These days, it’s almost de rigueur for any self-respecting departmental store to feature a vast restaurant slash gourmet boutique on its top floor. Which probably explains why when Dutch architects Rijnboutt were tapped to create the masterplan for the De Bijenkorf Utrecht department store in Utrecht’s old town centre, the brief included a brand new top floor.

The interior architecture firm i29 took its cues for the design and layout of the 850 sq m light-filled space from the De Bijenkorf name, which translates into ‘beehive’. The apiary mood is manifested in a very effective pattern of hexagonal white floor and wall tiles, interspersed with clusters of black tiles to create the subliminal effect of bees swarming over the surfaces.

The challenge, says i29 ‘was to create an environment that was made for heavy use whilst keeping the quality in sharp details and natural materials’ like oak, ceramics and glass. To that end, the self-service set-up – take your pick from a central open kitchen offering a range of Italian, Asian, fresh salad and grill – funnels guests towards a variety of open-planned and intimate seating zones that are sectioned off by coloured glass partitions and cabinetry, green walls, and low backed sofas.