INSIGHTS_ Line & Ben

When a mutual friend introduced me to Line, she said “If you’re looking for interiors to blog about, you should definitely have a look at hers!” A quick glance at Line’s Instagram profile proved she was right: every corner of Line and her boyfriend Ben’s apartment is styled to perfection. What else did you expect when a visual merchandiser and a product designer move in together? I invited myself over for a photoshoot, a talk and a healthy dose of “couple’s interior therapy”, as Ben described it at one point during our talk.

Line works as a visual merchandiser for Juttu, a Belgian concept store that offers fashion and home brands with a story and respect for the environment, and that wants to convey the feeling of walking through a magazine.  Line spends her days driving all over the country to turn the three Juttu stores into a real life Pinterest perfect picture. For Line this is not just a job, but a way of life. On city trips she’ll hunt down the most interesting stores in town to get inspired and her eye for detail is obvious in her interior, the wrapping around her presents and the decoration of her get-togethers. Eager to share all of her her creative endeavors and inspirations with the world, she started gathering them on a blog called Sfeerbeheer.

It’s been two and a half years since Line moved into this apartment. She’d been living in Hasselt for 25 years when she felt the need to explore other places. She found a new job in Antwerp and moved to the city of diamonds to live with a friend. At one point she left her new hometown for Ghent, but quickly came to the conclusion that Antwerp was where she wanted to settle down. When looking for her own apartment in Antwerp, there were only two conditions for her new home: enough space for all the furniture she’d collected throughout the years and – most importantly – pets had to be welcome. “My cat Witte Poes has been with me for eleven years, so finding a home for the both of us was my priority number one. When I spotted three cats in the photos of this apartment, my interest was sparked immediately.”  Because the pictures were quite bad and all the walls were painted a dark brown, few people were interested. Line, however, immediately saw the potential of this two bedroom apartment with lots of storage space.

She filled it with an affordable mix of Ikea and vintage pieces, with a little bit of a retro feel, furniture she’d been collecting since she was 21, when she first lived on her own. (Have a look here to see how it looked then!) Six months ago, her boyfriend Ben moved in and the couple faced the challenge to combine both of their aesthetics, furniture and strong opinions on design into one apartment.

After all, her boyfriend Ben is a product designer, currently working as a teacher and researcher in product design at Luca School of arts, where he focuses on sustainability and circular economy. His studies and career took him from Antwerp to Genk, back to Antwerp, to Amsterdam and now back to the C-mine campus in Genk. After living in nearby city Hasselt for a while, he moved back to Antwerp as he missed this city so much. “Hasselt is a cosy city but it lacks a bit of a challenge. Hasselt doesn’t evolve as fast as Antwerp does.” Line adds “Hasselt evolves on a much smaller scale, I love going back there and am always discovering new things, but here change happens much quicker. If you want, you could try a new place each week here in Antwerp.”  Ben remarks how quickly things have evolved in this neighborhood in particular, with new places popping up every month. From The Plant Corner, to Pakt  (where Ben does cross fit and where you can find the couple’s new favorite restaurant, the brand new pizzeria The Standard) and co-working space Fosbury and Sons, where you can find Ben when he’s not working in Genk.

Although Line didn’t know her current neighborhood beforehand, she really fell in love with the quiet yet interesting Berchem and found a lot of friends in the neighborhood. “It’s funny”, she remarks, “how few of my friends here are locals, but most of them moved here from Limburg just like me.” Her boyfriend is living proof, sharing a strong connection to Limburg with Line, even tough he grew up in the outskirts of Antwerp.

