Mechelen style antique furniture is very distinctive and exotic. It is heavily hand-carved with foliage and typically a pride of roaring lion heads too! People who know the Mechelen look often fall in love with it, but many Americans are not that familiar with this Flemish furniture style.
This wonderful antique buffet currently in our gallery is an excellent example of the Mechelen style. It dates to 1900 and is superbly carved with winged lions on the side. Lions’ heads on the cabinets are embellished with metal rings and the craftsmen added carved figures and faces of people, as an extra decorative touch. Mechelen style antique furniture typically features dark woods, like the rich oak in this sideboard or sometimes walnut. You’ll often see stained glass as well. The original stained glass in the doors on this buffet features a striking floral design.
So how did the Mechelen style develop? In the early 16th century, Mechelen in Belgium was the capital of the Low Countries. We know these countries today as the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Mechelen enjoyed prosperity and power thanks to its cloth trade. But in 1572 the city was sacked and burned during the Eighty Years’ War. Brussels, about 15 miles away, became the new capital.
You’d think that would be the end of Mechelen, yet the city rose from the ashes and grew famous for its furniture. Furniture crafted in Mechelen at the end of the 16th century was heavily carved as a Belgian take on the Hunting Style popular in France to decorate hunting lodges and castles for royalty and aristocrats.
Using imagery from the natural world and the hunt, Mechelen style antique furniture is lavishly adorned with stylized leaves, berries and fruit, and often boasts handsomely carved lion heads, as you can see in these pictures. This Mechelen oak dining table from 1920 boasts lions on each corner, and foliage and flowers on the apron and legs. The 5-leg table has a center pedestal that eliminates the need for stretchers, so your guests have more room to stretch their own legs!
In the 19th century, the Dutch-speaking city of Mechelen played an important role as a hub in the new-fangled European railway network. Mechelen’s beautifully crafted and ornate furniture became even more popular as it was easy to send it by rail to customers far and wide! This petite antique oak buffet is from that era, dating to 1900 and carved with leaves, flowers, and acorns or nuts, as well as the traditional lions’ heads.
The pretty floral stained glass on the upper door is original and it’s quite amazing to think that this glass has survived over a century! Although Mechelen style antique furniture is always sturdy, this sideboard is unusual in its trim size. At just over 3 feet wide it is nicely proportioned to fit a modern home if you don’t have a hunting lodge or chateau at your disposal!
I’d love to hear what you think about this look. Is it new to you or are you a fan already? Ask me any questions about Mechelen style antique furniture in the comment box below!
Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with Aimee on Google+ or you can sign up to receive this blog in your inbox!