You can’t talk interior design without mentioning Axel Vervoordt. Many times. The Belgian antiques dealer and interior designer has been around for more than just a while. Setting up base in an old Belgian castle, over the years he has evolved a keen sense of beauty and an unmistakable harmonious style, becoming a patron of the arts around the world whilst curating multiple distinguished exhibitions and hosting lectures. It’s safe to say that Axel Vervoordt is one of the most influential tastemakers of his time.
His finesse hails back from his history as an antiques dealer, which he first got into into when he was just 14 years old – silver, paintings and Chinese furniture, mostly. About is his early days as a collector he says:
“ Collecting is in your blood. My mother loved it as well. We didn’t live in a grand house, just a small one, but she always made it look beautiful. She lit candles every night. I love rooms with atmosphere.”
Rooms with atmosphere is a slight understatement, his refined interiors breathe an air of eastern calmness. Which isn’t a mere coincidence: the essence of Wabi – a Japanese philosophy that values simplicity and respect – is deeply cemented into his work. Earthy colours, natural materials and humble and exquisite objects alike come together to create what he himself defines as “harmonious living”. The line between different time periods seems to blur into soft-toned rooms that radiate respect for the history and original character of the space. His most bespoke projects bring together natural elements—light, water, metal, wood— and blend these with a modern aesthetic. But, as simple as it may sound to combine the old with the new, Vervoordt emphasises that decorating is not so much about aesthetics as it is about cherishing both the past and the present:
“ I mix art and objects from different periods. We’re all products of the past, but we must also take inspiration from the present. And we have a responsibility to build a new society for tomorrow. It’s a pity when collectors go contemporary and get rid of their older art. I tell them to keep the best of the old and search for interactions with the new. ”
You could see this as his trademark visual language, but his approach is not limited to interiors. It is really more of a complete philosophy that he applies to all of his architectural projects. It becomes instantly clear when taking a look at his personal Belgian estate. A grand castle he acquired in the 80’s and restored with complete respect for the building’s history. The residence is surrounded by vast gardens and orchards. It’s easy to see how it has captivated a lot of Axel’s former clients to spend a day or two wandering through its vast collection of arts and antiques. In a way the castle is more than just Axel Vervoordt’s home, it’s the perfect example of how he takes the old and translates it to fit contemporary needs. Another project that reflects this is ‘Kanaal’, an ambitious architectural project that has transformed a former distillery and malting complex into a ‘city within the country’. The Vervoordt team took inspiration from the industrial heritage of the distillery and has rebuilt it to house living and working spaces, creating a thriving hub of economic activity. Just like Le Corbusier might have had his ideas about what modern living could look like, so does Axel Vervoordt.
“ The 20th century was synonymous with production, consumption, and disposal,” he says in an interview for Cereal Magazine, “but now we are running low, both on places to dump waste and on forests to raid. In the 21st century, recuperation is playing a major role. In this way, the old becomes current again. We appreciate old walls, furniture that has not been restored, everything that in its original state has been transformed by time, the greatest sculptor of all. Time gives these materials a second skin. It’s a gesture of love, a product of nature as transformed by human beings and the cosmos, which, over the years, has come to accept and integrate new forms. We must accept what nature and time have wrought.”
Words by Sara Martín Mazorra.