Photographs by Birgit Sfat for Cup of Jo.
“The way I think is in color,” says painter Irene de Klerk Wolters. “In the morning, I decide what color mood I’m in. If I need confidence, I’ll wear blue. White feels cheerful, so I might wear it if I’m having guests for dinner.” After a decade in Copenhagen, Irene and her family recently returned to the Netherlands. She now lives in Haarlem with her husband, Arjan, and two sons, Beau, 17, and Pepijn, 12 — plus a recent addition, a dog named Lou. Here, she shares five looks that are equal parts chic and comfortable…
“In Copenhagen, our rental didn’t allow dogs. Our kids really, really love dogs, so we promised that we’d get one when we moved back to the Netherlands. Lou is the glue of the family. Walking a dog, you meet people in a very spontaneous way. We weren’t even fully unpacked, but our dog straight away helped us join our community.”
“Eighteen years ago, I was a lawyer but wanted to work more creatively. Although I was already painting on the side, I was scared to quit. My job was all or nothing; there was no way to do it part time. I knew I’d take a huge financial cut and add lots of uncertainty. But I needed to try. I remember my manager saying, ‘Whatever you do, I know you’ll do a good job.’ That was so encouraging. I went from wearing heels and skirts to whatever I wanted. My style is still tailored — blazers, long pants — just more comfortable. And no more high heels.”
“I’ll be wearing new jeans and think, Oh, I just want to finish this one thing, and then get paint on them. Of course, it always happens with new clothes! The paint I use is water-based, so I can get it out with some effort. But I do like some paint splatters here and there.”
“In countries where the climate is not that warm, the first impression you get of somebody is often in their coat. I can be wearing pajamas and a nice coat walking the dog, and I still feel put together. A few I inherited from my mum that I remember her wearing. A quality trench will last forever.”
“For getting groceries, running errands, or seeing friends, I ride my bike. It’s something I have done all my life living in the Netherlands and Denmark. We load up our bikes with kids, too. I bike in all my clothes. If it’s a flowy skirt or a dress, I just hold a bit in my hand so it doesn’t end up in the wheel.”
“My hair went from blonde to white quite early; and, especially in Copenhagen, it was very expensive to color it. At a certain point, I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore.”
“I feel very good in a monochrome look. Wearing one color, I’ll play with texture, like mixing wool and silk. And I find neutrals calming. If I wore bright colors, it would make my mind restless.”
“We planned to move to Copenhagen for two years but ended up staying for 10. One of the best things about living there is the local markets. From spring through fall, residents of different neighborhoods set up outdoor tables to sell clothes, shoes, home decor, toys — and it’s really good stuff. I was in heaven. I’d be on my bike, doing my thing, then see a local market and go have a look around. I bought lots of great secondhand stuff, including these Celine sunglasses. I hardly ever shopped at actual stores.”
“I like Blundstones and Birkenstocks and Arket rain boots. When we were moving back to the Netherlands, we weren’t sure where to live. I said, ‘Well, let’s be close to the ocean!’ Swimming in the sea is the best remedy when you’re feeling stressed or not happy. We all love coming to the beach to run around, including Lou.”
(Photographs by Birgit Sfat for Cup of Jo.)
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