Behind Closed Doors: Carmen de Baets

Carmen is everything we love under one roof: Guesthouse meets Kitchen meets Shop. Carmen, the namesake behind the brand, has a background in fashion and a rigorous yet playful eye for sophistication in all forms, and every detail of the Guesthouse, Kitchen and Shop is aspirational, yet welcoming. Consider this the perfect marriage of environment, food and fashion, a three dimensional manifestation of a life lived with great intention. Meet the next evolution of considered, innovative space. Let's go.

What is your skincare philosophy?

Honestly, less is more and I happen to love Lesse! - hehe. I am not one to fuss too much over my skin. I try to drink plenty of water and eat healthy, nourishing foods because I believe what you put in reflects outwardly. Staying active, eating nourishing foods, good vibes all reflect onto your skin. I used to work quite a stressful job in London before moving back to Amsterdam and almost immediately my skin went from tired, puffy, reddish to light and energetic because here we bike everywhere so are naturally more active, access to good food markets is easier, life is just a little more chill.

Sure there are things I struggle with, especially during pregnancy. I love the sun and apparently one needs to be extra careful when pregnant, which I haven't been so my skin is suffering from pigmentation, redness and the occasional breakout because I’m craving chocolate like crazy. But I know this will pass. It just shows that hormones and also food have the biggest effect on your skin. What is inside of you shows on the outside.

 How do you start your day?

Really every day is different, if we have guests staying at the guesthouse my husband and partner Joris and I will wake early to prepare breakfast together. It is my favourite part of the day because I love giving people a good start. We put out a whole spread (including books!) of seasonal, homemade and nourishing foods. Usually guests want to chat a little so we hang around and will then make our way to the office where we work on our separate bits, he is currently overseeing construction on our expansion and I manage the shop part of our business.What is your skincare routine?  

In the summer I’ll jump out of bed and go to the bathroom to dry brush whilst listening to music then take a shower and wash my face with Lesse’s refining cleanser. Wrap myself in a big Tekla bath sheet (the big ones are my favourite) and spray the regeneration mist. While my face dries I’ll get dressed and then massage the Lesse serum into my face after which I’ll apply some SPF.

In the evenings I actually do the same except usually after a long bath and without the SPF.


What other practices do you have that support you feeling your best?

When I moved from London back to Amsterdam I set a goal for myself to focus on strengthening my body. Years of studying and a desk job had totally messed with my back and so a friend recommended I try some pilates sessions with Jelena at Smartbody. This was 4 years ago now and I’m still going because my body feels strong in a way I never imagined I could achieve.Tell us about CARMEN and how it came to be.

Since Joris and I met over 10 years ago, we’ve always travelled to see family and through inspiring places we’d stayed at, we started dreaming about creating a space like that in Amsterdam. A space where people could come together, where a filmmaker could screen their first film, where we could serve food that we love, most importantly, good vibes all around! And there are very little hotels in Amsterdam (that aren’t part of a chain) so when friends would want to spend time here with us it was always a struggle. I still have notebooks with scribbles of ideas and dreams, especially menu ideas. We’re both obsessed with food.

Then when Joris’s artist grandmother passed away, she left her beautiful canal house to her grandchildren. At the time I had a good job in fashion in London and Joris had just opened his first restaurant so the timing wasn’t right, but in 2018 we felt like we’d gained enough experience to open our own place together so we moved back. 

We lived in a part of the house and rented out the rest on airbnb to friends for about a year while we were applying for building permits so we were really able to observe the space, how it is best used but also to get to know Amsterdam again because we had both been in London for a long time. 

For my part I really missed a good space to shop and through working in fashion in London I’d come across so many designers that I love and wanted to share with others. I am so bored with mainstream fashion nowadays and I know very little people that buy into the big brands anymore. We’re all looking for brands with integrity, designers that live to create meaningful pieces for the reality of every day life (with a little fun and sexiness of course). 

And for Joris it is and always will be food. I love his food and his ideas about food so what we are really building is a combination of both our passions which at its core is a guesthouse. Where do you find inspiration? 

In people. I love people and connecting. The best ideas come through conversation and just being open to different thoughts. I’ll often come up with an idea mid-conversation and without overthinking just propose it, then one thing leads to the next.

A good platform where you can discover and unpack tips from people you admire. I’ve always read through independent magazines whilst keeping track of books, movies and artists that are mentioned throughout in a little notebook and then look those up afterwards.

But perhaps traveling is the most inspiring, I find it important to leave your bubble once in a while and explore.


Do you have a favorite ritual?

Going to Lebanon every summer, does that count as a ritual?

You have a beautiful restaurant in your space, how does food and the act of eating play into your routine? Any foods you rely on to feel your best?

It is actually a test kitchen that serves breakfast to guests in the mornings and is used by Joris and other chefs for experimenting. Now that we've been doing this for a year, we were inspired to open a cafe this summer as we expand the shop.

Because of the pandemic we started cooking together a lot more. For him food is very instinctual. He will go to the market and let himself be inspired by good produce. A really good piece of cheese or fresh fish. He’ll buy it all and then see what he makes with it. 

Whereas for me food is memory and I started cooking because I wanted to feel closer to Lebanon when I couldn’t visit. Closer to my mother, my grandmother and the smells that are warmth, love and heritage to me.

Somehow Joris and I bring the two together into spreads that are not only nourishing but mean a lot to both of us. Culturally Lebanese food is all about offering plenty and having lots on the table in the form of a spread so I’ll often take whatever Joris is cooking and spread it out.

What are your top products from CAP? 

Lesse Refining Cleanser

Lesse Ritual Serum

Lesse Regeneration Mist

Lesse Bioactive Face Masque

F. Miller Eye Oil

F. Miller Lip Balm

F. Miller Body Oil

Merben Dry Brush

Dual Action Facial Jade Roller

Dr. Singha Mustard Bath

Dr. Tung's Tongue Cleaner

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