In the heart of the diamond market in Antwerp, in a neighbourhood, both notorious and orthodox, at the intersection of this dynamism lives an urban design legend. Some call it a memorabilia of art, while others an oasis of creativity while the intimacy of a home bring to it, its fair share of love and laughter.
This is the headquarters, client gallery and residence of Job Smeets — founder of international art and design lab Studio Job. Based in both Belgium and the Netherlands, Job Smeets leads as the art director with Nynke Tynagel as graphic designer.
Designed by Smeets himself, this 1950s concrete building is where spaghetti printed bed sheets, devil shaped door-knobs and neon-wall hangings amongst other whimsical interiors make for a surreal design canvas. Over the course of the past year, this 600sqm space which was once a Jewish school has been renovated to a modern-city loft with two bedrooms, ensuite bathrooms and other big living spaces which completely open-down the widow side allow you to walk the full length of the apartment.
To make the space a living oeuvre of Studio Job’s work over the past twenty years, the art pieces, sculptures graphic wallpapers, rugs, lighting, furniture and even the kitchenware — right down to the cocktail stirrers are the creations and products of the studio.
“Some people say it’s a crazy and an intense space but for me, it’s an interior reflecting in part the inside of my head, and the history of our work, but the calmer curated measured version,” confesses Smeets.
So with much dexterity, Design Pataki navigated some of the design highlights of the headquarters whose daring eclectic style — consistent through each wall and corner of the space are bound to leave one visually arrested.
What we found particularly striking was the eccentric personality of one of the bathrooms’ — tomato-red tiles which makes an impact with a deep copper tub and gold-hued appliances while the studio’s nipple-like ‘Tit Lamps’ that hang from the ceiling grab the spotlight.
While the bedroom rejects the usual serene pastel palette and gives way to paint-splattered surfaces that contrast the shark-patterned wallpaper, Smeets’ own prized possession in the room is a self-portrait painting by neo-expressionist Eugene Leroy. “It’s fascinating, in daylight you can see an abstract face in one place, and in the half-light of the evening you see two totally different faces,” he observes. His art collection is a mix of his own studio’s work, historic pieces and even the works of other artists. “I’d rather live in the collection than have it collecting dust in storage,” says Smeets candidly.
Though it’s the main gallery or living area where most guests always fall silent in, for with so many pieces to take in, including most of Studio Job’s imposing and yet distinctly humorous sculptures.
However, the space also tested Smeets’ artistic vision. When he found that the 400 sqm garden space of the loft overlooking a rather concrete landscape was not complementing the rest of the maximalism aesthetics of the house, he turned to innovation. Creating a view from the house to the outside, he filled the space overlooking the garden with oversized Eames furniture so that it looks like an extension of the interiors. And of course, to give a touch of his stylistic quirk he surrounded the whole terrace with multicoloured funfair lights!
“With minimalism, you can hide behind the aesthetic values of line and colour but with an eclectic style you need to know what you are doing, otherwise you overcook it,” says Smeets who is constantly designing and redesigning the headquarters where old pieces are often loaned to museums and new pieces must often replace them.
Design Pataki asks, doesn’t the excess of variety come with its own challenges?
“It’s is an evolving thing that I’ve learned over many years — the more you feel confident with design and shaping interiors you become bolder and braver. I can trust my instincts,” says Smeets explaining his design process. And perhaps it’s these design sensibilities of Smeets that makes the headquarters of Studio Job a watermark of creative conviction for the global design world.
Photographs courtesy Studio Job