Belgian kitchens have been highly influential because they present a beautiful lifestyle aesthetic.
I’m very late to the Belgian kitchens party. Over the past six or seven years they have been shown, explained, copied and widely admired. Classic Belgian kitchens — like these by designer Joris Van Apers — led the way towards the so-called “social kitchen,” which includes a dining room table and even upholstered furniture. Additionally, Belgian kitchens tend to have high ceilings, stucco walls, built in storage cupboards, stone or vintage flooring, and sometimes even a fireplace. For Americans, they represent “old world” looks and grace.
Joris Van Apers’ kitchens are especially refined and individual, a little rustic and exceptionally beautiful. His whitewashed kitchen [top] centers on the imposing black Aga cooker in a recessed range niche. Behind the range, the wall is lined with square Moroccan glazed tiles that Belgians favor for their homes (but which have yet to find widespread popularity in the U.S.). A black-painted base cabinet matches and extends the visual impact of the cooker and functions as a counter for the wood-burning cooking fireplace as well. Painted Swedish tables and chairs are popular for kitchens because they don’t look formal.
Just steps away is a built-in desk with bookshelf above. And an upholstered armchair makes a guest comfortable or lets the cook flop down in front of the fireplace without ever leaving the kitchen.
Cabinets in van Apers kitchens are especially interesting for what they don’t do. They don’t always match — not even the door styles match. Instead, cabinets appear assembled from various different pieces. A tiled base supports the massive stone farm sink with integral drainboard. A pair of vintage cupboard doors are simply attached to cover the sink base cabinet opening. A dishwasher is concealed behind a planked panel next to the sink. Open shelves, mounted over Moroccan tiles, include a small plate rack as well as cup hooks. Plus, there’s a quirky little closed cupboard in the corner.
A large glass-door upper cabinet looks like it has been severed from its based and repurposed here. Below, cabinet doors have a different style. Another painted Swedish style table with antique chairs underscores the soft look.
Slightly more formal and a bit austere, this kitchen has high contrast elements that move the eye deftly through the space. Black casement windows are matched to the black counter and stone farm sink with a Barber Wilson’s faucet mounted in the deck. Those heavy elements are balanced by the pair of full height cupboards — although the one on the right might easily be a refrigerator column in disguise. Mr. van Apers favors a pierced motif to accent some cabinet doors — on this sink base it adds a delicate detail. This kitchen has a wonderful old stone floor and the color of that is echoed by the stone table top and natural wood chairs.
While the range (on the right) looks massive and imposing, it’s a bit of an impostor. Two black induction cooktops are set into a dark counter edged in black. Again, the range cabinet base is tiled and inset with black-painted doors that have the look of an old cast iron stove. Atypically, the backsplash is stucco and untiled which points up the graceful shape of the plaster vent hood, edged and braced with cast iron.
Back in 2009, the influential Belgian blogger and designer Greet Lefèvre detailed ten features of Belgian kitchens which I’ll link here for reference. Those supply the framework for the style. But the beauty, for all to behold, is in the details.
(Source: Joris Van Apers)
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