Instead of setting up their collection of design furniture in a cold window display, the co-founders of Ampersand House – Ike Udechuku and Kathryn Smith – decided to show off their carefully curated gems in the setting they most belong: a home. Their Brussels townhouse is often the venue for eclectic expos where, contrary to most galleries, you can actually touch and try out valuable pieces. Since Ampersand House is Udechuku and Smith’s actual home, visits naturally come by appointment only.
There are four of them, and they’re all the product of the same visionary mind. Brussels is dotted with gems by 20th-century Art Nouveau hero Victor Horta, but it’s his four houses in the center of town, Ixelles and Saint-Gilles that have been selected to be part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list. If you have to pick just one due to time constraints, visit the Horta Museum. At the architects’ own home and atelier, even the doorknobs have an Art Nouveau twist to them.
The granddaddy amongst Brussels’ concept stores, Cook & Book comprises nine thematic bookshops, each with their own matching design. Particularly pleasing is the British section where thick carpets, dark wooden bookcases, traditional library lamps and even a tearoom with jam scones set the mood.
Cook & Book, Place du Temps Livre, 1200 Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 761 26 00
As far as concept stores go, you can’t go wrong with a smart combination of plants and lunch. In The Little Green Shop – which already looks stunning from the outside with its dark green shop front – owners Sarah and Nicolas have combined their fragrant friends with stylish furniture and the option to drink or eat something. The result is the possibility to enjoy their popular vegetarian brunch amidst a cheerful chaos of greenery and oddly shaped cacti.
When in the mood for an upscale dining experience, Belga Queen, with its grand old bank décor, is one of your best bets. The modern Belgian cuisine and Antoine Pinto’s sumptuous interior are enough to give a luxurious touch to any occasion. Only those eschewing excess should steer clear of the restaurant with its Ionic pillars and arched stained-glass ceiling.
Belga Queen, Rue du Fossé aux Loupes 32, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 217 21 87
The last of Brussels’ swell-looking concepts on this list is Living Room, where Scandinavian furniture meets healthy lunch. Owner Maxime selected a sunbathed industrial space near the European Quarter to transform into the gallery/eatery of his dreams. Here, it’s possible to buy the lounge chair you’re sitting on and the mug you’re drinking out of.
Living Room, Place Jean Rey 8, 1040 Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 231 11 36
An undeniable force of jazz in Brussels, L’Archiduc has welcomed everyone from Miles Davis to Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. It’s not hard to see what lures jazz greats to this Art Deco joint that first sprang to life as a rendezvous hub for businessmen and their secretaries before pianist Stan Brenders turned it into a jazz temple in the 50s. A doorbell and revolving door out of wrought iron will let you into a high-ceilinged bar that shines with retro splendor.
L’Archiduc, Rue Antoine Dansaert 6, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 512 06 52