Gert Voorjans Works His Magic on this Brussels Villa
He eschews the formulaic and tried-and-tested in favour of a daring output that bends or breaks the rules, and does it all with utmost skill and unbridled enthusiasm. Throughout his career, Belgian interior design maverick Gert Voorjans has transformed many a space into an eclectic wonderland. There was the Antwerp consulate, the former post-WW2 residence of a German maritime magnate that he had been commissioned by the new owners to update. There was also a medieval castle in Bavaria, which he had overhauled and refurbished into a habitable family home. And the list goes on.
Always one to colour outside the lines, he is not of the mind that a house must only subscribe to one personality. This was how he approached a project involving a colonial villa on the periphery of Brussels, which had morphed into a structure far from its original state due to extensions, passageways, and annexes that were added to accommodate its previous inhabitants. The easiest solution would have been to start from scratch, but Voorjans had other ideas. Despite his artful irreverence, he is extremely respectful of two things: the site he is working on and the wishes of his clients (“They must be aware that it is them and not I who will be living in their home. Also, they must love what they are asking for and not blame me afterwards,” Voorjans shared with Philippine Tatler in an earlier interview).
The new owners are an international family with both Caribbean and Belgian roots. The duality of the two different cultures inspired Voorjans to create a mix-and-match concept for the interiors, which he refers to as “aesthetic duels.” In this home, English gentleman meets Hollywood diva, Fortuny meets American Art Deco, Warhol meets Rubelli, and so on and so forth. Though intentional, these opposing aesthetics do not come across as contrived. Rather Voorjans skillfully initiates a dialogue between all these styles, bringing together objects, continents, and even eras. The 17th century patterns bring in Old World charm, while the mezzanine with its mirrors that toy with perspective are undoubtedly New World. Luxury, of course, remains the common denominator that ties everything together.
The entrance, with its high ceiling, Vert Patricia marble and walnut details, and Chrysler Building lobby-esque benches are a throwback to the Art Deco period. The landing integrates into a full-fledged sitting room, which plays host to Venetian sofas and Persian rugs. Modern American influences such as the Warhol-inspired clover-shaped table add a touch of whimsy to the space, detracting from its sombreness.
The hallway branches out into two wings. On the left wing, one can find the kitchen and formal dining room. Voorjans jazzes this area up with a full wall of mirrors, a large mahogany dining table, Ruhlmann chairs, and Lobmeyrs Sputnik lamps like those of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
The right wing leads to a library, salon, and piano room, linked together visually by a parquet floor with inlaid tropical wood. In the piano room, a 1960s LaVerne salon table flanked by red silk and velvet chairs takes centre stage. Upon closer inspection, one can see that a Japanese scene is engraved onto it, bringing an oriental touch that isn’t at all out of place into an area already teeming with American and European influences. Adjacent and situated down one step is the library. Voorjans cleverly connects it with the piano room through the red sofa, which has a second lower seat along its back that is perfectly at level with the library.
His famous three C ethos—colour, craftsmanship, and character—comes to life in the salon. Starkly different from its surrounding areas, the turquoise canopies and Venini glass displays reflect the Caribbean aspect of the owners’ heritage. A Flemish cabinet, English carpet, Empire swan chairs, and Rubelli fabrics give the room a luxe feel. Voorjans throws in two Capodimonte porcelain dogs—odd little creatures that look completely out of place in such a fine, glamourous space—just for kicks. These serve as a reminder to welcome laughter into the home and to not take things too seriously. It is true of the designer himself, who has made it his goal to challenge all interior design stigmas and dogmas. When asked why he goes all out and over-the-top, Voorjans says that this is not just a means of expressing himself as a designer and artist, but also a means to have fun.
- Photography Tim Van de Velde