From the fashion and diamond industries to its luxurious chocolate shops, Belgium is known as a place where craftsmanship takes centre stage, and nowhere is this approach more evident than in its homeware.
Ceramics are a significant part of Belgium’s art heritage, and it’s a field in which both the traditional and the innovative flourish. Among the latter is Ann van Hoey, who creates her own distinctive brand of ceramic art, as well as designing a line of bone-china tableware for Serax, a Belgian home décor company.
Van Hoey came up with the idea of folding thin sheets of clay to create delicate shapes after seeing origami artists at work in Japan. This resulted in a simple yet original signature style which has already seen her recognised internationally. ‘My love for geometry and simplicity are expressed in my own line, as well as in the collection I develop for Serax,’ she explains. A classic, traditional artisan craft has evolved into contemporary design thanks to her singular take on the medium. Clean lines are interrupted by only the finest origami-like incisions.
Another pioneering name to note is Studio Pieter Stockmans, established in 1987, which is renowned for its delicate porcelain. Its award-winning founder, ceramicist and designer Pieter Stockmans, has become known for his eggshell-fine products – cups, plates and vases among them – as well as for striking porcelain art installations. The apparent simplicity of the designs – mostly in white or its signature shade of blue that has come to be known as Stockmansblauw – is deceptive; the painstaking production process, which involves 17 different operations, means that it takes a week to make each soothingly minimalist piece. Like Van Hoey, he has also designed a small collection for Serax, which describes him as ‘a Flemish ambassador for culture’.
Flamant in first place
But it is not only independent designers who are making waves when it comes to home decoration. Belgian homeware giant Flamant offers everything from glassware and textiles to furniture and even its own Flamant paint. It began more than 30 years ago when three brothers decided to expand their father’s antique shop by creating new interpretations of antique furniture and decorative objects.
The brand has now further developed that vision and grown its business into 16 standalone stores across Europe and 50 partnership stores worldwide. It has just taken up residence in Antwerp’s Paleis op de Meir, a former royal palace built in the 18th century. ‘This was an opportunity that came to us,’ says Alex Flamant, co-founder of the company. ‘We are always looking for the best locations for our stores, and you can’t pass up an offer like that.’ The new store is housed in the old coach house and joins a refined mix of cultural attractions, restaurants and boutiques that occupy the renovated palace.
‘We want to be an international brand that appeals to people all over the world,’ says Flamant. ‘Our ideas come from the customers, as well as our varied design team, who are inspired by current affairs and trends and incorporate these into the collections. This approach enables us to take our signature artisan craftsmanship and produce pieces that are contemporary. This results in an eclectic mix of products that appeal to many and fit into any interior. I think that’s why our concept, and its evolution, has been so successful. It is often thought you can’t mix traditional with modern design when it comes to interiors, but this fusion is the essence of our vision and what we promote. That and the professionalism of the company structure will ensure the future and continuity of our business and success.’
This is all good news for those looking for distinctive products made to the highest standards – and it’s helping to put Belgium homeware on the interior design map.
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