Dream of Californication: Retro LA in an Antwerp loft

Dream of Californication: Retro LA in an Antwerp loft

Katrin Swartenbroux - webitor-in-chief of the Belgian lifestyle site - doesn’t just dream of retro California. She lives it in her Antwerp loft. Dinosaurs and deep-sea creatures included. “I grew up in the city centre, so it was weird moving to Antwerp Berchem which is just beyond the avenues. But I’ve grown to love it. It’s got a great mix of cultures, ages and it’s affordable. Younger people also have the chance to refurbish old town houses with love and care.” And that’s exactly what she did.


What would grandpa say?

"You can never go wrong with an armchair like Cecil. It looks and feels like a chair your grandpa would have. It’s comfortable, but the design has a hint of Danish style which turns it into something contemporary again. "

Know your dinosaurs

"It's all about authenticity. I didn’t buy these dinosaur figurines because it’s cool these days. I found them in my old toy boxes and picked my favourites. Ask me a question about one of them and I can give you its Latin name and tell you how fast it runs."

Dolphin chic

"You’d never guess it, but the cheapest item in my home is the dolphin coffee table. Friends of mine sent me a picture of it from a flea market. It was a joke because they know how much I love deep-sea documentaries. But I didn’t think it was funny. I thought it was awesome. I immediately went to buy it for five euros. Looking at it makes me extremely happy. Even to this day.”

Driven to Abstraction

"The MADE.COM Abstraction rug brings so much warmth, texture and colour. Because it has a lot of depth and an unusual pattern it immediately caught my attention. By adding a new rug or changing a rug’s position, you instantly divide the room in a different way. What used to be a passage becomes a cosy corner."

Tread carefully

"I painted the light oak floor a cool shade of charcoal. It wasn't easy. It’s a 200 square metre surface and if you just paint the floor, you lose the grain in the wood. The parquet worker couldn’t get the colour right and it ended up being this warm, dark wood. So I got an artist who usually paints canvases to do the job instead. He used some sort of watercolour to create the perfect shade of black. The floor is fragile now. The wood absorbs the paint over time. In a couple of years, we’ll have to do it all over again.”

Throwing less shade

"I chose to have the Tangle lamp because it has several arms which means light is spread over a large surface. It’s an absolute must in my flat!"

Castle curtains

"If you have a neutral black or white base, you have the freedom to experiment. Like I have with the heavily embroidered curtains in the bedroom for example. These were tailor-made for my great-grandmother and were on my wishlist when I was a little girl. I always imagined that they belonged in a castle and I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of them. They’re my most valuable heirloom.”

Old with the new

"The Cornell desk is a great combination of modern and mid-century design. It fits perfectly with the furniture I already have. The warm, smooth wood works well with the cool dark floorboards, too."

Love and pain

"I’m the kind of person who marks things in magazines, rips out articles and puts a billion exclamation points next to interesting excerpts. I have a couple of subscriptions, but I buy most of my copies in store. Sometimes because it has a cool cover, but usually because of the content. That really helped me during my burnout four years ago. Just being surrounded by all of these magazines made me realise that genius can be found in small things: like an original approach to the umpteenth piece about sunscreen.”

I got it from my papa

"My father is an interior architect and although we have completely different tastes, I definitely got my love for interiors from him. He taught me that it’s worth waiting. Save money for design pieces and pay attention to how something was made. My interior is a mishmash of basics, second-hand and design pieces that really tested my patience.”


"Due to a severe lack of space, I have to curate the magazines I collect and make do with this carousel. It took me ages to find this piece. I browsed literally every single second-hand website and all I’d ever come across were wall racks. Eventually, I found what I had in mind. In the Netherlands. I’ve probably seen most of Europe hunting for the crazy things I want.”

Designed by Daddy Dearest

"I think the biggest challenge is finding the perfect dining table. My current one was designed by my dad and inspired by Jean Prouvé - one of my all-time favourite designers. Even though mint green doesn’t really suit my interior anymore, I don’t think I could part from it. It’s from my dad, you know.”

Cosy corner

"I have too many books and no library to display them properly. They’re not all beautiful copies, but don’t judge a book by its cover. Not that I have exquisite taste in literature either. I love the I Heart series by Lindsey Kelk. She writes in such a funny way that makes you forget about the pastel covers with swirly letters. But yeah, I can’t have the library I want in an open loft. I want to be able to shut the door behind me and curl up in a comfy armchair with a book.”

Exploring Berchem

"When you’re in Antwerp and want to explore beyond the touristy centre, head to Berchem. Café Bazaar is a fun bar and restaurant with a lovely terrace. They’ve got great playlists, nice wine and excellent Moroccan pancakes. Then there’s the Plant Corner which is literally around the corner. It’s a real Walhalla for green and interior lovers. I am terribly jealous of the electric blue accent wall. And while you’re there, why not pay a visit to De Walvis, Modest Furniture, Host Concept, Dageraadplaats, Orso Pizza, Fosbury & Sons… And the MADE pop-up showroom.”

Article written by: Wided Bouchrika
Photography by: Jordi Huisman

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