph of the shop for our social media channels, and make sure the shop is good shape.
Can you name a few of your favorite places in Amsterdam?
(K) When I’m not drinking coffee at KOKO, I like to stop by Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters or Headfirst Coffee Roasters. We invite our friends over to KOKO for drinks with wines from Vleck. For beers, we like de Zotte or de Tuin. Our favorite Thai place, Occha, is around the corner and we recently discovered Rosa’s Cantina, another great place for a bite to eat.
(C) Thanks to KOKO, we receive invitations to openings or exhibitions almost every week. These are usually fun evenings when we meet people with different interests.
(C&K) We're going to concentrate on maintaining the quality of KOKO Coffee & Design, and expanding the men and women's collections. We aim to set up an agency or flagship store where we can represent the fashion labels we believe in. And a second location would be really great.
Thank you Caroline and Karlijn for this interview! Be sure to stop by KOKO Coffee & Design on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal 145, open Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 6.30pm, Saturday from 10am to 6pm and Sunday from 12 to 6pm.