erhaps the only thing better than touring the great castles of Europe is being able to shop in them. When the invitation came to bring a pair of high-profile clients antique shopping in the fifty room, 14thC Kasteel ‘s-Gravenwezel – the personal home of Axel Vervoordt, the world’s most respected antiques dealer, collector and interior designer – my clients felt as if they’d been handed the keys to the kingdom of interior bliss. Hesitant at first, they pulled me aside, nodding with an air of reverence towards the lamp on Vervoordt’s desk, “We really can buy anything we see?”
The castle, located northeast of Antwerp, is a fairy tale come to life complete with a medieval moat, two towers right out of Rapunzel and gracious gardens beckoning to the Belgian countryside. The atmosphere is decisively 18th C but done in that unique Vervoordt-style, paying homage to the passing generations. And yes, nearly everything within the castle walls and surrounding outbuildings is for sale – using their home Chez Vervoordt as a temporary landing pad before Axel (or son Boris, Director of The Axel Vervoordt Company) uses them in a future design project.
“What about that 18thC walnut chest of drawers?” inquired my clients. Theirs for 22,000€ ($28,681). “Or better yet, how about the oversized Louis XIV mirror?”. It’s an exceptionally rare oak polychromed piece and it clocks in at a cool 38,000€ ($49,500). Lest you think all prices have multiple zeros, it’s important to note the prices varied. While an intense abstract painting by Kazuo Shiraga ran 600,000€ ($782,220), a nearby pair of 17th C Spanish armchairs were a mere 3,000€ ($3,900). And speaking of bon marches’, the 19th C green glazed earthenware clustered on the kitchen table ranged from 150€ to 500€ per piece ($190 to $650), a bargain compared to similar pieces found at the Puce de Paris.
As we shopped our way from floor to floor, pausing to admire the hand-tooled leather panels in Vervoordt’s library, we discovered that even the wall coverings were for sale. In fact, for the right client, Vervoordt’s Interior Design team would even pop across the pond to help install them. In addition to Vervoordt’s reserve of 15,000 lots of antiques and furniture, the company maintains an inventory of paneling, parquet and period tiles for their architectural projects. And should you need a modern-day sofa or side chair to pair with those period pieces, pas de problem, Vervoordt’s team is as renowned for their furniture design as they are for their eye for antiques. They’ve recently released their first catalog of potential purchases.
The main problem shopping Chez Vervoordt is gaining access. As the castle is the private home of Axel and his wife, May, it rarely opens to the public. Shopping in its hallowed walls is by invitation only. However, take heart… twice a year, the Vervoordt’s graciously participate in Antwerp’s Open Door Days, opening their home to the public on those days for viewing.
Regular shopping takes place nearby the castle in the town of Wijnegem inside Vervoordt’s concept store. Kanaal – a vast industrial warehouse merging modern art and design with Vervoordt’s classic style – is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from 2-6pm. All other times are by appointment.
Toma Clark Haines is owner of The Antiques Diva® & Co Tours offering tours in England, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Denmark. More information can be found at www.antiquesdiva.com or via email firstname.lastname@example.org