Belgian Farmhouse Style
During the 1980's I lived just outside of Brussels in Belgium right across the street from a lovely windmill in a field. During my time living in this tiny country, squeezed between France and The Netherlands, I traveled around, admiring the beautiful countryside, visiting monasteries where monks still brewed beer from age-old recipes and seeing ancient buildings made of stone and wood timber.
Now, we're in a moment where all things farmhouse-y and, specifically, Belgian farmhouse-y, is inspiring design. Axel Vervoordt, the iconic Belgian designer known for his luminescent interiors featuring linen slipcovered sofas and chairs and emulating the Japanese concept of "wabi-sabi" (i.e., the more imperfect the better), is an inspiration and his aesthetic a jumping off point for understanding "Belgian" farmhouse style. The sensibility of this style is close to that of Dutch and French agrarian elements -- dark and light woods intermixed; stone surfaces; patina; value contrasts in fabrics, mostly in neutral hues with occasional muted colors of flowers and trees. Nature plays a big role in farmhouse design. Nature is always perfect -- in its imperfections. Farmhouse style is not overly staged; it looks lived in by real people who have lived there for many years. So, distressed wood, or whitewashed wood, traditional furniture lines, unvarnished and metal and stone that's not too honed are featured.
The photo shown above is of a living room re-design still in progress that has elements of farmhouse design that harkens to Belgium, France and the Netherlands. The dark, floral knotted wool rug -- a major element when draped over a table in many of Vermeer's paintings -- grounds the space. A traditional wing-back shape of a chair -- to be slipcovered in a muted floral cotton/linen fabric with corals and browns anchors the corner. A huge framed piece of lace -- Belgium is renowned for its lacemaking -- provides a unique focal point above a dark wood console table with turned legs. The ladder-back chair (to be slipcovered in a natural linen also) is a form seen across the Western world in myriad farmhouses. The space feels casual, with a hint of the imperfections of "wabi-sabi', the way Vervoordt's spaces feel. There is restraint in the placement of decorative objects, as the larger sculptural objects -- the furnishings -- speak for themselves.