What do Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Robert De Niro, Sting, and Calvin Klein’s homes all have in common? They have partnered with Interior Designer Axel Vervoordt. The Belgian interior designer, gallerist, foundation owner, and antiquaire was born in Vlaeykensgang, Antwerp’s historic old quarter, in 1947. The birthplace of the painters Anthony Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens played an important role to Vervoordt because his mother encouraged his development of artistic capabilities by allowing him to paint his bedroom windows and learn about the arts from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque. His father traded horses for a living and socialized with the sophisticated classes of Europe, where Vervoordt from an early age learned about antiques from books to silver. Vervoordt began his journey into interior design from his early days as a young art collector at the age of 14 where he was at an exhibition featuring the machines of Tinguely. He couldn’t afford any of it, but on the same day, he found a 16th century iron chest where it was one-tenth of the price of Tinguely. Thus, making the realization of bringing the historic art and contemporary art in design in his own practice. He likes things that have an eternal message, this essence of being.
At first, Vervoordt didn’t consider his interests in the arts as a potential profession until he went off to university to study economics and he was met with boredom. He left school to do his national service in the army. He didn’t stop thinking of the arts, where he bought art and antiques for himself and his clients. At age 21, he managed to get $50,000 for a 1948 Magritte painting, La mémoire, for which he’d paid $2,400. Later, Vervoordt went about restoring houses in his hometown, and he decided to make his home and showroom there. The business prospered, Vervoordt transformed many of the surrounding buildings into workshops and warehouses. He befriended, the Belgian painter Jef Verheyen who introduced him to the Zero movement — and to a fresh manner of seeing something with one’s eyes. It awakened Vervoordt to explore Eastern philosophies, and he began making buying trips to Thailand, Cambodia, and Japan. Vervoordt has developed the dialogue between Eastern and Western philosophy in his practice since the 1970s when he worked with an array of artists who worked with concepts of infinity and void. Vervoordt sees himself as a metaphysician instead of obsessing over his own “style,” he inquires himself into objects that compel him in relation to the philosophy of living. The concepts of space, time, and the arrangement of objects go in line with his views of Zen koan where truth is revealed in paradox and ambiguity.
He was friends with Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Rudolf Nureyev. Ralph Lauren acquired one of his Gothic tables. “Our philosophy is a belief that a home should be a personal expression of your soul. It should represent the way you want to live, the ideas that define your tastes, perspectives, and connections to the world.” Vervoordt’s design philosophy as it has been successfully implemented in all of his clients who become lifelong friends.
A favorite piece from Vervoordt is a low wooden coffee table inspired by the 1970s, where embracing a seating space that’s close to the floor spotted at Michael Bay’s home in Los Angeles. Not only has the designer designed homes, but he is also known for his interior design at restaurants like Munich’s luxury-hotel roster is Bayerischer Hof, home to the three-Michelin-star Atelier and The Garden and he renovated his own home, the 12th-century Gravenwezel Castle. The Greenwich Hotel – TriBeCa Penthouse was created by Vervoordt and Japanese architect Tatsuro Miki, in close collaboration with the hotel’s partners Ira Drukier and Robert De Niro. He is recognized by the French Ministry of Culture and has been awarded the Officier des Arts et des Lettres as one of the world’s leading tastemakers and was awarded with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia.
Kardashian and West worked with Vervoordt for their Hidden Hills home, where the minimalistic style is in white, rustic tables with ancient sculptures. It’s a calming environment for a family. The minimalist approach inspired by history, where he uses fresh, cleans aesthetic bridging modern architecture, low beam lighting, and distressed wood. The color palette is purity with a soulful emotional simplicity, it’s soft and is not as harsh as a black-and-white look. The importance of Vervooft is the philosophy of imperfection, where it’s down to earth. It’s about harmony and the search for the spiritual experience. Part of Vervoordt’s practice is understanding his clients on an interpersonal level, where his clients become his friends for life to help them discover themselves through the interiors.
To Vervoordt, “Old art can be a source of inspiration for the future and contemporary art creates a new civilization. I consider it an important task to understand art and make others understand it.” Antiques in his eyes are modern and tell us about the present and the future. The love for sustainability is conscious throughout his work as he makes it a driven philosophy to find creative methods of reuse instead of discarding. He loves humble things and makes things of simple, he wants to give things in life a place. It’s not about superficial beauty. His aesthetic is about making old things, new again. The old is sacred, you don’t add on to it. History can’t be imitated, it’s all unique. It’s a spiritual approach of giving new life to old objects.
To give life a better place, like a museum. In order for the materials that Vervoordt works with exist, they exist because of patience, which is the fundamentals of his relationship with simplicity and proportion. Its sophistication when we respect the earth and preserve it. Instead of destroying to make the new. Rather, he is inspired by the old to create something new. It fuses the old and contemporary in one. He believes in the affinity of stones, where they are part of the origin of the world, “I feel like stones themselves are like living animals. Even after millions of years of existence, they are still alive; they just live very, very slowly. They have that patience.” said Vervoordt. He accepts the fact that Earth is precious and what controls human beings and design.
The quiet reflects the positive energy. It has different expressions. It should be full and empty, it’s the equilibrium of the yin-yang. As an art dealer by trade with a fusion of creativity, he is both free and open-minded. He buys with heart and intuition to feel the energy than what is seen even if it’s imperfect. It falls under the accordance of the Japanese principle of Wabi-sabi, where simplicity and humility are at the center by accepting things by the way they are. It’s about respecting nature for the way it is naturally.
Time is becoming art, how we are not perfect and the not finished. He studies the power of proportions. We have to go away, open our minds, and go into deep intuition. Respects the spirit of each place’s architecture.