Friday, November 27, 2009

Win 'Axel Vervoordt:Timeless Interiors'


Today begins Axel Vervoordt's annual Winter Exhibition, or open house,  which runs Friday through Sunday, this weekend and next.  This is the first in a series of posts related to Axel Vervoordt that I will publish over the next ten days of the Winter Exhibition. I am giving readers and bloggers the chance to win a copy of 'Axel Vervoordt: Timeless Interiors' by Armelle Baron (Author) and Christian Sarramon (photographer). Contest details appear at the end of this post. A description of the open house (below) comes from
The castle of ‘s-Gravenwezel, the private home of Axel and May Vervoordt, is like a permanently changing exhibition of wonderful furniture and objets d’art, from various periods and styles. During these two weekends, it is possible to visit all of the 50 rooms from the castle and its outbuildings, each of them different in ambiance and character. The post-industrial “Kanaal” with its 19th century red-brick brew houses and 20th century concrete silos display the pieces from the Axel Vervoordt Home Collection together with contemporary photography, unique archaeological pieces and some rare 20th century design furniture. Castle and Kanaal: Friday-Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. till 7 p.m. Entrance at the castle: 10 euro Free entrance at “Kanaal”
While living in Belgium on a temporary assignment, I attended the open house at the castle two weekends in a row in 2007.  I had never been to the Antwerp area,  and it seemed as though my GPS was not exactly sure how to reach the castle. After righting a couple of wrong turns I passed a sign for the village of -s-Gravenwezel and found myself on a narrow road through a forest. I soon came upon a clearing that revealed the shapes and colors and spires that I already knew from the well worn pages of my favorite books at home, 'Axel Vervoordt: Story of a Style' and 'Axel Vevoordt: Timeless Interiors'. 

Driving slowly up the tree-lined drive, I was directed to park in a field that seem to have a high concentration of Ranger Rovers. As I walked back from my car toward the castle entrance, I noticed small barn or run-in shed for horses near the back of the parking field, and recalled reading that Axel said rides every morning. Moments later, as I walked past the towering gates I could hear water flowing through the moat that encircles the castle. Looking across and seeing the castle in full view, I recalled the first time I saw a reference to it in the magazine article that introduced me to Axel Vervoordt some years before, and prepared to take in what I was about to behold.

I stepped onto a cobblestone drive that led through a small corridor where I was directed to the entrance in the outer building. The first room contained a simple  desk, with several AV staffers standing behind it chatting with each other and some visitors. One of them gave me a ticket in exchange for the ten euros admission, and I took the few steps down to the reception area (above) where I felt the warmth of a slow burning oak fire. The room felt eerily familiar, as I had seen it in photographs a hundred times. I slowly made my way through the first series of rooms, pausing to take in every detail.

This work room (above) had many "manquettes", some on the bookshelf and table top, others hanging on the walls. These miniature models of various components of buildings, mostly roof lines and spiral staircases, have for centuries been made by apprentice carpenters as a sort of final exam. Books, blueprints, and other paper artifacts from Axel Vervoordt were for sale in this room, and I purchased my copy of 'Artempo', the catalog from his first Venice exhibition, here.


The majority of the rooms had fireplaces, and every one of them glowed with the warmth and aroma of burning wood. Each room was staffed by at least one Axel Vervoordt employee who kept an eye on the fire and answered questions about any of the objets d'art or furnishings in the room. Much of each room's content was for sale, the castle serving the dual role of home and showroom for the Vervoordts. With her inventory clipboard in hand, the staffer in this pine room (above) was happy to discuss the details of the room's construction, revealing for me its hidden compartments and doors.

This kitchen (above), which normally serves as a staff lunch room, was set up with cider, coffee and wine to wash down scones or cookies arranged on silver trays.

I sat on a long bench in the Orangerie having a glass of wine before walking out into the courtyard of the U-shaped outer building to follow the wide cobblestone path to main house, its windows aglow in the dim light of this Belgian winter afternoon.

