What exactly is Belgian Decor? Neither shabby chic nor starkly contemporary, the Belgian style takes cues from both while remaining an aesthetic all its own.
Soothing and luxurious, Belgian style showcases a gently-distressed style not dissimilar to the trends popularized by shabby chic. But unlike its style counterpart, Belgian design displays these features much more sparingly. It offers a varied combination of finishes, colors, and textures that make it feel relaxed and homey while retaining an element of contemporary-cool.
“Restrained elegance” and “luxurious simplicity” are phrases that have been used to describe the Belgian design style, and both are extremely fitting. The look is both comfortable and minimal, rustic, and refined.
The Belgian interior design movement as we now know it has its roots in traditional European design, dating back to the 17th century Dutch and Flemish styles. It draws inspiration from the lush, warm design features of the past while firmly grounding the aesthetic in the 21st century.
The Age of Vervoordt
An undeniable pioneer of the Belgian Modern decor movement in its current iteration is Axel Vervoordt. An antique dealer turned designer, Vervoordt began his career in 1970 at the tender age of 21, refurbishing medieval homes in Antwerp. His acclaim quickly grew, and his work now makes up the very DNA of the Belgian Modern design movement.
Vervoordt’s work heavily features his affinity for soft, earthy tones, curves, and fabrics juxtaposed beautifully against sharp, industrial, and austere shapes. He regularly showcases rustic elements interspersed with contemporary silhouettes.
Vervoordt’s reverence for nature and history, or more specifically, the passage of time, is clearly communicated through his design. His style takes an organic approach to interior design: by combining harmonious natural elements with stern modern sensibilities, Vervoordt endeavors to embody the process of aging and transformation.
Of raw materials aged by both human and natural influence, he says, “Time gives these materials a second skin. It’s a gesture of love, a product of nature transformed by human beings and the cosmos… We must accept what nature and time have wrought.”
This aesthetic and design philosophy has become almost synonymous with the modern Belgian movement.
Where shabby chic feels overused, overwrought, and frankly a little try-hard, Belgian design feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s calming and laid back, but never loses its sense of cool. It’s perfect for homeowners who love the distressed, natural vibe but want to retain a more contemporary look.
Get the Belgian Look
So how can you bring the Belgian design aesthetic into your own home? It’s not that difficult! We’ll show you how to do it with a few simple tips and tricks.
Recognizable characteristics of the Belgian design style include:
- Layers of texture
- Raw natural materials like wood, stone, and leather
- Neutral and subtle color palette
- Fabrics, including cushions, slipcovers, carpets, and drapes
- Antique or vintage-inspired furniture
- Metal features
Here are some more considerations:
Keep things simple in terms of your color palette. Bold hues and bright, splashy accents aren’t really in keeping with the Belgian design aesthetic. On the walls, beige, greige, greys, and pale lavender, and even sage hues fit well into a Belgian-styled space. Staying within the warm range of colors is good, even if the shades are paler or desaturated. You’re going for light and airy, so avoid anything too strong or punchy.
Don’t worry about your room feeling flat and dull because of the subtle color palette. You can add plenty of dimension to your space by playing around with textures. Try layering different textiles, especially natural ones like linen, cotton, wicker, bamboo, and other natural fibers. Wood décor is a must-have for Belgian design, and you can mix and match different kinds. Weathered wood and raw stone are also excellent materials for bringing the textures of nature into your home.
Furniture built from mixed materials is the go-to for Belgian design. This kind of décor, especially furniture that mixes wood and metal, is a prime example of Vervoordt’s juxtaposition of nature and industry. Go for clean lines and strong shapes – nothing too ornamental or excessive. You can dress up your furniture pieces with accessories, fabrics, and textures. This is also an opportunity to incorporate a little more color. More saturated natural tones, like olive, magenta, and burnt sienna, can make for nice accenting touches when used sparingly.
If this brief insight into the world of Belgian décor inspires your inner designer, McDermott Remodeling can help you bring that vision to life. Our design-build team is ready to infuse European flavor into your home. Connect with us today to get started.
Brittany received her interior design degree in 2010 and recently earned her kitchen and bathroom certifications. She sees her job as much more than just picking out pretty colors and materials – it also involves exact measurements, plenty of planning, and determining how to have a space accurately reflect the lifestyle of its occupants.