A Neoclassical Gallery Home in Belgium

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May 13, 2013
In this Brussels mansion, nothing has a price tag, but almost everything is for sale. Here, two design experts curate their fantasy house. Read Full Article
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  In 2010, Ike Udechuku and Kathryn Smith moved into a neoclassical house in the Saint-Gilles district and set out to create what Udechuku calls “a gallery of the living experience.” Several times a year, they partner with European galleries in presenting rare and choice furniture, objects, and art in their home. They live with the items they borrow­—eating breakfast at a one-of-a-kind Danish dining table, sipping wine on an iconic sofa—and welcome collectors and visitors into their home to experience (and purchase) design icons in situ. “These pieces are intended by their makers to be used, not to be in a museum,” says Udechuku.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    In 2010, Ike Udechuku and Kathryn Smith moved into a neoclassical house in the Saint-Gilles district and set out to create what Udechuku calls “a gallery of the living experience.” Several times a year, they partner with European galleries in presenting rare and choice furniture, objects, and art in their home. They live with the items they borrow­—eating breakfast at a one-of-a-kind Danish dining table, sipping wine on an iconic sofa—and welcome collectors and visitors into their home to experience (and purchase) design icons in situ. “These pieces are intended by their makers to be used, not to be in a museum,” says Udechuku.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  Here, Smith sits on a vintage rosewood bench designed by the Swiss-born British architect Richard Seifert.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    Here, Smith sits on a vintage rosewood bench designed by the Swiss-born British architect Richard Seifert.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  The drawing room, the couple’s principal entertaining space, contains many highlights of the exhibition, including two Tonico lounge chairs by Sergio Rodrigues; a jacaranda bench by Alberto Reis; a leather-and-rosewood sling chair fabricated by Liceu de Artes e Oficios de São Paulo; and drawings by the contemporary Brazilian artist Paulo Climachauska. "Furniture is more beautiful with a patina—and this comes from years of careful and loving use." —Kathryn Smith  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    The drawing room, the couple’s principal entertaining space, contains many highlights of the exhibition, including two Tonico lounge chairs by Sergio Rodrigues; a jacaranda bench by Alberto Reis; a leather-and-rosewood sling chair fabricated by Liceu de Artes e Oficios de São Paulo; and drawings by the contemporary Brazilian artist Paulo Climachauska. "Furniture is more beautiful with a patina—and this comes from years of careful and loving use." —Kathryn Smith

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  On view in the soaring atrium are a jacaranda high board from the 1960s, a chrome and glass lamp from Italy, a black leather chair and footstool by Sergio Rodrigues, a Berber rug, and a pair of photographs by the Brazilian artist Luiz Braga.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    On view in the soaring atrium are a jacaranda high board from the 1960s, a chrome and glass lamp from Italy, a black leather chair and footstool by Sergio Rodrigues, a Berber rug, and a pair of photographs by the Brazilian artist Luiz Braga.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  When curating the rooms throughout their house, Udechuku and Smith mix borrowed pieces related to the temporary exhibition—such as the playful sculptural lamps crafted from found materials by Brazilian artist Rodrigo Almeida—with vintage American and European classics from their personal collection, such as a Florence Knoll sofa designed in 1954 and newly re-upholstered in a yellow Kvadrat fabric. "We have no opening hours but people call or knock and—if we are home—we welcome them in and put the kettle on." —Ike Udechuku  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    When curating the rooms throughout their house, Udechuku and Smith mix borrowed pieces related to the temporary exhibition—such as the playful sculptural lamps crafted from found materials by Brazilian artist Rodrigo Almeida—with vintage American and European classics from their personal collection, such as a Florence Knoll sofa designed in 1954 and newly re-upholstered in a yellow Kvadrat fabric. "We have no opening hours but people call or knock and—if we are home—we welcome them in and put the kettle on." —Ike Udechuku

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  A stack of 1955 Grand Prix chairs by Arne Jacobsen rests besides a minimal art piece.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    A stack of 1955 Grand Prix chairs by Arne Jacobsen rests besides a minimal art piece.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  A trio of glass pieces by Gunnel Sahlin for Kosta Boda lays on top of a glass and wooden side table.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    A trio of glass pieces by Gunnel Sahlin for Kosta Boda lays on top of a glass and wooden side table.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  A 1959 teak-framed nine-foot-long SW 50-4 sofa by Illum Wikkelsø for the Danish furniture company Søren Willadsen sits pretty.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    A 1959 teak-framed nine-foot-long SW 50-4 sofa by Illum Wikkelsø for the Danish furniture company Søren Willadsen sits pretty.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  Located just off the entry hall, this room opens onto a lush garden. The residents commissioned the overhead light from designers Sylvain Willenz and Hubert Verstraeten. “The use of red billiard ball references Charles and Ray Eames’s Hang-It-All coat rack,” says Smith. The wall-hung light is by the contemporary São Paulo–based designers Luciana Martins and Gerson de Oliveira. The rug is a Moroccan patchwork from the 1960s; the teak-and-leather Kilin chair is by Sergio Rodrigues; and the cane-backed sofa is a student daybed designed by Hans Wegner for Getama in the 1950s.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    Located just off the entry hall, this room opens onto a lush garden. The residents commissioned the overhead light from designers Sylvain Willenz and Hubert Verstraeten. “The use of red billiard ball references Charles and Ray Eames’s Hang-It-All coat rack,” says Smith. The wall-hung light is by the contemporary São Paulo–based designers Luciana Martins and Gerson de Oliveira. The rug is a Moroccan patchwork from the 1960s; the teak-and-leather Kilin chair is by Sergio Rodrigues; and the cane-backed sofa is a student daybed designed by Hans Wegner for Getama in the 1950s.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  The monumental Siefert bench has become "something of a signature piece for Ampersand House," says Udechuku, "and we are reluctant to part with it—despite some tempting offers."  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    The monumental Siefert bench has become "something of a signature piece for Ampersand House," says Udechuku, "and we are reluctant to part with it—despite some tempting offers."