Photo: here
I will post recollections of touring the main house in subsequent posts over the course of the open house dates. In the meantime, you can let Mr. Vervoordt himself show you around a room or two in this video from Belgian television (below), the last of the two part series that began in this post on Monday, courtesy of


Win 'Timeless Interiors' Contest
I created this blog a year ago with almost no experience as blog reader, much less, blogger,  and gave up after two posts. At the time of this writing, the Garvinweasel blog has only been re-activated for about ten days and  I have already met so many great people here. It really started  up again with the Velvet & Linen  Brickmaker's Table contest. I have discovered many new sources of information and inspiration, and I'm making new friends in the process. To celebrate the re-birth of the Garvinweasel blog, and to say 'thank you' to everyone following or linking to it, I will give away a copy of 'Axel Vervoordt: Timeless Interiors" from Here's how to enter:

- If you have a blog, just add a link to Garvinweasel on your blog list. If you'd like to do a post to help promote the contest, even better, but not required for entry.

- If you are a reader, just sign up to follow Garvinweasel using Google FriendConnect

After doing one of the above, leave a comment here letting me know and you will have become a contestant. If you are already following, or already have a link to Garvinweasel on your blog, please leave a comment here along with my new friends so that I have a complete list for of all entrants in one place. The contest entry period will close at 6:00 PM Central Standard Time next Sunday evening, December 5, 2009. Later that night I will put all verified entries into a large hurricane glass (with candle removed) and ask Ms. XVI to shuffle them around and draw one name. I plan to take pictures for the post announcing the winner on Monday morning, December 6.

* Please note that in order to win, you must live in a country that or ships to directly. Delivery times are outside of my control, but if you are in the US or Canada you should have it in time for Christmas if you would like it for a gift to give. Outside the U.S or Canada, the winner would be responsible for any applicable duties and taxes. If other contest rules need to apply, I will post them as soon as I am aware of any need to revise. Best of luck!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Axel Vervoordt - Designer of the Year

According the Belgian on-line magazine Knack Weekend, British design house Andrew Martin has named Belgian art and antiques dealer Axel Vervoordt 'Designer of the Year'. I translated the Dutch from the article  using Babelfish followed with some light editing/translation of my own. The original article appears here.


The internationally renowned antiquarian/decorator Axel Vervoordt is exclaimed by the already just as famous British decorating house Andrew Martin to stylist of the Year 2009. This London house not only creates fabrics and furniture for decorators around the world, but also developed its own line of furnishings and lighting. In the past years numerous famous decorators to receive the award include Kelly Hoppen and Michael Reeves. Vervoordt is not the first belgian to receive this recognition, which went to the late Jean de Meulder in 2000. The award will be presented on 26 November to the Vervoordt family. The emphasis lies on family, because the company of Axel and May Vervoordt is continued by their son Boris Vervoordt. The date for this presentation is designed to take place on the occasion of the annual open house days, next weekend, in the castle of s-Gravenwezel and the shop Kanaal, both on the outskirts of Antwerp.

This international award is considered 'the Oscar of the Interior Design world', according to the Andrew Martin site, which contains photographs of past winners, including:

  • Kelly Hoppen
  • Thomas Pheasant
  • Michael Reeves
  • Stephen Falke
  • Jean de Meuidier
  • Amanda Rosa
  • Jamie Drake
  • Tera Bernerd
  • Taylor Howes
  • Helene Hennie
  • Kit Kemp
The Vervoordt family (Axel, May, Boris, Dick) appear in a two part televsion interview (also in Dutch), courtesy of YouTube. Taped in the Oriental Salon on the second floor of the castle (for U.S. readers, first floor overseas), I enjoyed watching this even though I can understand only a few words here and there... words like 'Sting' and 'Madonna', two among a new generation of the exclusive and usually private AV clientele. The story began when Mr. Vervoordt made a handsome profit from his first sale of a painting,  purchased as a teenager while traveling to London with his father. Over the years he built his reputation and his business grew, eventually becoming the premier dealer and decorator among European aristocrats and global moguls, types who generally shy away from publicity. It is well known that Bill Gates has visited the Kasteel s-Gravenwezel to shop for antiques and art, and the Vervoordts' are rumoured to maintain an office in Seattle for the sole purpose of keeping the Gates' residence just right. You can see photographs of his work on one of the Royal residences of Belgium in the book Timeless Interiors.

