Friday, November 28, 2014

Gert Voorjans

I'm constantly amazed at the things that I find years after they're published, that I fall head over hills in love with. For instance, the apartment of Belgian architect and designer, Gert Voorjans. I was knee deep in a Pinterest search for a friend, when I came across pictures of his living room/parlor pinned from the Wall Street Journal. I fell in love with the colorful frivolity and eclectic look that I long for, but can never quite seem to get right. It's bohemian at its best, and I quickly started looking for more pictures of the space.

Of course, I found them - but they were all different. Furniture shifted, new things came in, the evolution of the space literally unfolded right before me. While most things stayed the same, I loved how the simple addition or subtraction seemed to make the room feel new and different.

So, I brought it here to show all of you, because that's what you do when you have a blog, right? HA! Ok, so here we go. Voorjans was published in the May/June 2012 issue of Vogue Living Australia:

Here you can see his parlor, likely photographed months before. I realize that this may not be everyone's cup of tea, but roll with me, won't you? I actually am not a huge fan of this angle of the room, in fact, if I had seen this picture first, I wouldn't have paid all that much attention to the space. Even though the tapestry is absolutely amazing, and I'd trade my car for a set of those citron leather Louis chairs, I would have kept on scrolling.

I wanted to give this to you in order though ... so in August 2012, he was interviewed and the house was photographed for an online blog/magazine: Interiorator. Photos of the parlor showed it very much the same way that it was in the two page feature in Australian Vogue Living:

Except ... here you could see more of the architectural integrity of the room: those floors, the built in book cases that flank the rather modern fireplace mantel; the collection of other furniture and how it all relates to the feeling of the room. After seeing this picture, promptly falling in love with that knoll sofa, purple English roll arm chair, spindle officers chair, and still figuring out how I could get my hands on those Louis chairs covered in that superb citron leather ... the hunt was on. 
I searched every blog, every google page, every pinterest post, every online source I could think of to find as many pictures as possible of the space. I love the collection of unique pieces, the color, the pattern, the layers ... it's really remarkable. Gert has an affinity for Uzbekistan textiles (as do I) and you'll see silk ikat pillows on every sofa. The desk looks  as if it's wrapped in old aviator cloth, and books fill the shelves haphazardly, completely lovely and unintentional all at the same time.
There are interesting pieces EVERYWHERE! The iron garden stool, for example, painted in a lacquer Kelley green. That lavender slipcover with the knife pleats on the English roll arm chair, the art, the Chinoiserie chest in the corner ... clearly, Gert loves to live with things he loves.
Now, after all of this press, the Wall Street Journal did an article on Gert and published it in January 2013. This is where things in the apartment start to really shift:

Now the knoll sofa, with its tattered fringe and well worn upholstery is against the tapestry, and we get to see the function of the desk in the corner, with computer screen and telephone.

The opposite corner of the room, more art, and that gorgeous marble topped commode, hand painted. That lamp is spectacular, and while the shade rings a little circus, the sheer size of the lamp is spectacular. Layered mirrors lean against the wall, and more silk ikat shows up. It's a clever mix of modern, antique, and the long forgotten. I mean, when was the last time you saw a rattan bucket chair? EXACTLY! And even then, I'm sure you didn't see it paired up with a beautiful chest, complex master-work art on canvas, and period French mirrors. 

Then, sometime after, this photo shows up with no real source. Sure, the photo is professional, but I can't seem to find where the room was published, or who took the photo.

All sorts of new things show up. The grisaille paper screen, the antique leopard hide, more ikat pillows, art and mirros now leaned against the tapestry behind the knoll sofa - still looking fabulously worn. The table is new, and these nail head trimmed kilim covered bergere chairs have appeared.

Then this picture popped up:

Gone is the desk, the table, and the citron leather chairs I loved so much. Now, a textile covered table and aqua rattan chair are floating on this very blue wool rug. It's so daring, and bold that I can't help but stare at it, and wonder - why can't I make this work in my house. Every time I try it looks so contrived and wrong.