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  The ceramic vase with curvaceous handles was created by Estudio Manus. "We aim to show people that you can live with precious, unique, delicate objects in a very normal and robust way." —Ike Udechuku  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    The ceramic vase with curvaceous handles was created by Estudio Manus. "We aim to show people that you can live with precious, unique, delicate objects in a very normal and robust way." —Ike Udechuku

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  Udechuku and Smith consider the rare rosewood-and-black glass dining set by Joaquim Tenreiro the highlight of their Brazilian Modern exhibition. "It's a true masterpiece, and the only piece I have felt really nervous about using," admits Udechuku.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    Udechuku and Smith consider the rare rosewood-and-black glass dining set by Joaquim Tenreiro the highlight of their Brazilian Modern exhibition. "It's a true masterpiece, and the only piece I have felt really nervous about using," admits Udechuku.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  Udechuku and Smith stand in front of their neoclassical townhouse in Brussels. They met at law school in Australia (Smith is Australian, Udechuku is British) and together discovered their love of design while furnishing their homes over the years—in Australia, in London, in San Francisco, and later in Luxembourg. Today, clients come to them "for the breadth of our design knowledge, relentless pursuit of perfection for each client, and for our ability to research and source rare and unusual pieces," says Udechuku.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    Udechuku and Smith stand in front of their neoclassical townhouse in Brussels. They met at law school in Australia (Smith is Australian, Udechuku is British) and together discovered their love of design while furnishing their homes over the years—in Australia, in London, in San Francisco, and later in Luxembourg. Today, clients come to them "for the breadth of our design knowledge, relentless pursuit of perfection for each client, and for our ability to research and source rare and unusual pieces," says Udechuku.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  "A thousand people a week from around the world see our website but most people walk past the house itself without guessing that the rather stern exterior conceals such a wonderful interior," says Udechuku. "Some might notice the small, hand-carved Welsh-slate plaque with the Ampersand symbol but few recognize it as a logo or anything commercial. This contradiction between public and private is a balance we strive to maintain."  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    "A thousand people a week from around the world see our website but most people walk past the house itself without guessing that the rather stern exterior conceals such a wonderful interior," says Udechuku. "Some might notice the small, hand-carved Welsh-slate plaque with the Ampersand symbol but few recognize it as a logo or anything commercial. This contradiction between public and private is a balance we strive to maintain."

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  Udechuku opens his heavily ornamented front door, inviting a visitor into Ampersand. The downside of their unusual lifestyle? "Living in a home that is also a gallery requires being visitor-ready at most times… so no wandering around in pajamas at midday!" says Udechuku.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    Udechuku opens his heavily ornamented front door, inviting a visitor into Ampersand. The downside of their unusual lifestyle? "Living in a home that is also a gallery requires being visitor-ready at most times… so no wandering around in pajamas at midday!" says Udechuku.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  "People visit and they may well buy a specific chair but, more than anything, they appreciate the way we put the look together," says Udechuku, shown here with a client. "They often invite us to their homes and offices to consult on how to create an eclectic personalized look combining the type of pieces we have at home."  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    "People visit and they may well buy a specific chair but, more than anything, they appreciate the way we put the look together," says Udechuku, shown here with a client. "They often invite us to their homes and offices to consult on how to create an eclectic personalized look combining the type of pieces we have at home."

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  Although Udechuku and Smith admit that they were a bit nervous using the rare black glass table by Joachim Tenreiro, they nevertheless did use it every day, sitting down for meals with their family and hosting visitors for tea. The glow from the copper lamps by Danish designer Jo Hammerborg "add to the mis en scène in a way that personalizes the space," says Udechuku.  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    Although Udechuku and Smith admit that they were a bit nervous using the rare black glass table by Joachim Tenreiro, they nevertheless did use it every day, sitting down for meals with their family and hosting visitors for tea. The glow from the copper lamps by Danish designer Jo Hammerborg "add to the mis en scène in a way that personalizes the space," says Udechuku.

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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  The oak parquet flooring in the open lobby area is original to the house. "The space is never dead," notes Udechuku. "We just had a party where we set up a turntable in this space on a vintage cabinet so that guests could spin their own vinyl records.  Sometimes we arrange this space as a comfortable seating area with sofa and easy chairs, reading lamp and music. We don’t like dead spaces in houses, so we make a point of bringing spaces to life in new ways."  Photo by: Chris Tubbs
    The oak parquet flooring in the open lobby area is original to the house. "The space is never dead," notes Udechuku. "We just had a party where we set up a turntable in this space on a vintage cabinet so that guests could spin their own vinyl records. Sometimes we arrange this space as a comfortable seating area with sofa and easy chairs, reading lamp and music. We don’t like dead spaces in houses, so we make a point of bringing spaces to life in new ways."

    Photo by: Chris Tubbs

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