Now in its eighth year, Design September is an event that draws design enthusiasts from across Europe. Held over several weeks, it features more than 100 events, exhibitions, talks and open days. The design festival is the perfect moment to explore some of the city’s hidden spots by following Arts and Crafts urban trails. These routes lead to unexpected design locations including design shops, galleries, pop-up stores, hotels and B&Bs.
The event is also an opportunity to find out about cool new commercial interiors that have been awarded a Commerce Design prize. This year’s winners include Gaston ice cream salon on the Quai aux Briques (designed by Lionel Jadot), Jam Hotel (another Jadot creation) in St Gilles, the quirky Saint Octave cheese shop in the Marolles and the stunning Radisson Red Hotel in the European Quarter.
Here are ten of the coolest places you can step inside during the design days.
Belgian couples used to have discreet lunchtime affairs in the Hotel Berger’s creaky beds. Now this backstreet Ixelles hotel has been reinvented as a cool urban hideaway. It is hosting a one-day Second Life Festival for Design September. You can drop in to look at vintage jewellery, vinyl records and period accessories displayed in old bedrooms where the secret affairs once happened.
Designer Charlotte Lancelot will display her retro textile creations in an empty shop window in downtown Brussels. She is also organising a weekend workshop to demonstrate her stitching and dyeing techniques. The Belgian design collective NoMoreTwist is also exhibiting chunky textiles at the same venue.
Rue St Christophe 5 Central Brussels
FOREST OF LIGHTS
The couple behind Pro Materia Gallery in Ixelles are organising an exhibition by designers Nathalie Dewez and Kaspar Hamacher in their elegant 1920s Ixelles town house. The exhibition features an installation that cuts across the borders between art, design and photography.
The main event of the design season is Europe’s biggest vintage market, held in two big industrial sheds at the Tour et Taxis complex. More than 800 dealers will be displaying nostalgic vintage design from the 1950s to the 1980s. The objects include original furniture, glass, ceramics, fashion accessories and even a few vintage cars. Many of the objects on display are pricey collectables by Nordic, American, Belgian, French and Italian designers. But you also find cheap pieces that have been gathering dust in attics.
The young Belgian designer Kim vande Pitte is displaying contemporary textiles in the cool urban rooms of the Happy Guesthouse. The narrow four-floor house is a striking example of contemporary Belgian design by Atelier Dynamo working with interior designer Julien Renault.
It’s fun to wander around the streets of Brussels during Design September looking out for designer studios open to the public. You can discover fabulous hidden workshops and talk to designers about their creative process. The list of venues includes Wielemans Design Village, Atelier Kobalt and Maison Armand Jonckers. Look out for the distinctive signs with the red letter D that pinpoint Design September participants.
POLISH DESIGN ISLAND
Several Polish designers are exhibiting inside an empty shipping container on Grand’Place. They aim to create a contemporary living room furnished with their objects. It sounds intriguing.
Several acclaimed international designers are coming to Brussels to deliver lectures at Flagey. Worth catching is Catalan designer Eugeni Quitllet, who calls himself a disonador – a designer-dreamer. His output includes a collection of furniture modelled on musical instruments called BUM BUM and the minimalist Aedle VK-1 headphones. He is giving a talk on his work as a designer at Flagey on 21 September 2016.
NIYONA LEATHER WORKSHOP
The acclaimed Brussels designer Nina Bodenhorst creates original leather handbags using hides selected from a local Belgian tannery. She has also created menu holders, leather aprons and place mats for several local restaurants including Bon-Bon and Brasserie Bozar. You can find out more by visiting her studio/shop in downtown Brussels.
Rue de Laeken 86 Central Brussels +32 (0)2 219 20 74 www.niyona.be
Take a look at the works of La Cambre graduate Eric Beauduin, who creates unique patchwork handbags using vintage leather he finds at flea markets. He displays his creations in a beautiful 19th century atelier near the Horta Museum in St Gilles. His gallery is normally open in the afternoon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.