About 8 months ago, the parlor looked like this, according to an image that Gert shared on his instagram page:

Everything is similar, except for new placement of some of the accessories and chairs. And really proves to be a gorgeous photo with the natural light. Then, I hit paydirt when I found a Dutch online magazine that did a story on the way the room looked just last week!

Wow, what a difference, right? I mean, the paint is the same, the architecture is the same. The books, the light fixture, the major art (the tapestry) has never changed, and yet the room still looks different every time because of the gentle shifts in accessories and furniture.

Whether it's your cup of tea or not, I think that this is proof positive that with a little creative flair, you can really change the mood of your room without breaking the bank, or creating a lot of unnecessary mess. Here are some tips:

1. Slipcover your furniture! Even if it's in good shape, a slipcover can act as clothes for an upholstered piece and completely change the look and feel of a piece. When you're ready for a change, simply take the slipcover off and voila. If you can't afford an entire slipcover, and your piece has a removable seat cushion, consider having that done in a contrasting fabric.
2. Don't overlook pieces that can be repurposed. I'm guilty of it too. I see a great chair, table, heck even suitcase and it's a super low price, and I walk right by it because I don't think I can use it. But if you keep a creative outlook, you can score some super loot at crazy low prices and have an eclectic and collected home that everyone will covet. Suitcases can become side tables, and can be easily changed up with some paint. Wood or Rattan chairs can easily be painted to fit into a décor theme, and then repainted when you're ready for a new look. Lamps, particularly floor lamps are super useful! If you find a base you love, don't let the shade scare you into not buying it. Garden and yard furniture and décor. That little green lacquer garden stool might have been a rusted mess when Gert found it. But after a few coats of high-gloss spray paint, it's a fully functional and beautiful piece of furniture.
3. Mix Patterns Without Fear! This is my biggest problem. I'm always pairing up fabrics one by one to see if they work together, when the reality is that sometimes you're better off just using a better formula. If the fabrics are all from the same region, that is to say: ikat or kilim from Uzbekistan (like above) they will be fine together, regardless of color combinations. Likewise, some prints (such as damasks or animal prints) can become neutrals in the right situation. (For instance the sofa above, and the knoll sofa from the first iteration of this space.) If you love it - buy it. It'll work, somewhere!
4. Avoid Trends. Easier said than done, I know. If you're shopping at Pottery Barn, HomeGoods, TJMaxx, Marshalls or any other sort of chain store for your accessories, you're probably only going to find trendy, or (once trendy soon to be passé) stuff for your house. You gotta branch out. Check out your local thrift stores, flea markets, antique stores, and decorating outlets. That's where you're going to find stuff with history, stuff that's relatable and fun ... not just pretty.
5. Layer, Layer, Layer! I find the most interesting and beautiful things to be layered from fashion to interior design. So when you find that rug you just can't live without, don't walk by it thinking, but I already have a rug in the dining room. Buy the darn thing and throw it down on top of it! The same can be said for lighting, (yes, you can put a lamp near a sconce), furniture (who said a sample sized chair or children's chair couldn't do double duty as a footstool) art and mirrors,


  1. Hi Artie, thanks for the post.... like you, I most likely would have scrolled by the first image... just way too much crammed into one room, however, your additional commentary and accompanying images had me take another look to appreciate the nuances of each photo. ~M

  2. Oh Artie this is how I want to live. Layered loveliness. I appreciate all the research you've done. I've pinned every one of the images for inspiration. I have to get back to my hippie roots.


  3. Hi Artie, For me the absolute best practitioner of this kind of look is Ben Pentreath in the UK...his blog is to die for and his book is just wonderful! If I was 25 years younger and a gay man I would be stalking him. jk. :)

  4. This is great. i love these kinds of stories. btw I usually check for the photographer and search that way for more photos, esp. sites that warehouse photos from interior design photographers. great article!!!!!!! loved this!!!

  5. Very informative, keep posting such good articles, it really helps to know about things.

  6. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.
    very informative post for me as I am always looking for new content that can help me and my knowledge grow better.

  7. Your article and photos both are superbs .