This large-scale settee from Kathleen Clements Design is the perfect seating piece in a Belgian style room. It features a homespun-style slipcover with ties layered over creamy neutral linen upholstery.
Ethan Allen evokes the Belgian aesthetic with these large and authentically aged Garden Orb finials, which serve as interesting sculpture indoors or out.
“If you really want to go for this look, you have to push it over the edge by using a gray palette,” says Randall Weeks, interior designer and the creator of Aidan Gray Home.
If you really want an authentic Belgian look, go gray. While you may be fearful about decorating with a lot of gray, you'll find that it works in complete harmony with the details of Belgian design. You should stay away from jarring colors and strong silver or gold finishes.
The New Belgian Style
Design experts share tips to help you create one of the hottest new styles—an authentic Belgian look—in your own home.
- by Nancy Robinson
Sometimes referred to as Rough Luxe, the new Belgian aesthetic is unmistakable. It is at once elegant, yet deeply and distinctly aged; timeless in its appeal, yet strikingly of the moment.
What Defines Belgian Style?
The famous antiquarian and designer Axel Vervoordt is often credited with creating the Belgian aesthetic, which is distinguished by the following characteristics:
- A neutral color palette comprised of grays, creams and browns
- Raw or distressed wood that may also be washed, limed or cerused to give the appearance of age
- Linen fabrics for both upholstery and bedding
- Large or exaggerated scale
- Lack of pattern and ornamentation
- The use of repurposed industrial pieces, including recycled wood, iron and other metal parts
European Style Meets American Sensibility
Although the style originated in Europe and is currently one of the most important style statements at Maison Object (the bi-annual home furnishings wholesale trade show held twice a year in Paris), American designers and home furnishings shoppers are also smitten with the look. And no wonder: The style is fresh, comfortable and unpretentious, with a feeling of integrity and authenticity that greatly resonates with consumers today. In fact, the dynamic appeal of the aesthetic prompted retail powerhouse Restoration Hardware to create an entirely new collection and catalog dedicated to the idiosyncratic Belgian style.
Antique Looks for a New Generation
“As opposed to heavy French or English antiques, the Belgian look uses antiques in a sparing way so that each piece speaks for itself,” explains Bethanne Matari of Currey & Company, an early adopter of the style and among the first to manufacture lighting and accessories to complement Belgian style casegoods and upholstery. “This look is much more appealing to a new generation that is interested in antiques—just not the same ones they grew up with.”
“It’s a comfortable formality,” says interior designer Randal Weeks, the talent behind Aidan Gray Home. One thing that Weeks especially loves about the aesthetic is the architectural quality and versatility of Belgian style furniture and accessories. “This allows pieces to stand on their own or work in a group,” he says. “A single chair can go from the library or master bedroom to the living room with great ease.”
A Defining Color Palette
Weeks is quick to point out that the key to pulling off an authentic Belgian look is the right color palette. “It begins with a neutral palette in which everything flows,” Weeks says. “No strong silver or gold finishes and no jarring color. Look for white undertones in product. But if you really want to go for this look, you have to push it over the edge by using a gray palette. Trust me, I was a little fearful when I did a room from top to bottom, including the floor and ceiling, in gray, but it is stunning in its simplicity. Some may want to inject a lot of color, but if you really pay attention to what the high end is doing, there isn’t a lot of color or pattern.”
The Look of Linen
Indeed, there is a noticeable lack of pattern associated with the Belgian style, which relies almost exclusively on neutral-colored linen fabrics to create the distinctive sense of laid-back luxe. In this regard, designers agree that there are few effective substitutes. “Nothing really comes close to creating the look of linen with its wonderfully subtle effects,” Weeks concludes. “Fortunately, Americans are becoming more comfortable with the use of light colored linen and all it’s wrinkled charm.”