Early furniture making in Belgium was focused in the city of Mechelen, which was rebuilt after a fire in 1572. Mechelen was also near the first European railroad system, which made the town an important part of Belgium’s entry into the railroad age. Because the town was located near the railroad, the furniture made in the town could be easily moved in and out of the city, which created a demand for the town’s furniture items. There are a few ways to identify Belgian antique furniture, such as chairs.
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Look for heavy wood furniture in dark oak or walnut. The wood should show marks that are consistent with the age of the piece, including small nicks and some separation at the joints where the wood has contracted and expanded over time. The wood near the hardware should appear darkened, which happens naturally over time.
Examine the piece for signs that the decorations were hand carved. The carvings were done by hand with a tool, so if the carving looks identical, precise and machine-done, the item is likely not an authentic Belgium antique chair.
Find chairs with carvings of leaves, fruit and berries and lion’s heads, which are indicative of the Mechelen style. Belgian antiques are ornately carved, as this was a sign of wealth and made furniture a status symbol. In addition, many Belgian chairs had leather and metal studs.
Look for antique chairs that have square legs, horse hair and a mahogany back, which were a popular style of the Belgian architect Henry van de Velde, who opened a school called “School of Applied Arts” in Belgium. The school produced many pieces of furniture that featured ornate, flowing lines.
Find reference books with detailed photographs and information about Belgian antique chairs, such as “The 2009 Import and Export Market for Antiques Over 100 Years Old in Belgium” by the Icon Group and “Handbook of Antique Chairs” by Carl William Drepperd.
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