Belgian design is hot, hot, hot – swiftly taking the place of Swedish design in the trendiest style. Why Belgium, as opposed to say, The Netherlands? According to my friend, Ron Empel, owner of Empel Collections – a custom lighting company, and a native of Holland, the sleepy county of Belgium is home to two extreme classes, the ultra rich and the ultra poor – with very few in the middle. The Netherlands, by contrast, is a country of the middle – with few wealthy citizens and few poor. Where there is extreme wealth, there is usually good design to support the upper class’ desires and Belgium has been producing some very good design lately. It all started a few decades ago when the interior designer, antiquarian Axel Vervoordt, moved into a castle, made it his home and shop and invited the world to see his wares. Riding on Vervoodt’s coat tails, a group of architects and designers are now cashing in on the sudden wealth of publicity and now Belgian Design is THE look to have. The traditional Belgian style – not its contemporary style (which is plentiful) – is quiet and monotone. Few printed fabrics are used; instead plain linens and deep-hued velvets are favored. Houses in the country are renovated using antique elements – ancient stone floors, beams, marble staircases, and acres of limed wood - everywhere. The accessories are overscaled and very few – books are usually plentiful. Sofas are austere - large, long, and slipped – the opposite of our soft, down-filled cushions. Lighting fixtures play a big part in the design – oversized always, either lanterns or crystal chandeliers are used. Textures are a very large part of this style – rough, rustic woods and stone surfaces are played against smooth, shiny crystals and glass. To truly understand the Belgian look, the publishing house Beta-Plus is a great place to start.