We step inside Belgian fashion designer Tim Van Steenbergen‘s Art Nouveau Antwerp home and atelier.
Tim Van Steenbergen is well known in Antwerp, where he lives, and in Europe, where people are in tune with his fashion. His creations find their way into leading boutiques and the theatre for both opera and ballet productions. Those who love Theo spectacles might even see his signature on one of the arms. Interior design and product design also feature in Tim’s extensive portfolio. “There’s a ‘thread’ through all of these disciplines, timeless design based on craftsmanship. It’s not about trends but how things are constructed,” Tim adds.
Tim’s Art Nouveau house in Antwerp, which includes his atelier, dates from 1907 and was designed by architect Joseph Hertogs in the ‘eclectic style’. One of several elegant homes in this magical street and a stone’s throw from The Jane, one of Europe’s most coveted high-end dining experiences. When this house came up for sale, for Tim it was more out of interest in seeing inside it than actually purchasing it. “My partner and I fell in love with it immediately. It was a spontaneous decision, but again I was as fascinated with the way it was constructed, as much as the design,” Tim says, who lives here with his partner, his son and their two cats.
Tim was able to ‘read’ the home’s past, how previous occupants once lived. Up a marble staircase, the lobby beyond the front door needs time to be absorbed. At a time when servants both worked and lived here, the house was divided into what Tim refers to as ‘two worlds’, with separate staircases used by the owners and their staff (today the only staff in the house are Tim’s creatives and support staff for his business).
So, while the lowest level of the house, the basement, is given over to the kitchen, the upper levels of the four-level house include the lounge and dining areas and an office. And on the top level is the main bedroom, originally part of the servants’ quarters, overlooking an atrium with a glass ceiling that filters light into the house’s core. One of the smallest rooms in the house, located at the top of the grand staircase on the third floor and also former servant’s bedroom, Tim uses to conceive his collections, whether they be fashion or a new set for an opera.
The interior spaces, including restoring the home’s glass ceiling, was the initial focus. However, Tim was mindful of following the logic of the original plans and structure. “We don’t have a straight wall in the house,” Tim says, who enjoys working from home surrounded by a few key staff. “It’s the type of house that makes it easy to separate the two,” he adds.
Tim’s studio and showroom are located on the first floor. Featuring high decorative ceilings and large windows that frame the staircase, there’s a clear separation between home and work, with clients simply passing the personal spaces. “I often work on weekends and during holidays, but the layout of the house means that I don’t have to pass my atelier should I need downtime,” Tim says. “I try and keep things quite separate. It’s important to keep a strict routine, so I try to only go up the stairs to the first floor between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm. Creative minds need to disconnect to allow space for new ideas.”
While Tim loves the generous spaces the house affords, he adores his vintage furniture collection, reflecting his passion for both history and craftsmanship. In his main office, there’s a 17th-century tapestry (a family heirloom), and on several walls are Belgian post-war modernist paintings such as Guy Vandenbrande, Jan Savereysand Pol Bury.