Although they liked each other’s interior, it took some time to figure out how to combine their taste. Line: “It’s easy for us to go to a store and choose something together, but combining the stuff we already owned was a whole other story.” Ben’s apartment was decorated quite minimally and while Line doesn’t think her interior is too frilly, she does like having beautiful knick-knacks around.  Moreover, they both already owned furniture, which didn’t necessarily match. Line: “For instance, Ben’s table and most of his chairs were made out of light colored wood, which I thought clashed with the other wooden furniture we owned. We compromised on keeping the table and replacing the wooden chairs.” They decided on a mix of second hand and Ikea wooden chairs, painted black to match the Marcel Breuer inspired tube chairs which Ben has owned since his studies.  “Finding pieces that we both like has become easier with time”, he ensures me, “but it’s been quite a process!” The Cadovius wall system was the tipping point in their search for a common ground.  When Ben said he wanted to have a desk in the living room, Line was a bit skeptical, until they found this solution. After that, the two felt confident that they would find a beautiful compromise between both of their styles.

Driving all over the country for Juttu, Line knows where all of the good thrift shops are hidden and regularly brings home something new for their interior. “Whenever I want to buy something new, no matter how small or affordable, I’ll always ask Ben’s opinion now. Well, accept for when I found that ugly dog statue!” Ben laughs: “Because you knew I’d say no!” “Since I often shop at thrift stores, most of my finds cost only a few euros, so I never overthink my purchases. If I end up not changing my mind later, I’ll sell it on a flee market or donate it to a second hand shop. I enjoy playing around with new items way too much to get attached to things!”

When it comes to bigger – and more expensive- items, they do take their time to make a decision. Ben: “A piece of furniture is not the same as a pair of socks, when I buy something, I intend to live with it for at least a couple of years and want it to evolve with my taste, so I don’t want to decide on a whim.”  The vintage highboard was one of those considerate buys, found in a thrift shop in Ghent. “We didn’t buy it at first but went back a week later to get it.” Ben explains.  Line adds that they’re often pretty certain of what they want, so they take their time trying to find it as cheap as possible. “Luckily Line is good at finding treasures!” Ben concludes.

When I ask the couple what their favorite room in the apartment is, Line doesn’t have to think twice. “The bedroom!”  When her boyfriend lets out a chuckle, she quickly adds: “Because it’s the place where I can relax, since our wardrobe is in another room! Before Ben moved in, I used to spend more time here than in the living room: curled up in bed with a movie and some snacks, or enjoying my breakfast in the sun during the mornings together with Witte Poes.”  Ben laughs:   “Actually, I could have answered that question for her!”

I ask the couple how they’d describe their interior style, but they struggle to put a name on it. Line: “I don’t want my interior to be a Pinterest cliché, I prefer a bit of originality, although that’s hard to accomplish these days.” Ben adds: “We live in a visual culture, so it’s inevitable to be influenced by what you’ve seen.” Line explains that she wants to create a warm and cosy home, when Ben adds that he wants his home to feel like a cocoon. “When I first moved to Antwerp, I considered co-housing, but now I think that wouldn’t have been my cup of tea, since I quite enjoy being alone. When I lived by myself, I considered a home as something functional. I wanted a beautiful interior, but I didn’t frame photos for instance. Since I met Line, I value that more.” “It’s true,” Line laughs, “with time, I started noticing more and more photos taped to the walls of Ben’s apartment!”

Line confesses that my visit inspired them to finally finish their interior to do list. “We hung the frames, lamps and fruit basket, and now, for the first time we’re both satisfied with our interior.  We’d love to change the bathroom and kitchen, but since we’re renting that’s not an option…” However, the couple started looking for a house to buy, making big investments for their current home seem like a waste of time and money.

I ask them what their new home ideally would look like, when they suggest to take turns in answering my question. The first thing that pops up into Line’s head is a freestanding bath with feet. “I couldn’t live in a home without a bath! Well, I could. But I wouldn’t like it.” Ben mentions lots of light, Line adds an entrance hall with retro tiles.  “We reason the other way around,” Ben concludes, “Line is focused on the details, while I look at the bigger picture, but in the end we want the same things. We’ll probably have to compromise on our wish list and renovate a home instead, but we’ll be able to turn it into something beautiful no doubt!” Looking at their current home, I can only agree. Can I schedule our next session of “interior therapy” in their yet to be found future home yet?

Line Vanvoorden - instagram - pinterest - blog

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