Life and work of design icon Axel Vervoordt

Axel Vervoordt, the Belgian maestro of timeless minimalism creates environments that are restful, unique and effortlessly complete. We explore his life and work…

“I want to give a different dimension to what I do. I don’t like the word decorating – Axel Vervoordt

Axel Vervoordt is a renowned interior designer known for his keen eye for beauty and impeccable design that flourishes on its own without any extravagant embellishment. His design and antique empire are marked by unique decor that cements an organic approach to design, fusing nature’s elements with respect to its existing environments.

Axel Vervoordt expresses his love for art with his Belgian roots through a voracious collection of antique art pieces and collectables. In addition to being an art dealer and a member of the AD100 Hall of Fame, he has designed the interiors of abodes belonging to Robert De Niro, Bill Gates, Sting, and even Calvin Klein. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Vervoordt spends his days living in the countryside in a gorgeous 12th-century Castle.

He was born in Antwerp in 1947 to a horse dealer father and an antique collector mother. From a very early age, he was exposed to the world of timeless beauty, which shaped his later vision and sense of style. With 50 years in the business, Vervoordt is one of the world’s most celebrated tastemakers, known for his minimal but sophisticated “Belgian Look”. 

He was only 14 when he loaned money from his father and travelled to England alone to find and buy antiques. On his return, he managed to sell pieces to his parents’ friends but never thought of it as a potential career path. His father insisted that he should study a ‘real’ profession, so he went to study economics but left school early to do his national service in the army.

He continued dealing with art and antiques and eventually decided to turn his passion into a business. At the age of 21, he followed his mother’s steps and bought eleven 16th-century houses on Vlaeykensgang, a medieval alley in Antwerp, to save them from demolition and restore them. It quickly turned into a hub for his antiques business, where he was dealing with carefully selected and highly edited antiques by appointment only.

It was also where he lived. Together with his wife, Axel created a warm and charming way of living with ‘purified’ interiors which attracted clients who were keen to have similar living spaces and asked him to design their homes. In a few years, he was not only dealing with art and antiques but also designing interiors and furnishings to complement his clients’ pieces and started two businesses: an art gallery with outposts in Antwerp and Hong Kong, and an interior design company.

Vervoordt’s vision has been highly sought after and appeared in many high-profile homes and interiors. His best-known work is perhaps designing Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s former Calabasas house, which West referred to as a “futuristic Buddhist monastery”.

Axel Vervoordt’s philosophy “is a belief that a home should be a personal expression of your soul. It should represent the way you want to live, and the ideas that define your tastes, perspectives, and connections to the world. The spaces where people share private experiences with family and friends should restore and give energy. ” With this belief, he creates timeless, restful spaces with refined interiors.

His designs are minimal, with “almost no decor” but they are always warm and soulful and the idea is that time is the real artist and it will make them more interesting and beautiful. He incorporates the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi – acceptance of transience and imperfection – into his designs in the form of muted colours, natural materials, distressed plaster walls and bare boards. He defines his interiors as “harmonious living”.

For Vervoordt, it’s crucial to take the surrounding natural geography into account and all his design projects reflect on their unique setting. Natural elements such as wood, light and metal are always included in his designs and he likes to use shades of local earth to complement the surrounding nature – earthy tones of yellows, sand, browns, black and beige are completed with mellow wooden floors, rough-hewn beams and rich textures. He uses big, sculptural seating often covered in plain simple Belgian linen and carefully selected art and antique pieces complete the overall look. Axel Vervoordt interiors are simple but also astonishingly beautiful, proving to us once again that less is more.

His rooms are effortless and serene exuding a sense of eternal calm. As the man who put Belgium in the centre of the design world, Alex Vervoordt continues to grow his art empire with his family business, Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation and carefully curated exhibitions.

*Images and content from various internet resources

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