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