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WTF is Belgian Minimalism?

In our fast-paced world full of smart phones and noise, wouldn't it be such a luxury to live in a home that had the power to calm your senses and quiet your mind? Belgian minimalism uses natural materials and monochromatic palettes in conjunction with simplified forms to eliminate the excess and focus the user's attention on the essence of the space. The result is a timeless design, imbued with warmth and authenticity that acts as a serene retreat. Ahhh, yeah.

Interior: Vincent Van Duysen Image source: Elle Decor

Interior: Vincent Van Duysen Image source: Elle Decor

Interior: Vincent Van Duysen Image source: Elle Decor

In the beginning stages of our home renovation (in 2013, OMG!) I began researching colors, materials and architectural details that I wanted to incorporate into the space. In my search, I was drawn to mostly neutral color palettes, super sleek architectural lines and dramatic lighting set against a backdrop of lush landscaping. These were the images that made me feel the best, for reasons I couldn't put my finger on at the time. Looking back, I was a new mom with a six month old in tow, and I think I was craving some mental quiet time. The sea of rainbow-colored plastic that comes with small children was overstimulating my senses in a major way! I stumbled across the work of Belgian designers like Vincent van Duysen and Axel Vervoordt and never looked back. I was about to be living my best life! Woo! Four years later, with a (mostly finished) home renovation behind me, I feel like I have a better understanding of the elements of this design style and a few take-aways for the next time my future self decides to travel this path towards minimal living, like my Flemish homies.

Interior: Axel Vervoordt Image source: Architectural Digest

Interior: Axel Vervoordt Image source: Architectural Digest

Interior: Axel Vervoordt Image source: Veranda

Interior: Axel Vervoordt Image source: Veranda

Interior: Vincent Van Duysen Image source: Dezeen

The hallmarks of a Belgian-minimal design include the use of tactile, natural materials that have been left in their most natural state. Think natural woods, in grayed out, white-washed or ebonized tones with a hard wax finish. Natural stone is used heavily by way of large-format tiles and slabs in both honed and chiseled textures. Stones with subtle nuances in color and movement such as limestone and Belgian bluestone are frequently used. Linens in solid, earth-tone colors are used to upholster lounge seating and are hung simply as inconspicuous window treatments. Limewash paints give walls a lived-in look and are an eco-friendly, breathable, natural finish that come in a variety of colors. Soft versions of white along with flax and sand tones are at the lighter end of the spectrum, while charcoal gray, chocolate brown, olive and deep plum tones provide contrast. Craftsmanship and refined silhouettes are traits of lighting fixtures and other furnishings in the scheme while accessories are limited to what's necessary to capture the mood or the essence of the space. Overall, it has to look good, feel good and contribute to the user's quality of life to make the cut.

Get the Look!

Sources: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

After my own attempt at trying to emulate Belgian minimalism, I came to realize that even though the style itself was a sort of 'ode to simplicity', the follow-through would require more of an 'ode to pain-in-the-buttedness'. Omitting traditional baseboards and hardware on cabinetry in addition to trimless, recessed lighting and trying to perfectly center errrrrrthing was as time consuming as it was money consuming to accomplish. Would I do it again? Yes. I still love the earthy palette and the strong forms, but future Sarah would veer slightly away from the finishes that require too much maintenance or caution around kids and pets and opt instead for more resilient lookalikes. Sounds like future Sarah is almost practical, huh? We'll see.

What do you think? Is Belgian minimalism your spirit style??

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Sarah Brittain Design

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