I just spoke to Anne -Sophie on the phone. We are set for Wednesday afternoon. It was not very easy to convince her that even if I am doing the Brussels edition, it would be so nice if I had the opportunity to show my readers around the world the impressive castle of ‘s-Gravenwezel and private residence of Mr Axel Vervoordt since 1986.
Having been there several times, this season was just perfect to take amazing pictures and finally check the newly renovated rooms. " Mr Vervoordt will not be able to receive you this time Joelle as he is on his way with his son Boris to the New York antique show" I insist that I don't mind at all to go by myself or with my dad, and that I will tell my sister ( who is also and interior designer) and lives in New York to pay him a visit at this stand.
" We should be even like this" I kid with Anne -Sophie, after all, the advantage of being globally connected can open many doors especially those of an extremely charming and aristocratic castle in the heart of a wonderful green region between he cities of Brussels and Antwerp.
Regarded as one of the most original and adventurous collectors and dealers of our time, Axel Vervoordt rightly considers himself an eclectic collector and dealer, who treasures the timeless and disdains the trendy. Apart from having friends in common, for several years now I have personally been a devoted admirer of Axel Verdvoodt work.
His taste spans centuries, continents and economic strata, and his profound knowledge of this history of fine and applied arts has led him to create spaces in which his juxtaposition of objects from vastly different eras and cultures makes a strong and impressive statement on present and future interior taste. These juxtapositions should inspire contemplation and thus mental liberty. It's a beautiful day, we are driving on an alley full of green trees, it feels still like the end of Summer with a fresh breeze caressing the leaves.
This time we made no mistakes, the map sent by Anne- Sophie was just perfect. At our right an impressive iron gate opens it's doors at the sound of my voice to a small microphone, maybe the only tech object in a distance of hundreds of miles. By the way I separated our visit with sections titled with the name of the rooms forming an itinerary, not all rooms are present though.
Reception Room ( Other Building)
An old gentlemen dressed as an elegant gardener leads us the way to a small reception room decorated with just a two seats antique English country seats, and an enormous fireplace under which two people can easily sit with comfortable armchairs and have dinner in the winter by the fire. And nothing else than silence. Just because of the coziness of this room I am so exited to be back in this place.
Hall ( Casle Ground Floor)
Anne- Sophie finally arrives and very kindly worried that in two hours we will not be able to visit the whole place since I have to bring my photographic equipment. I laugh and tell her that I just have a small digital Cannon and that we will just be fine. In the meantime we enter the castle from the landing of the elegant two-sided stairs, into a vast and elegant hall that gives us a warm welcome. It’s walls are painted in a warm yellow fresco-technique utilizing pigments of the ‘S-Gravenwezel soil.
Axel Vervoort's Study
Always in the ground floor we now arrive at the study of Axel Vervoordt which first impresses with the complicated patterns of its French parquet. Here he works and seeks inspiration, surrounded by classical dignity, the warm colors of English furniture, and by numberless books on proportion, architecture, art and decoration.
Anne- Sophie is a perfect guide, she leaves us just the right time to appreciate every single object in owe and then discretely proceeds into the next room formerly ‘musical’ space that was transformed into a conference room. A beautiful mahogany dining table usually serves as conference table, the walls are decorated with prominent Italian Fruit-still lives, modern paintings or tapestries.
This is a a very inspiring room holding pieces from all centuries, made by all kinds of people. Inside the library one can see 16th century German turned ivory cups, Daumier-sculptures, Gothic reliefs, Louis XIV Aumonières etc… creating a real “cabinet de curiosités”. " The library's fireplace is a contemplative space, with Lucio Fontana's 1959 painting Concetto Spaziale, which suggests man's ascent into the heavens, and a circular Pi jade (770-221 B.C.) representing heaven. Axel likes to find refuge when he needs to find inspiration"- I am told by Anne- Sophie.
A beautiful Rococo chapel situated in the North-Eastern tower. It was adapted into a this white stuccoed style by Jan Pieter van Baurscheit during the renovation campaign in the first half of the 18th century. The chapel is inaugurated and used for private events.
From the beautiful chapel filled with a large collection of baroque and chamber music from the beginning of the century, we arrive in the dining room. It' fresh, inviting and holds an atmosphere full of history due to hundreds of pieces of Ming China, exposed on the walls and discovered in a shipwreck by captain ‘Hatcher’ in the South China seas. The room stands out because of the wonderful harmony between the white floors, walls and furniture and the pale-blue shine on the porcelain.
Among my favorite rooms in the castle. A grand Louis XV buffet dominates this bright kitchen where the walls are completely covered in white Delft tiles. A rustic trestle table gives that special extra touch that makes it an everyday kitchen where you can have breakfast overlooking the western part of the gardens and the water in front of the castle.
Let's not forget the colorful pimentos, and warm Autumn fruits and vegetables harmoniously placed around the corridors of the pantry . The chef every morning picks in the garden everything he needs for the day's dish and the family makes a point to have a healthy organic and fat- free nutrition.
