Postcards From… Antwerp
Recently, designer Tim Campbell and his husband Steve Machado traveled to the tiny island of Formica in the Mediterranean Sea for some rest and relaxation. But once he arrived, Campbell found himself feeling restless. “I was out of my mind, there was nothing to do,” says the principal of the design firm Studio Tim Campbell that was founded in L.A. in 2006, and expanded to New York in 2010 (notable projects include renovations and restorations of Luis Barragan’s Campbell Divertimento Fountain in L.A., Richard Neutra’s Singleton House in Bel Air, Lloyd Wright’s Alfred Newman Residence). After arranging a quick flight to London and a train ride east, the couple checked into a converted 1830s townhouse in Antwerp, and Campbell found himself back in his element. “The aesthetic in Antwerp is so tight and so underdone, I’m always astounded by the lack of shiny surfaces, the flat paint on walls, moldings that have been covered over too many times, the unpolished wooden floors, and the simple sparseness,” he says. As Campbell walked through Kloosterstraat antique shops, he found himself drawn to what he calls “the quieter look” of the low-scale furniture with smooth, flat finishes. Here, Campbell, who is known for pairing his shrunken Thom Browne suits with boots, recounts the highlights of his visit to Antwerp, from the Kanaal shops of Axel Vervoordt to the grayscale boutique of Ann Demeulemeester.
By Elizabeth Varnell
BOULEVARD LEOPOLD While this converted townhouse from the 1830s is considered a bed and breakfast, it’s more like renting a home in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Antwerp. Our room (Apartment 01) was actually an entire floor of this magnificent old home and included a salon, large bedroom, sitting area and bath. The suite is furnished with an eclectic collection of well-worn pieces and was accessorized with beautiful objects sourced from local flea markets. The common areas of the house are no less stunning and warm. My favorite memory is having breakfast each morning with the other guests.
HANGAR 41 I adore this spot, known locally as Hangar Eenenveertig. It’s appropriately dark and moody—which I love for breakfast or dinner—and it’s located in a wonderful neighborhood overlooking the river Scheidt. It’s a modern brasserie and the feeling is uber-chic and quietly understated. I think they make the most beautiful cappuccino I’ve ever seen.
DÔME If I’m in the mood for a more sophisticated dinner setting, I head here. This Michelin-starred restaurant is housed in a wonderful Art Nouveau building and serves up a very chic Belgian twist on traditional French cuisine. Chef Julien Burlat and his wife Sophie Verbeke have managed to create an environment that seems as though it’s pulled from a sleepy Sunday dream filled with food that is at once light, rich and sublime.
AXEL VERVOORDT He operates his shops out of the Kanaal and no visit to Antwerp would be complete without a walk through them. He remains, in my opinion, the best curator of interiors alive today and he is a master at mixing the high and the low.
KLOOSTERSTRAAT This roughly mile-long stretch of cobblestone streets in the ancient heart of the city is my favorite shopping district. More brocante than fine antiques, I’ve found some of my favorite accessories in the odd mix of stores that line both sides of the street. The area tends to be busiest in the afternoons, so I tend to visit the shops early in the day.
ANN DEMEULEMEESTER Her shop on Leopold de Waelplaats is one of the most divine experiences on earth. Perfectly toned gray hardwood floors, stark white walls and a pitch-black ceiling provide the most sublime backdrop for her collections. She seems to do a men’s boot each season that I can’t live without.
Pictured: Tim Campbell
Photo by David Needleman