Every year, Netherlands-based contributor Ben Lambers finds a reason to visit his favorite haunt in Belgium, the Boulevard Leopold. He recently got back from a work trip to Antwerp and couldn’t resist taking more photos of this impeccably outfitted 19th-century building in the Jewish district–and its endless, creative vignettes played across every available bookcase, mantle and tabletop. “It changed owners a few years ago,” he says. “But luckily, they didn’t change the atmosphere.”
With three big bedrooms and a shared living room and kitchen, the Concept Hotel should really be called the Concept Inn or B&B. But semantics aside, the place is perfect. Even its inconspicuous perch above a chocolate shop smack in the center of Grand Place–a location I would usually eschew for its touristy appeal–felt charming and not the least bit cheesy. It was really something special to come home at night, the square of Gothic, Baroque and Louis XIV 15th- and 17th-century buildings all lit up with glowing gilt, and quietly let ourselves in through a dark, closed chocolate shop. An ancient, rustic wooden spiral staircase let us up to our room like a secret passageway, where we could admire the spectacle high above foot traffic.
The owner, Arnaud Rasquinet, who rents the space from the government is not a designer; he laughed when I asked him. The space is so old and beautiful, he explained, that the interiors need very little–a few pieces of simple furniture, lamps and some well-chosen framed photographs and wooden antiquities that he picked up at local shops and flea markets. His first “hotel” fills up so regularly (Le Coup de Coeur) that, about a year ago, he decided to open a second one down the street. Every morning the guests sit around a table in the kitchen (one of the most beautiful rooms) for a simple, delicious breakfast–local jams, cheese, meat, croissants, bread and fresh-squeezed juice. There’s a window of four hours to get breakfast, but like clockwork, all the guests ended up showing up at the same time every morning, each of us equipped with a different language, our few common words forming an unlikely semblance of conversation. It seemed a fitting way to start the day: struggle outside your comfort zone; make effort despite feeling a little stupid; discover commonalities and great pleasure and satisfaction. I love when a place gives you something more than a place to rest your head.
Prices start around $165 (breakfast included). Reserve a room at concepthotel.be.
Les Duves, which takes its name from its former life as an old sawmill for cutting marble, is owned by the same folks behind the beautiful (and previously featured) Le Classe. Architectural photographers Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux (known in the magazine world for their interior design photography) rehabbed the old stone mill and designed much of the furniture inside–like the cool wooden divans on wheels. While the exterior of the old mill is mostly untouched, they gave the interiors a rustic-modern makeover, favoring furnishings like a rugged wood dining table and a dark slate farmhouse kitchen with peeks of crumbling stone. But don’t let all that detract from the real draw here: the rolling countryside. There’s tons of outdoor space, including the outdoor dining area above, set in one of the ancient outbuildings.
Located 60 miles from Brussels, Les Duves sits right alongside the Burnot River. Sleeps 2-4. Prices start at $350 a night in low season.
While researching an arty little b&b above a corner cafe in Ghent, Kelly stumbled upon what appears to be a lodging phenomenon: super-chic little b&bs everywhere. Everywhere. There are 190 b&b rooms across this mid-sized, medieval city, known for its Flemish influences, cobblestone streets and rows of ornate, Gothic guild houses. Leave your preconceived notions about b&bs at the door. These incredibly well-appointed, tucked-away spots top restaurants, galleries, coffee houses, boutiques, bakeries, you name it–and most of them serve up homemade breakfast for their guests in dining rooms that look like the latest old-fashioned, farm-to-table restaurant in Brooklyn. But not on purpose, of course. Prices? Most under $150 a night.
Ben Lambers and Tatjana Quax from this week’s Meet interview turned me onto the Boulevard Leopold–a 19th-century house-gone-b&b they stay in when they go to Antwerp. The house is old and well-loved, and even though the furnishings lean toward the contemporary, it’s full of a dated richness and personality rarely found these days. Every morning, they serve breakfast–homemade bread, jams, cheese and yogurt–and even if you’re not a guest in one of three rooms/two apartments, you can still come to eat and take in the eclectic splendor.
[Photography: produced by Tatjana Quax, taken by Ben Lambers]
My friends Margot (Pitch Design Union) and Angela (owner of the Chicago shop Post 27, which has a brand-new blog) sent over this white-washed gem a couple weeks ago, after Angela discovered Sophie Lachaert at a design conference in Belgium.
Designers Sofie Lachaert’s and Luc d’Hanis’ gallery, adjacent to their home and atelier, also includes a two-room b&b. The space reflects their minimalist aesthetic, mixing clean lines, clever design and a sense of austere, scale-playing whimsy. Little bonus: Many of the furnishings, art and objects are for sale. It’s like staying in a gallery.
Not only do you get the rare opportunity to stay in such a talented designer’s creative environment (they’ve designed tabletop for Droog), but overnight guests also get an exclusive guided tour the next morning, as well as a homemade breakfast served in the gallery—with eggs from the b&b’s own henhouse and using dishes and utensils designed by featured artists.
Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux, the owners of this beautiful old village schoolhouse, are architectural photographers by trade. In fact, it was their world travels (searching out the most interesting contemporary homes) that inspired this impeccably rehabbed vacation home, where the playful, modern design in a pastoral setting is intended to make visitors feel super creative. Anne and Jean-Luc used a lot of modular furniture and environments, so that the spaces can be flexible—a reception room can host a cooking class or become a makeshift yoga or painting studio; a set of curvy Volo chairs can be pulled from long tables and grouped around a fireplace. And for an additional cost, Jean-Luc offers private photography courses coupled with tours of the countryside.
La Classe can accommodate up to 21 people at its’ fullest: seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and a ton of artful common space indoors and out. Prices start around $2,000 a night for the entire place, so you’ll need to get a big group together.