After three years in Switzerland, the homeowners moved to the Midwest with lots of stories, souvenirs, and a passion for Belgian decorating. The Belgian ideal of mixing raw woods, natural fabrics, vintage accents, and modern pieces was perfect for a family with a young child. The first step in making over their Michigan home was selecting a European color palette of grays, browns, and earth tones rather than the traditional American whites.
The area surrounding the fireplace highlights the signature Belgian principle of sharp contrasts. A delicate French love seat and a shapely sofa found abroad lend European air to the fireplace seating. Simple nesting tables and wood candlesticks add a casual feel to the space.
To make the style their own, the homeowners customized many of their accents with fabric. Natural fabrics such as burlap, hemp, velvet, and linen -- a Belgian specialty -- are used throughout the home. Antique hemp grain sacks printed with the owner's name and crest were repurposed as slipcovers for the Parsons chairs. The window treatments were also custom-made. The homeowners started with premade black, camel, and ivory striped velvet drapes, backed them in burlap fabric, and added a thick lining in between.
Get the Look: Find off-the-rack drapes in a fabric you like and embellish them for a custom look. Add special touches, such as contrasting fabric backing, fringe, beading, banding, or pretty tiebacks, for personalized window treatments.
Decorating Lesson: Take color cues from your favorite piece of art or fabric in a room. Many times you will be able to identify multiple options for wall colors or accents from the colors used in the item or complementary colors not found in the artwork or fabric.
Storage space and ample lighting are essential in every room. In this living space, a pair of assembly-required bookcases flank the window and offer plenty of room to show off elegant platters, footed bowls, and woven baskets. On the side table, candlestick lamps light a corner of the room, and the table provides additional storage and display options.
The large cabinet serves a dual purpose in the living room. Foremost it provides additional storage. Secondly, the light woodgrain ties in with the other natural materials throughout the home. To give the traditional elements a modern edge, the homeowners chose bold fabric patterns, such as the black stripes on the pillows, and graphic design elements, including the Xs found on accessories.
The homeowners accented the cabinet with a flea-market bird painting and an iron footbath. They filled the footbath with shells and other items in earth-toned hues.
Get the Look: Create a versatile accent piece by filling a decorative bowl or urn with natural elements. You can change the pieces with the seasons -- shells in the summer, pinecones in autumn, and shelled nuts in the winter.
A simple farm table paired with two upholstered benches creates a contrast in the dining room. Using benches rather than traditional chairs gives the room a casual touch. The benches also conserve floor space because they tuck under the table and out of the way when not in use.
Vintage accents add a touch of glamour to the space above the buffet. The scrolling shape of the all-white wall mirror, once a part of a gentleman's dresser, contrasts crisply against the taupe walls. The pink opaline-and-crystal chandelier adds overhead lighting and a bit of warmth and color.
The Swedish-style buffet stages modern drama with clear acrylic lamps and black-stripe side chairs. The trellis on the dining room wall lends architectural jazz and repeats the X theme found throughout the home.
In the kitchen, white cabinets pop off the room's chocolate wall color. The wire obelisks, the urn lamp, and the vintage painting add visual interest. Glass-front cabinets above the counter create an open feel without sacrificing storage.
The kitchen's deep wall color continues into the casual family room as does the use of airy white furnishings and accents. The homeowners made the small space feel larger by creating clusters of seating around the room.
The practical family room invites leisure with a sectional sofa slipcovered in linen. Slipcovers provide both softness and washability. Tailored, tight-fitting covers such as these lend a more modern, streamlined look.
A small corner becomes a makeshift breakfast banquette with a plush bench, chairs, and a reproduction mid-century table. High shelves provide storage for the collection of "Sunday flower paintings." The family created a one-of-a-kind message center by placing a chalkboard in a vintage frame.
Budget Tip: Choose rustic or vintage pieces from a flea market or tag sale to add interest to any room without spending a lot of money. Also, look for sofas or love seats with pleasing shapes and quality construction that can be re-covered in modern fabrics.
The theme of comfort and contrast continues outside. An outdoor settee with new cushions and pillows sits alongside an X-leg table, creating a small seating area. Trellises frame the seating area, add depth to the white furniture, and turn the side of a garage into a stylish backdrop.