At the Palm Beach International Fine Art & Antique Fair this winter, where a smattering of dealers from the around the world brought furniture and accessories, large dining room tables seating 18 or more people were the rule. The attitude among most of the dealers was Give Them What They Want. So in addition to the huge amounts of spectacular jewelry, including a bracelet that Napoleon presented to his sister that was on view at the booth of the London jewelry Wartski, there was a great deal of Art Deco furniture and silver at the 10-day fair. One woman was spotted looking at a sleek, long dining room table by Andre Arbus, and commenting to her friend, "Mine is bigger than that." With Arbus, one of the greatest 20th-century French furniture designers, it's not the size that counts.
At Axel Vervoordt's booth, or installation as it were, the emphasis was on style and substance. Vervoordt, a Belgian antiques and fine arts dealer as well as an interior designer, works on houses around the world for a discriminating low-profile and high-profile clientele, including the piano-playing Labeque sisters and rock star Sting. Quite familiar with Palm Beach living and having exhibited at the fair for three years running, Vervoordt gave the well-heeled public attending the show what they wanted, but he did it his way.
"I wanted the space to have a Baroque spirit, to represent the good life," says Vervoordt, who created a light country chateau environment that he thought would be appealing in this playground of the rich and famous. He chose a soft palette, dramatically draping the modest size dining table in a pearly silver taffeta that billowed like a ball gown, and he upholstered the eight Louis XV painted chairs in an off-white handwoven silk to match. The 18th-century blue-and-white Olerys et Laugier faienceŚwell who uses plates like that anymoreŚwere deemed a perfect wall decoration and rather than use hidden mounts Vervoordt placed them on bracket moldings beautifully carved with a curling acanthus leaf pattern.
The focal point is a grisaille picture in subtle colors, and Vervoordt bracketed the room with a pair of mid-17th-century still lifes by Giovanni Battista Salvi. "I thought the paintings would be like two windows and look nice in all this pale," says the designer. "Designing a room is like making a portrait that has beautiful things that one loves in it."