Sunday, December 6, 2009

Meeting Axel Vervoordt

Photo: Architectural Digest

I walked up the stairs from the cellar at Kasteel Gravenwezel which led to the entry hall (below), famously depicted on the cover of 'Axel Vervoordt: Timeless Interiors'. 


This room, at the top of the exterior staircase landing seen in last week's post, leads to Axel Vervoordt's office (via doorway above) and study (doorway below). This airy,  light-filled room, with a black-bordered white marble floor, has earth from the property mixed with linseed oil and pigment to create the glowing color on the walls.
Stepping into Axel's office, one of the first things I noticed were sixteen (I counted) orchids in old clay pots in each of the two window sills on either side of the fireplace. In front of each window was a small sofa, as shown in the image below (from the Axel Vervoordt Home Collection web site), though the orchids were replaced in the catalog shot by some books and objects. 

The first time I saw Axel Vervoordt, he was standing in the center of his office and speaking with people he seemed to know, offering them something to drink from the bar hidden behind a closet door in a corner of the room.  I found the wonderful illustration (watercolor?) of the office (below) some time ago and had it stored on my computer, but I don't know who created it. If it is yours, or if you can identify it, please email me so that I can update the credit.
Image: ?

Through a doorway to the conference room (below), a long table was lined with art books and blueprints of projects underway.

The chapel (below), in the tower room at one corner of the conference room, was roped off but allowed visitors a peek inside.

The next room on the tour was the much photographed ground-floor study, its walls lined with bookcases filled with beautiful collections  of pottery, sculpture and books. This Chesterfield-back sofa,  is quite deep and also from the AV Home Collection. Its unusual shade  of purple lends an element of surprise on entering the room.

Image: here
The Lucio Fontana painting, above the fireplace mantel in the study, was purchased by Axel Vervoordt in 1969 and is said to be one of his favorites.

The stove in the ground-floor kitchen gave off much warmth, but I'm not sure if it was wood or gas. Who wouldn't enjoy preparing a meal in this room with its thick wood trestle-table, crystal chandelier, white marble floors and counter tops and blue pigment paint.

The next doorway in the kitchen led to the dining room, it's silvery light blue walls displaying an arrary of 17th century Chinese porcelain raised from a sunken ship by the Hatcher expedetion. Axel Vervoordt bought the expedition's entire trove of this porcelain and displayed it in his first Paris antiquarian exhibition, which brought him world attention.

Photo: here
Taking the portrait-lined staircase up to the next floor, I found several very serene rooms that seemed to be lived in. In the Oriental Salon, the low table in front of the sofa had some magazines and newspapers on it.

Just behind the this Oriental Salon was the Venus room, lined to the ceiling with bookcases filled with Axel Vervoordt's archives,  catalogued files of research materials related art, history and furniture. With this bed from the Axel Vervoordt Home Collection, it could serve double-duty as a guest room. Notice the burgunday-colored faux marble bath through the doorway at left.


The red room, on the next  floor up, was one of my favorites.

As I walked toward the tower room doorway, seen above to left of the bed, I heard an ancient floorboard let out a little squeak. Happy in the knowledge that I knew the exact spot in the floor of the castle that had a squeak, I stepped on it again on my way out, to be sure.

On the second weekend of the exhibition, I returned to see the castle one more time, arriving late, around 6:oo pm. This time, when I entered Axel Vervoordt's office, he was alone in the room, sitting at his desk and focused on some papers in his hand. He looked up and smiled as I walked over, and stood up to shake hands as I introduced myself. I told him a little about my projects at home and that he was my primary source of inspiration. Nodding as I spoke, he said that he knows of some very nice houses in Tennessee. I noted how many people the open house drew, and he told me that some of the visitors were even clients with whom he had projects underway, hence the blueprints on the conference room table. I told how much I had enjoyed touring the castle and thanked him for opening his home. He graciously responded 'with pleasure' before  returning to his desk and his work. 

As I walked across the bridge towards my car, I stopped to look back and take in the image of the Kasteel s-Gravenwezel against the dark sky, and hoped that one day I would see it, and Axel Vervoordt, again.

Axel and May Vervoordt open the Kasteel s-Gravenwezel to the public for twice yearly exhibitions, summer and winter. For dates and details, please visit the official web site.


  1. James, what a priceless opportunity... to not only tour Axel Vervoord's home... but to meet him! And as gorgeous as the photos are, I'm sure they do not fully capture the spirit and character of the spaces.

    Thank you for the tour...

  2. Terri, thanks for your comment, and you're right. This home is, for me, really beyond description... it was at once serene, elegant and timeless, and filled with so much amazing art of all kinds, from ancient to contemporary. I'd love to visit again and recommend going.

  3. Hi James,

    The pictures are of Axel Vervoordt's home are so beautiful. You are so lucky to have toured his home and to have met him in person! I really like the white dining room and the Venus Room library collection. I think the last shot of is my favorite of all, just as you said... serene, elegant and timeless.

    Thank you so much for your advice on my laundry room make over too. I'm feeling a bit in over my head but I try to do as much as I can. I really appreciate your help very much! Thank you!
    Bonnie at Love Your Place

  4. Thanks for sharing their home. It must be so wonderful to see and tour.

  5. What a timeless richness these spaces have. Thanks for your comment on my blog, and I look forward to reading more of your interesting features and interviews.

  6. Images are beautiful but the description make them come to life. I loved the squeak part...