On the edge of El Born in Carrer de Comerc, a colourful interior brightens up the old, grey building. This is where BANQA, the furniture store of Annelie Linsen and Ernst Veldhuizen, has found its home. The Dutch couple arrived in Barcelona in August 2018. After both having worked at a bank in Amsterdam, they decided it was time for change. So they packed up their things and left — without a plan.
It didn’t take long for that plan to unfold. While in the Netherlands they furnished most of their apartment with help of Ikea, they were now looking for something a little different. That turned out to be hard to find. Annelie: “We couldn’t find anything here except for the high-end stores with corresponding prices. In the Netherlands it’s easier to find something that’s a little different, yet affordable. So that’s actually how the idea of a furniture store was born.”
They visited a fair and got in touch with several Dutch interior design brands there. Thanks to the large offering of various brands, they found their niche in Barcelona.
“In the Netherlands it’s easier to find something a little different, yet affordable. So that’s actually how the idea of a furniture store was born.”
What brands do you work with, specifically?
The main ones are Zuiver and Dutchbone. We choose to work with them because of the fair prices and good quality; all their furniture is produced in Europe. Their designs are also distinctive. Zuiver has strong Nordic influences, whereas Dutchbone is more industrial with a lot of velvet and gold. We felt that these two brands together are a good mix to represent a large amount of people.
We combine those with a few Dutch brands for our accessoires. All the flowers we have in the store come from Silk-ka, which is a producer of beautiful silk flowers. We also had a hard time finding unique paint colours in Spain. We got in touch with a German couple living in Barcelona, and they helped us introduce their new brand called 144 Colours, specialised in shades based on nature. Our wallpaper comes from Kek Amsterdam, which offers beautiful prints for nice prices. And as a finishing touch, we have some help from an artist. She sells her paintings here and takes care of our store every once in a while!
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Every day is different. Ernst goes out a lot to show our products to potential clients, whereas I am more occupied with the design aspect itself. When a client needs advice, I will go with them to the place and give advice on how to furnish it, what to change, and pick the furniture.
Another service we offer is our “homestaging” concept. We found that there’s a lot of investors in Barcelona that renovate, furnish and sell or rent apartments. They’ll renovate a place beautifully and end up having no budget left for furnishing. We found a real need here for a solution – which is why we developed the idea to rent out furniture to help close the sale. We consult on how to decorate the apartment and take care of everything. The place can then optionally be sold furnished: a win for everyone involved!
Which item in the store is your favourite?
I personally love the OMG chair, which is one of our bestsellers. My favourite brand though is Bold Monkey. They are part of the Zuiver company, but as the name suggest, come with bolder, more extraordinary designs. I’m now designing our own apartment and would love to include some of their collection into our home.
What is your relationship like with your customer?
We stay in touch closely with all our customers, and we notice that the service we provide is really what’s making a difference in the end. We make sure that what we promise will happen and keep them updated along the way – that’s part of our Dutch mentality!
What do you love most about running your business?
That’s an easy question: we get to be our own bosses. Compared to our previous jobs, we have a lot of autonomy and get to decide ourselves what’s best for the company. I also love that I get to be creative and put my heart into this business. Even though it’s certainly challenging at times, the freedom and the creativity is what brings me happiness and makes it all worth it.
“The freedom and the creativity is what brings me happiness and makes it all worth it.”
What is the key to a well decorated home?
I think a good strategy is to start with the items that are most important to you personally. For example, we love hosting dinners with friends, which is why we’ll prioritise the dining area when moving to our new place. If you love watching Netflix on the weekends; start with a cozy couch and expand from there. Think about your lifestyle and allocate your budget accordingly.
Do you have any tips for people wanting to start a business in Barcelona?
The lesson we learnt as most important is to go and talk with people. In the first months, things can be hard. It can be very quiet.. So instead of opening your business and waiting for people to come in, go to companies to introduce your concept, create interest and partnerships to get the ball rolling!