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Friday, 2 June 2017

“De WARANDE” in Brussels | Ornamental wood carving carved on paneling | Hotel Empain a unique meeting place in the heart of Brussels.

De Warande in Brussels

“De WARANDE” in Brussels.
Hotel Empain a unique meeting place in the heart of Brussels.

In the characterful heart of Brussels, located between the embassies, on the edge of the park of Brussels, also known as the Warande Park, you will find the mansion ”De Warande”, a meeting place for Flemish entrepreneurs and their Belgium guests as well many international guests.
It was built at the end of the 18th century. At that time, it was known as Hotel Empain. Particularly beautiful and elegant, with decorated paneling (boiserie) interiors that enhance the residence. The diversity of style periods with their distinctive ornamentation that adorns the building, offers the opportunity to go deeper into the decoration of this beautiful meeting place in Brussels.

Manor House “De Warande”, Hotel Empain.

De Warande, an exclusive club.

De Warande is housed in the former Hotel Empain and 28 year ago it was specially set up and designed as a place where important Belgian people in Brussels could meet, in a discreet and casual atmosphere.

The life of wealthy people is often busy and stressful. In addition, our society is changing at a rapid pace. De Warande wants to be the Belium beacon to blend the social and professional activities seamless for her special members.
De Warande is a meeting place with many facets… Members can enjoy a gourmet top meal, plan meetings in one of the salons or connect with the intellectual group fed by a wide range of Warande’s activities.

De Warande wants to be an exclusive club that creates a first-class meeting place, with top-level service. With its stylish spaces and quality services, they try to offer each member a stimulating experience. As the management states, “We create a framework where leading Belgians can expand their network and horizons, on their own way”.

Members and their guest enjoy outstanding service and personal approach.

Orientation: De Warande in Brussels. (De red dot on the map).
De Warande Brussels with the beautiful monumental hall stairs.

The “De Warande” from my point of view.

In mid-2016, during my research work, I accidentally came across the website of “De Warande”, in which a particular photo drew my attention. A detail from a beautiful paneling from “The Lounge”, a beautiful composition with French influences was what struck me.
Because I am always looking for special and interesting blog items, I contacted the management of this club/meeting place to get information about the possibility to dedicate a blog item to “The Lounge”. I quickly received a positive response and I counted with their benevolent cooperation.

Information, texts, archive material was also available to me. In addition, I noticed that not only “The Lounge” is decorated with an elegant paneling, but other rooms of De Warande too. My curiosity for this beautiful place increased during the same week, when I had the appointment for a visit.

And that was why I went with one of my students of ornamental woodcarving, in the direction of Brussels in mid-july 2016.

De Warande is located in the royal district, on the corner of the Hertogenstraat and the Zinnerstraat. The latter does not really work more as a street, but rather as parking area for the members of De Warande. In the building complex on the side of Zinnerstraat, the US Embassy has also taken advantage of this “street”.

Yes… we should have expected this; after a security check of about 15 minutes, our entry was granted. The experience reminded me of a border control between East and West Berlin in 1983. For a bribery (in the border), a can of Coca-Cola or a package of Malboro did miracles then, but I had a vague suspicion that this would not be the case here and now.

We received a particularly warm reception from the Communications Manager of De Warende, Mr. Tijs Michiels. We visited several rooms where we felt at home, in an stylish environment where the almost natural beauty precents itself in a impressive way.

Here, the architecture offers the artist a medium in which he can meet nature to get inspired and invited exploring his/her creativity.

The arrangement and decoration of the interiors show that in the beginning of the last century (17th and 18th century) the old traditional ornamentation of the building was restored by some customer, designers and craftsmen. Not that this tradition has been lost, but for s short time is was displaced by a “modern style”.

 By that time, Brussels had won its famous of an Art Nouveau city, the city where this innovative architecture was created and was blooming. The Art Nouveau had its peak in 1907; and the traditional forces, that never slept on their laurels, once again took its place and got back under King Leopold II, who set the tone.

Paneling with ornaments (boiserie).

This historic building, located in the royal district of Brussels, has several remarkable wall panelings (wooden wall cladding or boiserie); lovers of elegant and high quality wood carving will not be disappointed. The diversity of styles will give me the opportunity to publish many blog entries in the future, about De Warande’s paneling and ornamentation.

The use of French decorative styles, the exuberance in ornamentation, the partitioning in the paneling and the composition of the carvings are very diverse and tastefully designed. One could use the interior of the Hotel Empain, executed with high skilled workmanship, as example for a lesson in “Architectural History of the Beautiful Styles”. Architectural aesthetics and art are a blast to the eyes.

De WARANDE in Brussels / Decorated panelings with ornaments.

