Tag Archives: home decor

A New Direction (and a new blog!)

do-it-with-passion

It’s time for a new chapter. I’ve been away for sometime as I sort of lost my mojo for blogging. I’ve thought long and hard about starting again, and after much consideration (and a large glass of red wine!) I’ve decided to return to blogging, but with a new focus. A focus nearer, and dearer, to my heart – To Make A Home.

Like many of you, I’m a transplant to Brussels. I first moved here 12 years ago and have experienced this city from many different perspectives – jobs, relationships and, of course, where I have lived. Building a life in a foreign country comes with many challenges, but one thing that we can do to ease the transition is create a place to make us feel comfortable and energized, and enjoy every day.

I’m not talking about building or remodeling a huge four-story townhouse (although that is my dream!) or being the perfect 1950’s-style home-maker (my worst nightmare). I’m talking about taking wherever you live at the moment – your first apartment, a rented property or even your friend’s spare room – and making it your own.

And the best part is it doesn’t have to cost a fortune! I have lived in all of the above and have learned over the years how to make the most of my space and budget. Brussels is not the easiest, or most affordable, city to find home furnishings, so I’ve grown to be a die-hard DIYer, bargain shopper and creative IKEA hacker. I want to share what I’ve learned and tested (and what has failed), as well as what inspires me to create my own home.

I hope you will join me in this new adventure, whether you care about decorating or not. I especially want to write this new blog for anyone who wants to improve their home but isn’t sure where to start, thinks they don’t have enough money or simply doesn’t have much time. I strongly believe that a well designed home, no matter the size, has the ability to change the way we live for the better. Even if it is through small adjustments we make, like a new lamp, changing the wall color or rearranging the furniture, creating an environment that suits individual style and needs helps us enjoy our spaces more and feel like we are at home, even if far away from where we grew up.

So come join me over on my new site To Make a Home and follow along on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. And you can always revisit Best of Brussels past posts for my thoughts on this city!

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American style in Brussels

Confession: I’m obsessed with home decor magazines. They are truly my guilty pleasure. I have stacks of them around the house and buy one every time I’m in a newsagent. There’s something about slowing scanning the photo spreads of incredible homes that fills me with inspiration and simply makes me happy. I can’t get enough of them. So when I travel for work, which has been often lately, I always buy a couple to read during the journey.

While running to catch the Eurostar back from London last week I picked up a copy of the US edition of Elle Decor (one of my favs). I was quietly flipping through the magazine on the train and nearly shouted out with delight when I came across a feature on an apartment in Brussels!

Elle Decor - An Eclectic Home in Brussels

The home of Melañio Gomez and Chris Kangas, an American couple who moved here from New York seven years ago, is a beautiful and unique space in an Art Deco building in Ixelles. (Maybe we’re neighbors??) I love the subtle mix of high and low end furnishings, which somehow is a perfect combination of American and Belgian sensibilities.

Elle Decor - An Eclectic Home in Brussels

The apartment features some great designer pieces like the vintage Knoll leather sofa and Eames dining room chairs, but I’m most impressed with all of their flea market finds. Can we please be friends and go shopping together?!

Elle Decor - An Eclectic Home in Brussels

How cool is that metal bench that they found in a dumpster and topped with a mohair cushion?! And I love the DIY creations in the office. The desk is an Ikea tabletop with legs from a brocant. Right up my alley! (Flea market trolling and IKEA hacking are my two favorite past times :))

Elle Decor - An Eclectic Home in Brussels

I’m also digging the blue walls in the guest room, a lovely blend of moody and cozy, perfect for Brussels.

Elle Decor - An Eclectic Home in Brussels

Melañio and Chris, like many of us, have ended up staying in Brussels much longer than planned and say “we’re still not ready to leave”. This city just sort of grows on you, and with an amazing apartment like that, why would anyone ever want to move?

All photos by Richard Powers for Elle Decor.

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Furniture Stores

It seems like lately everyone is moving. Some friends have made the plunge to buy a house, others are just changing apartments and there are always loads of newcomers arriving in Brussels in September. And the question on everyone’s mind – where can I go shopping for affordable, good furniture?

This is not an easy one. I wrote a few months back about the store Maison du Monde but, while this is a good place for some items, every home should have a little variety. And of course you may have a love-hate relationship with IKEA like me. I’m old enough that I don’t want everything in my home to have a strange Swedish name and fall apart if I try to move it to another room. But at the same time, how can you not love a side table that only costs €29.99? (And let’s not forget about the wonderful world of IKEA hacking! What’s that you ask? Go here and let your imagination run wild.)

But we all need more options that the flat-pack, self-assembly sort. I’ve always struggled a bit in Brussels to find well-priced (and well-made) furniture, but here is a short list (in no particular order) of where I have shopped.

