Living in a rented home where painting is restricted posed a specific problem for color specialist Corinne Kowal. However, with online-shopping savvy and an ability to reimagine found furniture, she gave her home splashes of color and eclectic furnishings which range in style from French classic to art deco and retro vintage. The color scheme makes or breaks a space, she states: “That’s what makes it all together.”
in a Glance
Who lives here: Christophe and Corinne Kowal, as well as their 3-year-old kid
Location: Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Brussels
Size: 140 square meters (1,506 square feet); 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, home office
Corinne’s design is influenced by her time with Mis en Demeure, an interior design company in Paris that specializes in revisiting French classics. She enjoys art deco for the geometric wood veneer designs, like those on her and Christophe’s dining room buffet.
The Kowals love to relax, read and sip on coffee here. The crimson and purple tones of this reupholstered flea market seats influenced the rest of the area. The salvaged bistro table was old, rusty and dirty, and after many attempts at removing the rust, Corinne spray painted it a matte charcoal gray and replaced its first beige plastic top with a custom walnut top, stained and varnished with a clear gloss. The couple found the antique Bukhara carpet while backpacking in Syria.
The art deco mirror over the buffet is an eBay find. Following the purchase, Corinne recognized it had been spray painted gold. She spent changing it into silver.
Upholstery: Cabine Rouge cloth, Les Toiles du Soleil; bistro table: Les Petits Riens
From the kitchen, nestled beneath a slanted ceiling which runs the entire length of the apartment’s top floor, contemporary bamboo countertops, MDF composite cupboards and modern bar stools contrast with art deco pieces. Skylights bring in plenty of light — a lifesaver during European winters — but imply less storage space.
Four J. & J. Kohn bistro chairs located at a flea market and reupholstered in crimson leather encircle a large oak dining table by La Redoute.
Corinne found the two art deco chairs at either end of the table on the road in Paris. “They’re in really bad shape,” she states. “I won’t even tell you my husband’s reaction when he found them sitting in our apartment, ready to throw them out of the window immediately.”
She sanded them down and reupholstered the seats with a Libeco crimson vest.
The Biedermeier-style marble-topped buffet was a splurge Corinne located on eBay. It complements a gallery of drawings by 17th-century French artist Claude Lorrain, 18th-century engravings and a painting of a forest found at Les Petits Riens, a Brussels charity shop.
This Shiraz floor carpet came from Syria, too. “We spent about three hours drinking tea and bargaining with the owners of a carpet shop in the Aleppo souk. It is one of these gorgeous memories of a wonderful trip,” Corinne states. The antique leather armchair is an eBay find.
Console: Bahia, Maison du Monde, customized with MDF leaf painted Mouse’s Back No. 40, Farrow & Ball
The two side tables are Ikea Vittsjö shelving units cut in bits, then place together with an MDF leaf top painted with Farrow & Ball’s Mouse’s Back No. 40.
Although the Kowals would like some of the freedom that comes with owning a home, like painting walls, renting hasn’t been a restricting factor. They place their own stamp on the apartment’s clean aesthetic and have come to appreciate its existing attributes. “We love the oak floors as well as the light. Even when it’s dark out and the weather’s dreadful, there’s always light,” Corinne states.
Wall paint throughout: 9001 Lotion, RAL; sofa: Manstad, Ikea; dark green velvet cushions: Ikea; chartreuse cushions: custom made with fabric from Tissus du Chien Vert and piping by Houlès
The Kowals have called their Brussels apartment home as 2011; they lived in both Paris and Berlin before moving to Brussels. They immediately loved their home because of its light and space. “We were looking for an apartment with fine features and lots of light,” Corinne states. “With three levels, this place had the feel of a house, while still being an apartment” The top floor is one big, open area that overlooks the living and dining room, the kitchen and a small sitting room.
Prints, vintage maps and images of Berlin and New York lineup the stairwell.
Christophe has a love-hate relationship with all the staircase. “You are constantly moving up and down, but it’s a matter of getting used to it,” Corinne states.
The family bathroom is a contemporary event, using a double vanity, wooden countertops, a large mirror that extends to the ceiling and plenty of light.
In their son’s room, a brightly colored dresser takes center stage against a color palette of green, blue and crisp white. Corinne dyed the cotton Ikea drapes a bottle-green color.
Armchair: Biarritz, Mis en Demeure, upholstered in linen cloth from the Lins Lourds collection from Elitis; green pillow: Casa home; rug: wool, Leen Bakker
The dresser is an Ikea Ingo buffet which Corinne painted; she also added brass hardware and door decorations from BHV in Paris. An oak-framed antique map of Berlin hangs over.
The little bronze cat, by Villa Alys, was a present from one of Corinne’s customers when she was working in Paris. She found the vintage globe in a local consignment store.
An antique Greek handmade needlework carpet bought by Corinne’s parents 40 years back adds soft color and feel.
Bed: Sundvik, Ikea; wardrobe: Hemnes, Ikea
Corinne found this headboard on eBay and put it in a racy blue shadow in Les Tissus du Chien Vert in Brussels. She repainted it as well.
The custom bedspread features African Holland wax cloth bought in the Congolese area of Matonge in Brussels. Framed original photogravures from Stage Paper hang over the bed.
Curtains: artificial taffeta with grosgrain cut by Houlès (31152, color 9585); bed framework: Ikea
Art deco side tables are among Corinne’s favorite products. “People were my very best buy on eBay ever, because I paid 20 euros (about U.S.$25) for the two of these,” she states. They arrived with an original insert for a porcelain night pot, which “was removed immediately,” she adds.
Christophe and Corinne share an office with confronting desks. She purchased the vintage Danish teak desk in Berlin and found the teak table chair, mahogany cabinet and seat near it on eBay. She had the seat reupholstered in purple velvet with double cord piping by Houlès.
Desk lamp: vintage Panthella by Verner Panton for Louis Poulsen, purchased on eBay
A gallery wall features framed antique engravings, the majority of that Corinne located on eBay. This DIY desk features a painted wooden top and stained midcentury-style legs. Corinne found the seat on eBay and had it reupholstered.
Seat cloth: Vison, Libeco Linen; drawers: Helmer, Ikea
She picked up this midcentury lemon wood two-door buffet at a local consignment store, along with the vintage botanical chart that hangs over it.
“Working as a color consultant has been such a rewarding experience,” Corinne, shown here, states. “Color offers numerous possibilities. It is so interesting to see how folks come up with completely different color schemes working in precisely the exact same palette. I could do this space over and over again, just in various colours. My sole regret is I can not paint the walls”
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