What is the root of homesickness? Why, after a few nights between hotel rooms or friend’s couches, do we feel a pang for the receptacles we call home? It’s an ache that feels more than practical. Yes we desire our own space, routine and objects, but there’s something about the home – and how we populate it – that satiates a more spiritual craving.
The famed interior designer, and art and antiques dealer Axel Vervoordt has spent a lifetime ruminating on this. His conclusions are steeped in reverence, grounded in philosophy, aesthetics and the power of objects themselves. In a world fraught with complexity, precarity and conflict, Axel’s worldview is markedly different. It offers a way forward by going back home.
Constance Stokes, 'Untitled (Reclining Nude)'
Axel on collecting
Despite not labelling it ‘collecting’, Axel began gathering interesting objects as a child. He realized quickly that to live alongside beauty was to nourish the mind; “Every moment is a visual feast”, he says.
Axel’s philosophy towards collecting pays respect to the integrity of objects. He describes wanting to give things “a better home” and indeed, the custodian does just this. She resurrects a work from a dusty archive, auction floor or airless room. Under her loving and fastidious eye, the lessons it teaches about life, the self and history unfurl.
“We do not possess art, it possesses us.” – Axel Vervoodt
Under Axel, to collect is not to merely accumulate pretty vessels – it is to connect with the spirit of objects. Before a painting, he becomes a newborn baby, working hard to dissolve any preconceptions and leave room for his mind to be changed. “Art is my teacher”, he says, “sometimes I remove my glasses to just feel its presence”.
Anne Marie Hall, 'Born from the Earth'
Axel on interior design
Axel’s approach to interior design works with, not against, a space. His ever-nimble mother would change their family home every three months – a ritual he carries forth today, eschewing a totalizing ‘look’ in favour of undulation. One room may be minimal, another eclectic. Play with proportion and story. Art lives to be shared and houses are organisms, in need of feeding, pruning and prone to evolution.
David Rankin, 'Untitled Etching (Grey) II'
Axel on living
Entwined in Axel’s approach to art and interior design are lessons for living. He champions instinct, encouraging us to collect heart-first. He dismisses perfection in favour of texture and is always ready – nay eager – to have his mind changed.
Axel also thought of dwindling resources. With nature facing unsustainable strain it is increasingly important to find newness in what already exists. Axel calls the 21st century the era of “recuperation”. “We need to make new with things that exist already”. This, too, is the philosophy of the collector, who excavates new life in old objects. The passing of time does not damage something, it merely changes its cadence.
Let’s return to the notion of homesickness. How deeply this notion resonants suggests there is an interdependence between us and our homes. We work in tandem. When we care for an object, it reflects onto us – reaffirming some value that we admire or recognise in ourselves but feel estranged from.
In our absence, the home awaits us. Finally, back, feet planted on the rug rescued from a flea market, eyes resting on a print by an artist once unfairly overlooked, we are stabilized. We remember who we are. The home possesses us.
Jason Benjamin, 'Taking Our Tears Away'
The spirit of making new what already exists lives through Jason Benjamin's 'Taking Our Tears Away'. In keeping with its title, this impression sustained a minor tear in transit. Rather than condemn to the print drawers, we had it fully restored by expert conservators. The tear is now barely, if at all, discernible, it has been taken away.