Heylen, while not technically in Brussels (near the airport on Chaussee de Louvain), has a good selection of sofas, bedframes, wardrobes, dining tables and chairs in a wide range of styles from classic to modern. It’s a family run business and the service is friendly and helpful. They have a large stock and reasonable prices, and will also let you order from the catalogue. I spotted a nice sofa for €1200 – not that much more than one from IKEA and probably will last a few more years.

781 Leuvense Steenweg, 3071 Kortenberg
Tel: +32 2 756 01 20
Open: Monday to Sunday, 10am-6pm, closed Tuesday, open on public holidays

Depot Design has a more modern collection but also a large showroom (4000m2) and selection of all types of furniture. You can browse the online catalogue and buy online as well. For comparison, they have some nice looking sofas for under €1000. The main store is on the canal and there’s also a “outlet” next door with discounted items. I know lots of friends who have found good deals here.

19 Quai du Hainaut, 1080 Molenbeek
Tel: +32 2 502 28 82
Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30am-6:30pm

 

Vastiau Godeau is another large store. They have a big furniture selection and also provide kitchens and bathroom installations. The store carries lights, carpets and garden furniture as well. You can take a look at the catalogue online here before visiting. Saturdays can be busy, so go early or on a weekday. They’re also open on Sundays. 

1 Steenweg op Halle, 1652 Alsemberg
Tel: +32 2 383 06 12
Open: Monday to Saturday, 10am-7pm, Sunday, 2pm-7pm, closed Thursday, open some holidays

A personal favorite is Zara Home. This is a good place to find decorative items, smaller furniture, lamps and linens. Similar to the clothing store, Zara Home changes seasonally and follows decor trends, introducing new colors and items every few months. They also have lots of things for kids and baby rooms. There are two locations in Brussels, Woluwe Shopping Center and Avenue Louise.

26-28 Avenue Louise, 1050 Ixelles
Tel: +32 2 552 04 00
Open: Monday to  Thursday, 10am-6:30pm, Friday and Saturday, 10am-7pm

Finally, if you’re willing to do a little DIY and be creative, my all-time favorite place to go is Troc International. This is a cross between an antique store, charity shop and your grandmother’s attic, stocked full of old furniture at low prices. Some of it is total junk but I have found some real treasures (a sofa for €200, a bench for €70 and a small table for €5 – all needed a bit of work or re-upholstering of course).  

Happy shopping!

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Maisons du Monde

Brussels is a bit of a tricky city for finding moderately priced furnishings. There are several very nice design and furniture shops, but most are out of my price range, except for the occasional candle or pillow. I love to visit stores like Philippe Lescrenier, Flamant, and SMETS for inspiration but then often end up buying at Ikea.

Like probably many of you out there, I’d like to graduate from the Swedish megastore. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ikea. I can spend hours roaming the store. My browsing skills have advanced beyond the pre-determined path – I actually know all of the shortcuts to the various sections (sad I know). Ikea is great for lots (who hasn’t had a Lack side table at some point?), but any home needs to have some variety.

Maisons du Monde strikes a good compromise – big selection, reasonable prices, and you don’t have to put everything together yourself. A French company started 20 years ago, Maisons du Monde has spread to 11 countries in Europe, including Belgium. The Brussels store is located downtown on Rue Anspach in the renovated shopping center next to De Brouckere metro stop, and has two large floors of furniture, tableware and decorative items. You can also shop the full collection online, with the option to return items within 7 days if you change your mind.

Looking at the latest catalogue, I liked several items from the industrial-style line, especially the Multipls chair and Archibald console table.

I love the green velvet tufted slipper chair for €200 (also available is other bright colors like pink, purple and turquoise)!

They also have a nice four poster bed for €300 that would work well in a typical Brussels apartment with high ceilings.

Maisons du Monde has a good selection of mirrors, table linens and dishes, as well as some great looking lamps (over 300!) in the €100-200 price range.

They even have fireplace surrounds which would be a great way to add a focal point to a room (besides the TV!) if you have four plain walls. Not everything in the store is my taste. The whole ‘art’ section is worth skipping in my opinion. The sofa selection is a little uninspired, but there are a few good, basic options. I do like the tufted banquette for a small space or bedroom (yes I have a slight tufting obsession). 🙂

There’s a decent range of various styles, from modern to more classical shapes, so even if my picks aren’t for you, I think the store is still worth a look!

Rue couverte Anspach Boulevard, 1000 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 217 66 41
Open: Monday to Saturday, 10am-7pm (until 8pm on Thursday)

P.S. I’ve found a couple of other good, affordable furniture stores around Brussels like Vastiau Godeau and Heylen, where you can find a bargain from time to time. My friend and fellow blogger Jessica has also written about some of her favorites here.

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