Golden Age Ambiance

Permalink         Comments (4)        
Posted May 19, 2014. Filed in Belgian-Dutch Style, Old World Style

Dominique Desimpel-Damme-Belgium-WoI Feb 06-Jan Verlinde

Dominique Desimpel is not a name you hear every day, but should. Desimple is a rather private and reclusive tile dealer and collector who lives in Damme, Belgium –  a short distance from the realized fairytale that is Bruges. “Just one look”, as Linda Ronstadt crooned many moons ago, had me hook, line and sinker.  Deep with mood and atmosphere, his rooms beguile like a cabinet of curiosities … only better. Unencumbered by whimsy or trickery, Disemple has painted a canvas onto interiors evocative of a great Dutch master’s painting. And that was precisely his intention. 

Dominique Desimpel-Damme-Belgium-WoI Feb 06-Jan Verlinde

Vermeer and Van Eyck held particular sway over Desimpel, who grew up living in a mansion. Intimidated by large spaces he sought refuge in cozy, compartmentalized ones and the warmth that Dutch Master paintings illicit. For his own house, Desimpel created a gallimaufry of rooms closed off from the world. “For me, the contrast between ‘open’ and ‘closed’ is both fascinating and mysterious”, he told Piet Swimberghe, for an article written in the The World of Interiors.




A recent arrangement of the living area, above three images, provides more comfort and a sense of refined yet understated Old World luxury. A room I would never want to leave.

Having lived in the Netherlands I am familiar with the Dutch-Belgian aesthetic, which is at once studied and spontaneous. Good design is the result of knowing the rules and then making your own. Spare, though never austere, Desimpel’s rooms are timeless, romantic, and delightfully imperfect. The living room is taken straight from a Vermeer painting, with its large map of Flanders from 1701, a celestial globe by Van der Valck from 1704, and Flemish pharmacy mortars. A Moroccan potpourri-cum-lamp and carved wood pull-up tables from the Middle East are a nod to the Dutch East India Company and the region’s long-standing fascination with Orientalism.

Vermeer-The Astronomer

Johannes Vermeer’s Astronomer, 1668 (Musée du Louvre, Paris).

Dominique Desimpel-Damme-Belgium-WoI Feb 06-Jan Verlinde

In earlier photos taken for The World of Interiors furnishings and collections from the Netherlands, Italy, France and Spain are found throughout the house. A Persian carpet overlays rush matting, which sits on a cobbled floor, in the living room. The entrance hall/library, above, was inspired by the interiors in paintings by Van Eyck.


A recent photo of Dominique Disempel’s private study infers the passions of an aesthete.

Dominique Desimpel-Damme-Belgium-WoI Feb 06-Jan Verlinde

Rough-chalked walls and medieval cobbles for flooring define Flemish country house style. Zelij tiles from Morocco add luster to one wall of the kitchen while  majolica examples from Antwerp are hung casually on another.

Dominique Desimpel-Damme-Belgium-WoI Feb 06-Jan Verlinde

The medieval blue stone tiles are reminiscent of those found in Tournai; rough paneled walls and cabinets introduce rustic simplicity; the overhead light fixture is a North African mosque lamp; majolica Dutch tiles from the 1600’s and 1700’s.


In the guest annex Desimpel had decorative painter Angèle Boddaert-Devletian paint a stenciled design above a dado of manganese-colored landscape tiles.

Dominique Desimpel-Damme-Belgium-WoI Feb 06-Jan Verlinde

The exterior is faithful to Flemish country-house style architecture. Flemish paintings inspired the garden, which contains the steep-gabbled guest annex constructed in 17th-century fashion. One of the bathrooms features an Art Deco mirror over an antique commode-cum-sink cabinet.

From The World of Interiors, based on Desimpel Virtues written by Piet Swimberghe, with photograph by Jan Verlinde. Decorative painter Angèle Boddaert-Devletian can be contacted here. More recent photos by Jan Verlinde via Angèle Boddaert-Devletian.

4 Responses to Golden Age Ambiance

  1. luc
    May 20, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Hi, I’m ashamed to say I never heard of this countryman of mine. It is indeed stunning work and I like it a lot more than the usual sober country style that is often called “belgian look”. Thanks for sharing, luc

  2. Cristopher
    May 20, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Luc, don’t be too hard on yourself! M. Desimpel seems to prefer to exist under the radar. That’s why I was so delighted to discover his home in a back-issue of The World of Interiors. I believe his studio is still operating. I travel to Belgium for my antiques shop in the U.S. and would love to drop in on him next time I travel there.
    Thank you for your comment –

  3. May 20, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    I really love this home…beautiful…elegant and serene. Love the use of tiles in the kitchen too. Truly a calming and lovely home.

    Thank you…what a great blog post.

  4. Cristopher
    May 20, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Victoria, I knew you would love this home as much as I do. It has an old soul, is timeless, and invokes dreams and magical tales! It possesses spirit and stirs the imagination, and comforts with its romantic historicism. Having lived in the Netherlands it’s the kind of home one needs to warm the spirit after endless days of gray of cold.
    Thank you, dearest, for your comment!