The rooms:

The Empain salon is accessible from the hall stairs.  About 50 square meters of oak paneling worked by the Mechelse sculptor Frans Louis, shows different episodes of Jean d’Arc’s life. The piece is made in particularly high quality wood carving. An authentic Reinassance fireplace was sculptured in marble and is of Venetian origins.

Two sculpted columns with gold-leaf adorns the chimney mantel (trumeau) and shows the last supper. Certainly, an appropriate them for this dining room. The polychrome work is Italian and 17th century. At that time, it was a tradition to use authentic art pieces for the interior, together with newly designed decoration.

The club restaurant is formed by a few very cozy and intimate spaces that blend together, each one with its own decorative identity and a recognizable style period. The quality of the materials used and the skilled workmanship is also particularly high here. To the details of the finishing and the rich character of each part of the decoration, you will see that the customer was a man with the required specific knowledge, maintaining and keeping high standards.

In the small rooms, some of them with a low ceiling, you will find the finer decoration, composition and wood carving. This part of De Warande (Hotel Empain) provides a pleasant rest. Each room has its own style or style period with decoration with typical features. For example, there are 18th century Liege style, the Regence style, Louis XVI style, Empyre style (19th century) … but also compositions we can’t get our head around. Probably, the designer’s own creativity and/or personal wishes of the client have been given the preference or superiority, rather than strictly following the specific “style guidelines”.

The lounge, garden room, Salon Duke, Salon Arenberg... are the larger formal rooms and can be use by the member of De Warande, for parties, meetings or as a lunch room. Historically, these spaces served to impress the guests. You can see this in the decoration because they radiate wealth and power. The Salon Arenberg on the ground floor features an oak wood paneling with beautiful wood carving in French Regence Style.

De WARANDE in Brussels |
 Decorated paneling and paneling with ornaments.

The grand salon on the first floor, the Zinnerzaal, is opposite to the gallery and thus adjoins to the monumental stair hall. Here too, the oak paneling was carried out in Regence style. They reach to the ceilings; whose borders are decorated with stucco.

From the grand Salon, a double door has a view of the underlying little White Salon.

This is practically completed in a neo-Louis XVI style, the style of the royal square and some mansions in the park. It is also typical of the 18th century to create a “enfilade” of rooms. That is a series of contiguous rooms in one axis.

From this Grand Salon, you can see through the open doors into five other rooms.

sculpted mantelpiece

Hotel Empain, a unique meeting place in the heart of Brussels.

De WARANDE in Brussels |
 Decorated paneling and paneling with ornaments.

A few remarkable personal discoveries.

Because I am professional, engaged in the design and execution of ornaments in wood and the appropriate styles, over the years I have been able to compile a comprehensive archive; documents, old prints and books containing images of interiors, as well as recent reference books about furniture, interiors and castles. On top of that, the gypsum prints and study objects are a great source of inspiration, they hang from the wall of my wood carving studio.

But, the main source of inspiration is my own photo archive that I have being compiling for the last 30 years. Detail surveys of the application of ornaments that I have collected in museums, antique shows, private collections, private houses and castles. All style periods and the different applications of the ornamentation are included; not only in wood, but also in marble, stone, or bronze… Through this extensive archive, I have developed a bit of “a good visual memory” if it is about ornamentation.

It came to my attention that the furniture makers/ornament-maker who created the paneling in De Warande should also have been in possession of an extensive archive. I recognized a number of outstanding details in the paneling and doors, which could only be drawn / designed by people in possession of books and / or gypsum models of an old composition.

Below are some examples that support this finding.

Salle de Guerre, Versailles Castle, France.

Left, Salle de Guerre Versailles (FR), right De Warande showing the same motif in stone.

Rambouillet Castle, France.

Left, Rambouillet Castle (FR) / Right, same composition on a door.

Gypsum print of gypsum foundry, 
Art Museum and History in Brussels.

Museum of Art and Decoration, in Paris.

Museum of Art and Decoration, In Paris, B/W photo.

Translation, Lis Alvarado

Website De Warande 

Allow me to close this section of the “De Warande” interior observations. As I mentioned before, the diversity of different paneling and ornaments, it’s simple to much to grab it all in just a single blog entry.
I hope that you have been able to form a picture of De Warande, its atmosphere, the style periods and stylish rooms.
Below, you will find some of the moods and details of the paneling with ornaments that may be useful.

 Ornamental wood carving carved on paneling

De WARANDE in Brussels | Hotel Empain.
Carved paneling

“De WARANDE” in Brussels

De WARANDE in Brussels / Hotel Empain.

De WARANDE in Brussels / Hotel Empain.


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