Here is part one of the video interview. I will post part two on Friday, along with some notes on my recollection of visiting the castle's open house, and meeting Axel Vervoordt, in December 2007.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Country chic

I stumbled across a great blog called Velvet & Linen last week. It's run by a Los Angeles-based designer, Brooke Gianetti, who, in addition to being lovely and talented, has some great friends. Among them is Mark Sage, owner of Love Train Antiques in Atlanta and a partner in Bobo Intriguing Objects, the Belgian design company who's products are now featured in the Restoration Hardware catalog. Mark and his Belgian partner, Rudi Nijssen, were on the catalog cover recently. Brooke and Mark decided to have a contest and  give away not one, but three, of these Brickmakers tables, which retail for $1,360 in the catalog.

So here's how it works: entrants were required to submit a photograph of the room where they intend to place table, should they win, and they agree to photograph the table for potential promotional use by Mark or Brooke. Pretty good deal! I have been familiar with Mark's Belgian company for years, as I travel to Brussels for my job. I usually stay over the weekend to browse antiques on rue Haute, where you can see selections from the Bobo line displayed in a great little shop called Jacques Brol, run by the very interesting and multi-lingual Paul Jacobs. Here's a pic from rue Blaes, one street over, leading to the flea market.

I knew this table would be perfect for Garvinweasel, but the challenge I faced was which room to photograph, as most of rooms here are in various states of renovation construction, with none of them lending themselves, as is, to a photograph that would inspire a contest judge think 'aha!'. So, I decided to throw together a vignette in the future library using objects and light weight pieces of furniture to convey a sense of what could be, should the table arrive here one day soon. After moving loads of wood around in the room, sweeping up a little sawdust, and moving in what you see below, I felt I had something worthy of a try, and off to Brooke my email entry went.

About the objects in this photo: I bought the antique mountain chair at the Place Jeu de Balle flea market in Brussels in 2007; the books include two Axel Vervoordt exhibition catalogs, Artempo and Academia; the carved wood Buddha is from a trip to Beijing and the ceramic opium pillow on which he rest is from another trip to Hong Kong. I did the pen and ink drawings from an illustration inside the cover of Paris Interiors (Taschen Press) and blew them up on hand-made paper. Should the brickmakers table arrive at Garvinweasel, I would place it between two sofas in the same light sage velvet shown on the ottoman and pillows. I grabbed the hay bale off a stack out back, but it will soon make its way to the dog shed for their winter comfort.

To give you a slightly better idea of what is really going on in this room, here's a wider angle shot.

In case you are curious about the rest of the room, here's a doorway from the libary to the music room. Note the heavy plastic over the door opening, to contain sawdust. The blue paint left on the old door frame will be stripped, and the whole room will likely go a mildly distressed french gray. I have stripped the old fireplace mantel, constructed a built-in a bookcase and custom doors for the audio closet, and have started on wainscoting. 

So it looks like 2010 is shaping up to be the year of country chic, as you can see in this video for the Chanel Spring 2010 collection, shot under the glass of Paris' Grand Palais. Karl Lagerfeld and crew are welcome to spend the weekend at Garvinweasel anytime. From the looks of this video, they would feel right at home.

Brooke and Mark's contest has shaped up over the past week into a raving success. She has posted dozens of entries on the site over the past few days, and the first round of judging will take place over the weekend. Her blogging design friends will pick ten finalist, then on Monday morning at eight a.m. the public can vote right there on her blog. The final selection of three lucky winners will be by popular vote. Please check in with her on Monday to see if my hay bale made the first cut, and if so, I hope you will vote for me. The dogs will thank you. They want their hay back.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Built-in Brussels

I spent a few days working in Brussels recently, so I stayed over to visit the flea markets and snap pix of design inspirations. Here's an empty Grand Place early Sunday morning.

On Saturday I spent some time wandering through a beautiful series of rooms at a custom cabinetry shop on rue Blaes, a few blocks from the daily flea market at Place Jeu de Balle. Their web site, Baden Baden, has a extensive collection of rooms to view and is offered in French, Flemish and English. Here's a sampling of what I snapped on my iPhone: