Written By: Patricia Lynne
Editor: Sarahjoy Crain
In my current SB Journal entry I'm imagining I'm "Decorating A Dream House" in the Country Of Belgium. Actually it is a castle.
A castle - in its simplest terms - is a private, fortified residence.
My DreamHouse Castle has a moat - history tells us is a ditch with steep sides, and could be either dry or filled with water with its purpose being to keep the walls of the Castle from being undermined from invading armies.
My DreamHouse Castle has a great tower, sometimes called a "keep," and this is where a dungeon would be located. The great tower was the strongest part of a castle and most strongly defended, and the last place of refuge if the outer defences fell. You may be surprised to consider that the keep was not left empty in case of attack, but was used as a residence by the lord who owned the castle, or his guests or representatives.
My Dreamhouse Castle is located in the very small Country of Belgium, approximately the size of Massachusetts. Belgium's total area, including surface water area, is about 19 square miles. It shares borders with four Countries: France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
My Belgium castle is one of the Country's approximately 3,000 castles, farm-castles, citadels, manors or palaces. While mine is perhaps not Belgium's most exquisite castle (Belgium is thought to have the highest density of castles per square km, worldwide), it is beautiful, with views that are picture-postcard perfect. I particularly love the arrival of spring: my lambs give me beautiful babies (lambs usually give birth to at least two ewes at a time) and my Castle is enveloped with the magnificence of trees and plants in bloom. (My little lambs are kept separate from the gardens or all my flowers would be gone!)
My Dreamhouse City of Brussels is significant! It's the capital of Belgium and it also serves as the Administrative Centre of the European Union, earning it the title, the 'Capital of Europe'. (It also serves as the headquarters for several other major international organizations such as NATO.)
Brussels (thank goodness for me) is very multi-lingual ~ you can expect to hear almost any language while strolling about the Grand-Place. The Eurostar train links London and Brussels in just under two hours. Bicycles are a free form to get your all around the parts of Europe via trains (you can travel with them on the regular trains).
Belgium is a genuine paradise for gourmet lovers. If you have ever had a chance to read "Asterix and the Belgians," you would already know a unique truth about this Country: Belgian cuisine is as good as the French one, and as generous as the German one. Another fun food fact ~ you do not need to go to a 3 star restaurant to really enjoy a delicious and original meal. Belgium food is simply amazing.
Craving for gourmet chocolate? Unlike wine, beers and other fluids, airlines have not yet regulated the amount of chocolate you wish to bring back to Chicago. Belgian chocolate has been the food of champions, a lure for lovers, the indulgence of the rich and later, the favorite of the masses - at left is photo of Le Chocolatier Manon.
Then there is the Belgium fashion and nightlife. Belgium is fast becoming THE destination in Europe for the 20-30 somethings. It seems they are flocking to cities like Brussels for stylish, inexpensive hotels, great food, and a pulsating nightlife. Brussels also offers fab fashion, even the opportunity to go from rags to riches via the flea market in the common Marolles, where authentic ‘Brusseleirs’ mingle with trendy import youngsters . . . . to walking a few hundred meters further for the extreme contrast flavour with the golden glitters of the very upscale Grand Sablon.
When you go outside, crossing the moat, as is typical with castles, you encounter grand gardens with paths, arbors, fountains and waterfalls. (Photo at left, bench and chairs are antique, "Serena," oval table is from Axel Verdoordt.)
Typical Belgium interior design style routinely includes a "Frenchness" (traditional French decorating - excepting Belgium still being more casual). Things are very simple, with only a complicated piece or two (like perhaps a single "curvy" chair). Rustic, worn elements are welcome and cherished. The Belgian 'typical home' style has a practical sensibility, and it is usually un-cluttered!
But we're decorating my Castle - castles host armor, tapestries, silver, lace, china, paintings and sculptures - a sharp contrast to simple, typical Belgian home style.
So, we're going inside now. Please join me in my SB Journal on Decorating A Dreamhouse - A Castle In The Country Of Belgium.
My Belgian Dreamhouse Castle Formal Entryway:
Its rough - its old - but I think it is the most uniquely-beautiful entryway I've ever seen.
My classic, highly-detailed, carved-wood staircase is uncommonly marvelous. It's in outstanding condition, especially for how old it is.
Opening the doors of the Castle, the stature of the entryway unveils itself to you and it'll literally take your breath away.
I've chosen to hang only one painting in my entry. It's a very old oil painting of an older man praying in a gilded scrolling frame (available from Antique Trading Company.)
I'm lucky to have been able to fill my My Dreamhouse Castle with a bunch of furniture vintage to its heritage (the casegoods have survived over time better than the upholstered pieces). Albeit much of the furniture and accessories are reproduction Belgium and/or European antique pieces.
An excellent example is here in the living room. According to Architectural Digest Belgian designer Axel Vervoordt is "One of the world’s most respected antiques dealers, collectors and interior designers." It is Axel Vervoordt's Brian Sofa, here in a perfect blue padded upholstery that forms the focal point of this room.
Don't even think the room's detailed built-in library bookcases are reproductions however ~ they are as old as my Castle ~ and they hold some secrets.
Looking at the photo, notice the ladder in the corner of the room. This ladder accesses you to an unexpected second story walk-around, library bookcase area, which surrounds the entire living room.
Additionally, once you've climbed the ladder to the second level, one can see it has a walk around area. It is here you can find that there is one certain bookcase that has a secret - a built in trigger that opens up a hidden room.
My Belgian Dreamhouse Castle Hidden Apartment
The hidden room which I'll call 'the apartment area' is diminutive at just 300sf, it manages to include a kitchenette, bathroom and small living area. Like the tower and moat, this hidden room would have been built originally as another form of defense. (Don't you think "private, fortified residences," aka, castles, are fascinatingly unique as homes?)
I chose to use the 'more typical Belgian home design' style in the apartment - consequently, its layout is more casual, especially compared with the rest of the Castle. Here, things are very simple, and rustic. Worn elements, such as the table, are very cherished. I chose to adorn it a bit with the Treviso 12 Light Murano Glass Amber Color Chandelier. It's just enough. This Belgian style has a practical sensibility which is ideal here because the apartment is small, requiring careful use of space.
The one valuable and precious object that is on display in the "apartment" is a European tapestry.
In general, castles were typically cold and tapestries were more than just forms of art. They were hung everywhere on walls of the castles as forms of insulation. In this room, rather than using framed art, a wall tapestry completes the traditional, but more casual mood.
To be exact, this (17th/18th century) tapestry of Mytos and Apews Kissing with 8 figures looking on is actually for sale from Newell Antiques. The 117" wide x 92" high tapestry has been featured on The Stepford Wives, The Pink Panther, and Great Expectations. It can be so much fun designing a Dreamhouse, especially when you have 'props' like these!
My Belgian Dreamhouse Castle Kitchen
Almost everything in my kitchen is vintage - do you not LOVE the curved arch ceiling?
When I touch the stones I imagine the history of my Castle, knowing that the Country is actually fairly new, established in the mid 1800's. This area we now call Belgium has been trampled over and over by warring parties. The great thing is that in good times, parties and entertaining occurred here and it is fun to fantasize about those events and that they were probably brilliantly magnificent.
A few of the appliances are reproductions - such as the Elmira 48" Dual Fuel Wood burning Stove - with Gas Burners from Elmira Stove Works .
Gotta' love beautiful reproductions.
My Belgian Dreamhouse Castle Bathroom
Again, the woodwork is vintage to my Dreamhouse Castle, with reproduction bathtub and hardware. There is some great reproduction bathtub products out there, such as the Marie Louise Cast Iron Claw Foot Bath Tub With No Faucet Drillings , from Vintage Tub And Bath.
The artwork (in the bathroom!) is an antique painting from The Antique Trading Company.
When decorating a bathroom - castle or a modern townhouse, be sure to make it practical as well as attractive.
These blue cabinets open up for storage. Not just castles should hold extra guest towels and soaps. Incorporate this practice in your own homes - it is a gracious touch. The chair may look randomly placed, but it is actually hugely practical. It can hold a book and reading glasses, your towel as seen here and when you are finished, you can then use the chair to sit on it while you finish dressing.
My Belgian Dreamhouse Castle Master Bedroom
As was often the case the tower or keep held the master bedroom, during times of peace. Nowadays a circular stairway is the main entrance, but there is another secret access that would have been for purposes of defense during times of war. It has no evil feeling remaining; this tower is beautiful and the windows are level with the seawater.
The Master Bedroom is very much French traditional interior design style. This bed has tie-back drapery bed panels which is a leftover look. Four-poster beds with heavy curtains served as insulation, were pulled around for warmth at nighttime. As time passed it was "away with dusty bed curtains and in with the healthy fresh air!" So, down they came except for decorative -not so heavy - drapery tieback panels which stirred with the day's new "decorative breezes".I can't give you the specifics of that folding screen's origins.
I mentioned that I particularly liked the changing screen in my Castle's master bedroom.
I mentioned that I particularly liked the changing screen in my Castle's master bedroom.
But, check this one out at right: it is a changing screen that I would love to do the 'changing the clothes behind' thing!
It is from Newell Antiques and is an European, three-fold screen with six Chinoiserie designed, painted oil panels with figures and monkeys is 67-1/2" wide x 67-1/2" tall. This single three-fold screen is for sale for approximately $45,000.
Final note for my master bedroom/dungeon, it has a secret passage way from the secret apartment!
I could so live here, in a Belgian Castle. Couldn't you?
Cilantro Lime Penne Salad With Chicken
Hit the farmer's market for some late-summer produce and whip up one of these babies tonight — do not forget the glass of rosé. This recipe is nutrient-rich, low-effort, and ideal for making leftovers. Prepare a big batch and you'll find the flavors develop even further when you pull them out of the fridge the next day. And the next.
1 box whole wheat penne
Juice of 2 fresh limes
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes
1 yellow pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Optional: 1 grilled chicken breast
- While penne cooks, prepare the avocado, pepper, tomatoes and mango. Chop everything into large, bite-sized pieces (including chicken breast, if using), and put in a large serving bowl.
- Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, garlic, spices, and cilantro. Pour into the serving bowl and gently toss the ingredients.
- Once pasta is cooked al dente, rinse with cold water and add to the serving bowl. Toss all ingredients togehter, adding additional salt and seasoning as you see fit. Feel free to serve immediately, or just pop it in the frige for whenever you're ready. If storing for more than a couple hours, squeeze a little extra lime over the top and press plastic wrap directly onto the pasta - that way the avocado won't brown.
Want More? Click Here To Read: Other "Decorate A Dreamhouse" Articles
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