Shabby chic decor has been a popular interior design style for decades, known for its relaxed and casual elegance. But recently, a new contender has emerged in the world of laid-back yet sophisticated decor – Belgian style. With its focus on natural materials, subtle colors, and handcrafted elements, Belgian style offers a fresh take on relaxed elegance that may just give shabby chic a run for its money.
What is Belgian Style Decor?
Belgian style interior design originated in Belgium and is characterized by a combination of vintage and modern elements to create a casual, lived-in look. Some key features of Belgian style decor include:
- Natural Materials – Natural fibers and unfinished woods are hallmarks of Belgian style. Linen, cotton, wool, rattan, wicker, oak, pine, and reclaimed wood feature prominently.
- Neutral Color Palette – Whites, creams, greys, and earth tones create a soothing, neutral backdrop. Pops of color come from accessories or decorative pieces.
- Vintage Finds – Belgian style incorporates well-loved antique, vintage or repurposed pieces like cabinets, sideboards, dining tables, or lighting. These provide a sense of character.
- Handcrafted Elements – Textiles, furniture, and decor items often feature visible marks of craftsmanship. Handwoven rugs, crocheted blankets, carved wood, and hand-thrown pottery are common.
- Laid-Back Sophistication – The look blended refined yet relaxed. Quality materials and handiwork convey sophistication, while the casual vibe creates livability.
- Simple, Unfussy Lines – Furniture and decor tend towards uncomplicated silhouettes. The aesthetic values function and comfort over ornamentation.
- Textural Interest – Natural fibers, nubby knits, rough woods, and distressed finishes create depth and visual texture.
Overall, Belgian style strikes a balance between vintage and modern, casual and elegant. It focuses on artisanal quality and natural materials to create a welcoming, unpretentious look.
How Does Belgian Style Compare to Shabby Chic?
Belgian and shabby chic styles share some common ground in their casual, unfussy aesthetic and blend of vintage and modern pieces. However, Belgian style differs from shabby chic in a few notable ways:
- Materials – Belgian style favors natural fibers and unadorned woods, while shabby chic incorporates more painted and distressed woods.
- Colors – Earth tones are more predominant in Belgian style, whereas shabby chic utilizes a wider range of colors like pastels, florals and brighter hues.
- Finishes – The Belgian look highlights raw, organic textures, while the shabby chic aesthetic values more intentional distressing and aging.
- Polish – Belgian style maintains a simpler, more streamlined look compared to shabby chic’s emphasis on ornate accents and heavy distressing.
- Vibe – The cozy minimalism of Belgian style creates a more modern mood, whereas shabby chic evokes nostalgic, traditional charm.
So in summary, Belgian style decor tends to appear more pared-back, neutral, textural, and modern than the more lavish, feminine, and ornately distressed shabby chic aesthetic.
Elements of Belgian Style Decor
Some key elements to incorporate for achieving the Belgian style look:
- Unembellished wood pieces – oak, pine, acacia
- Natural woven pieces – rattan, wicker, sea grass
- Metal accents – iron, brass, copper
- Comfortable upholstered seating – linen, cotton, wool
- Multipurpose furniture – benches, ottomans, stools
- Cotton and linen for bedding and upholstery
- Neutral solids and simple patterns
- Cable knits and textural wool blankets
- Natural fiber area rugs – sisal, jute, cotton
- Vintage or antique finds
- Repurposed items given new life
- Pottery, baskets, glassware
- Items displaying craftsmanship
- Cream, light tan, greige
- Warm grays and whites
- Earth tones – mossy greens, rusty reds
- Black and natural wood tones
- Industrial pendants and sconces
- Exposed bulb fixtures
- Minimal task and accent lamps
- Woven wall hangings or tapestries
- Neutral artwork and photography
- Collections of artifacts, baskets, or pottery
- Gallery walls grouping eclectic pieces
By incorporating these types of elements, you can cultivate the laid-back sophistication of Belgian style.
Creating a Belgian Style Interior
Here are some tips for bringing Belgian style into your home:
- Choose natural fiber rugs as a foundation – jute, sisal, or cotton in neutral hues.
- Select informal upholstered furniture with linen or cotton slipcovers.
- Source unadorned wood pieces – acacia, mango, oak – in simple silhouettes.
