MAGIC TOUCH

A me­dieval fairy­tale house in Bel­gium has be­come a show­case of eclec­tic pieces, where every­thing is for sale.

VOGUE Living Australia - - In Store - By Ian Phillips Pho­tographed by Ka­sia Gatkowska

There are a num­ber of things Jean-Philippe De­meyer can’t abide. The Flem­ish an­tique dealer and dec­o­ra­tor dis­likes strictly pe­riod in­te­ri­ors and houses that are too dec­o­rated. “Things should look nat­u­ral, not too per­fect,” he in­sists. Serene rooms make him anx­ious. He de­rides any­thing too trendy and steers clear of any­thing too se­ri­ous. “You have to give things a twist,” he in­sists. He favours mix­ing pieces from dif­fer­ent ori­gins, and is a firm fan of the English country house look. “The English have a very eclec­tic way of stag­ing things,” he notes. More than any­thing, he feels that a room should cre­ate an im­pact. “Just as there’s power- dress­ing, I like ‘power-fur­nish­ing’. You need to cre­ate a sense of sur­prise. There’s some­thing of Alice in Won­der­land in what I do.” A visit to his house, lo­cated 10 min­utes from the cen­tre of Bruges in the Flem­ish re­gion of Bel­gium, is cer­tainly like step­ping into an­other world. Named Rooigem and sur­rounded by a moat, the prop­erty is be­lieved to have orig­i­nated in the early 13th cen­tury as a hunt­ing lodge for a lo­cal no­ble fam­ily. The in­te­ri­ors fea­ture bold jux­ta­po­si­tions, bright colours, geo­met­ric mo­tifs and a se­ri­ous amount of flair. The fur­nish­ings are con­stantly chang­ing as every­thing is for sale. In fact, the only place out- of-bounds to his clients is the kitchen, where De­meyer spends most of his time. “I don’t re­ally need a house,” he quips. “A bed­room and kitchen would do!” He has also turned the old sta­bles into a fab­ric show­room and, with his as­so­ci­ates Frank ver Elst and Jean-Paul Dew­ever, pro­duces a small, lo­cally man­u­fac­tured home­wares col­lec­tion. There are an­gu­lar-faceted ta­bles made from plas­ter and Sur­re­al­ist wall lights based on a model orig­i­nally cre­ated for a ho­tel in the nearby sea­side re­sort of Knokke-Le-Zoute. De­meyer him­self is very much a lo­cal. He was born in Bruges and ini­tially stud­ied to be­come a lawyer. Im­me­di­ately af­ter his fi­nal exam, how­ever, he went to work for the an­tique dealer Paul de Grande. One of his big­gest in­spi­ra­tions was the Tintin comic, The Se­cret of the Uni­corn, which he first read at the age of six. “There’s a draw­ing where Tintin breaks down a wall in a château and finds him­self in a base­ment filled with lots of an­tiques all mixed to­gether,” he re­counts. “Although I didn’t re­alise it then, that’s what I al­ways wanted to do.” His first mem­ory of Rooigem dates back to his teens. He had a friend who lived nearby and would of­ten ride past on his moped. “It was com­pletely empty, shrouded in plants like some­thing out of a fairy­tale,” he re­mem­bers. Lo­cated on an an­cient Ro­man route, it was ac­tu­ally built on a sand bank. “When­ever the farm­ers over the road plough their land, seashells come to the sur­face,” he re­counts. Orig­i­nally, the prop­erty con­sisted of just two rooms, which were added to over the course of sev­eral cen­turies. The most re­cent struc­ture is the or­angery, dat­ing from the 1860s. De­meyer bought Rooigem in 2005 and has changed very lit­tle in­side. He sim­ply added elec­tric­ity, gas, heat­ing and wa­ter, but oth­er­wise the floor­ing and most of the fire­places are orig­i­nal. The ex­cep­tion is the fire­place in the sum­mer sit­ting room, which was built by him from bricks found on the site. The colour of the first-floor li­brary was in­spired by the bright green of the duck­weed ››

this page, from top: in the large heraldic room, Chi­nese 1940s lamps; po­plar wood ve­neer Art Deco-style side­board; faceted plas­ter ta­ble by De­meyer; art­work by GER­HARD HEN­DRIK GRAUSS. In the of­fice, ‘Me­trop­o­lis’ sofa and cush­ions by De­meyer; neo Ro­coco mir­ror. op­po­site page: in the li­brary, Bel­gian Art Deco arm­chairs; cush­ions (in fore­ground) by De­meyer; paint­ing from 1910.

this page: in the li­brary, pa­pier mâché lamp by JEAN-PHILIPPE DE­MEYER. op­po­site page: in the of­fice, Ger­man 1950s ce­ramic lamp; ta­ble by De­meyer painted with a faux mala­chite fin­ish; art­works in­clude Strange by French artist ANY CRISS and large oil paint­ing by EM­MANUEL NOTERMAN (1846). De­tails, last pages.

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