Baskets of all sizes visibly used wait quietly to be picked and filled with fresh tangerines, bananas and seasonal mushrooms.The plates are of a beautiful Japanese brown glaze and the trays are in tin and old silver looking like they are coming from a kitchen from a Brugel painting.
Going down some stairs from the kitchen we arrive into a small circular room with brick floors and loopholes, previously the ideal place for defending the castle against unwanted visitors. Nowadays it is an intimate room for small candlelight diners with a select group of people.
Original Kitchen and Tower Cellar
You can see from the photos the room is extremely warm and charming .
We are now going up to the first floor of the castle. I enjoy playing with the views from the staircase with my camera while Anne-Sophie amused cites Axel's Vervoordt three main strands of influence in his work.
The first- She says- is that of contemporary and oriental art and arte povera, which to him signifies the importance of a life of meditation, empty space, a love and respect of nature and of human existence.
As we arrive at the first floor in my favorite and newly renovated room of the castle. The reason why I like it so much it's is because of it’s very own identity, standing out from all others because of the Oriental ‘feel’ it breathes, like the Zen-philosophy.
Everything is brought back to basics and nature evoking a very serene atmosphere.
Looking through the light coming from the windows in the a minimally furnished drawing room,and at the cushions assembled on the rough and textured floor, you can easily feel you are in a Katmandu monastery on the foothill of the Himalaya or in a Turkish house in the region of Anatolia with the difference that the modern art paintings on the walls and the juxtaposition of natural shabbiness of the Occidental furniture makes his global but so local style so unique.
I love Zen houses ... and I also admire Thai monasteries because even un-restored and empty they have a real aura of peace and beauty, and I also admire Thai monasteries because even un-restored and empty they have a real aura of peace and beauty," writes Vervoordt in one of his publications.
We are still in the first floor of the castle. Stunned by the beautiful Oriental Salon, I had completely forgotten that we were talking with Anne -Sophie regarding the second main strands of influence in Axel's Vervoord work; architecture, representing proportion, balance and harmony, such as one might find in an 18th century library and finally the third strand is the baroque, either gilded and courtly, or more. But here we have arrived at the the green room...
This room shows very powerful objects like a Shigaraki vase, one of the earliest Zen ceramics from the 15th century and a sculpture of a head in volcanic stone, originating from the temple of Plao-Sam from the Borobodur-period.
Adjacent to the green room we could visit a breathtaking bathroom completely covered with Louis XV green polychrome paneling. The portrait of the daughter of George II from the collection of the Duke of Bedford by T. Gainsborough hangs above the bathtub inside a beautiful niche.(Very difficult light conditions to photograph.)
We passed quickly through the Venus and Yellow rooms and bathrooms finally heading to the second floor of the Cassle and to the very Cozy Red room.
Formerly the bedroom of Boris. The walls are painted in a very warm red almost sang-de-boeuf color, which fits very well with the 17th century pieces of furniture and charming old wooden beams and floor.
Finally before leaving the castle, in the Renaissance room in Classical English in style, lots of mahogany furniture and warm fabrics, 19th century portraits and a Charles X billiard table especially made for the castle. A Cottage style was created in the second part of the room.
Situated high in the tower, this small circular room with heavy walls has a beautiful view over the courtyard of the outer buildings. The masterpiece of this chamber is a very rare Renaissance four-poster bed from France.
We have left the castle and we are walking in the beautiful landscape arounf us until we arrive in my third favorite room, The Old Orangerie.
Five large semicircular windows appear to transport the garden into the interior.
Besides the luxuriant plants and flowers housed within, the orangery exhibits antiques and old garden furniture, monumental sculptures, frames etc…
Large Concert Room
The bright and spacious room has a wonderful view over the central court and the Eastern façade of the castle.It is used for Inspiratum - concerts and private banquets and can easily be transformed into an exhibition space.
This space reminds a lot of the typical lofts, stripped to the very essence. This room nowadays serves as the quarters of our real-estate department. It houses a remarkable collection of French 19th century Materproof mixed with modern paintings.
At the very end of the pool the former sheep stable is now transformed into an idyllic tea-house. It’s high ceilings, bright light and crème coloured furniture and porcelain render this room into a small dream-house.
The New Orangerie
The only contemporary building on the domain. This Orangerie was newly build in the eighties, completely according to the authenticity of the surrounding buildings and with respect for old materials. During summertime it is completely decorated, filled with various flowers and plants.
The twin-towered castle, surrounded by greenery and a pretty moat, is open by appointment to serious buyers only (past shoppers include Venus Williams) - except for two days a year, when the doors are flung open to the public. It is an experience well worth waiting for. I hope you enjoyed the ride...Please stay connected and browse into the antique's dealer latest project: The Kanaal Complex.
The Antique dealer and Architect: Axel Verdvoord
The Casstle: Kasteel van 's Gravenwezel, St Jobsteenweg 64, 2970 'S Gravenwezel, Tel +32 3 658 1470