- Add vintage or antique finds like sideboards, cabinets, or dining sets to enrich with character.
- Use textural neutrals on walls like plaster, linen, or soft greiges.
- Include handcrafted items from ceramic dishes to woven baskets to macrame wall hangings.
- Add warmth with brass accents – lamps, curtain rods, cabinet hardware.
- Feature artisan textiles like hand-dyed pillows, wool knits, or crocheted throws.
- Layer in dried botanicals, pieces of wood, river stones, andnatural artifacts.
- Illuminate with industrial pendants, exposed bulb fixtures, and table lamps.
- Accent with earthy tones like moss green, navy blue, brick red, and deep brown.
The Belgian look comes together through the blend of natural elements, simple forms, quality craftsmanship, and vintage patina. Focus on curating a selection of handpicked pieces to reflect your personal style.
Belgian Style Vignettes
To help visualize how Belgian style decor comes to life, here are some inspirational vignettes:
Cozy Living Room
Create a relaxed living space by blending neutral toned linen sofas and chairs with warm wood end tables. Layer in woven wool blankets, a jute area rug, and rattan side tables for organic texture. Add vintage charm with a reclaimed wood coffee table and antique cabinet styled with collected pottery.
Rustic Dining Nook
Craft a casual dining nook with a reclaimed wood dining table and mix of wicker, wood, and metal chairs in varied silhouettes. Use an antique cabinet for dishware storage and introduce greenery with a trailing plant. Hang a jute light fixture above for a natural touch.
Evoke quiet elegance in the bedroom with a leather and oak bed, linen bedding, and antique nightstands. Incorporate woven benches, a sisal rug, and rattan storage baskets. Add floor plants and ceramic vases with dried botanicals to complement the earthy palette.
Eclectic Home Office
Create a multi-functional workspace with vintage finds like a leather club chair and oak apothecary desk. Contrast modern elements like a sleek desk lamp and macrame wall hanging. Include ceramic accents, a cozy wool throw, and gallery wall of neutral artwork.
The Belgian look adapts well to any space. Seek out favorite handcrafted and vintage pieces to design an interior that is casually sophisticated.
Frequently Asked Questions About Belgian Style
What are the origins of Belgian style?
Belgian style developed organically from Belgian culture over time. Natural materials and handcrafted quality are rooted in the artisan heritage of Belgian trades like lacemaking, tapestry weaving, and furniture building. Belgian style also reflects the muted color palette and texture found in the natural landscapes across Belgium.
How do you mix Belgian style with other decor styles?
The casual warmth of Belgian style pairs well with pared-back minimalism and industrial edge. It can also complement vintage French country or Scandinavian styles that share natural elements. Just avoid over-ornamentation and let Belgian pieces shine as calm focal points.
Why choose Belgian style over shabby chic?
For those wanting a more streamlined look, Belgian style provides a modernized version of relaxed elegance. Its neutral palette, raw textures, and unembellished forms create a sophisticated yet welcoming feel that distinguishes it from overly distressed shabby chic.
Is Belgian style right for small spaces?
Yes, Belgian style can work wonderfully in small spaces! Focus on multipurpose furniture in slim silhouettes. Single accent chairs, woven stools, and bench seating maximize flexibility. Declutter surfaces and build visual texture with artisan textiles and ceramics instead of bulky decor.
Is Belgian style here to stay or just a trend?
Belgian style has been embedded in Belgian culture for generations, which means its emphasis on natural materials and craftsmanship gives it staying power. Yet its surge in popularity as a minimalist alternative to shabby chic does make it on-trend right now. Either way, Belgian style offers timeless, livable decor.
Final Thoughts on Embracing Belgian Style
Belgian style brings a casual sophistication and textural warmth to interior spaces. Its blend of vintage patina, handcrafted quality, and pared-back forms creates a relaxing environment without sacrificing elegance. As Belgian style gains attention as an alternative to overly precious shabby chic, its versatile aesthetic makes it a decor choice that can stand the test of time.
Curating Belgian style is about seeking out high-quality natural materials, unfussy furniture silhouettes, and decorative pieces rich with craftsmanship. Mix vintage with modern and add plenty of organic texture for a highly livable interior that feels both nostalgic and fresh. With its neutral palette and cozy minimalism, Belgian style offers an inviting and tranquil feel that welcomes you home.