It’s time we got to know the face behind one of the best-loved kitchens inside est magazine issue #44: Modern Craft, Belgian designer Frederic Kielemoes.
In this year’s kitchen issue of est magazine, Modern Craft, we walked through 12 kitchens from around the globe defined by exceptional craftsmanship. One kitchen in Oudenburg, Belgium stood out for its use of opposing yet complementary materials, which was staged by designer Frederic Kielemoes. We were fascinated by Frederic’s musings on materials and the different effects they can have, and naturally wanted to collect more of his wisdom.
Whether he’s communicating through words or materials, Frederic is honest and authentic. In his search for the right balance between opposites, he has gained valuable insights into the history of Belgian architecture, the importance of fostering relationships, and the distinction between minimalism and simplism, all of which he shares with us in this interview.
What was the catalyst for your career in design?
Frederic Kielemoes: I’ve always been fascinated by drawing and architecture from a young age – especially architectural literature. At age 10, I borrowed many of Le Corbusier’s books from the library. This was during the 1980s; back then, we didn’t have nearly as many resources as we do today, but despite that, I still learned a lot about architectural evolution (a lot of it self-taught). My interest in the field has only peaked since.
What is something most people wouldn’t know about your profession?
Frederic Kielemoes: The close relationships that we form, whether working with a small team in a modest office or working closely with clients, contractors and artisans on a project, is something most people wouldn’t know about this profession. It’s always focused around collaboration.
How do you think Belgian designers are currently shaping the global design space?
Frederic Kielemoes: In Belgium, we have a very rich history of architecture which can be credited to masters such as Victor Horta, Henry Van de Velde, Huib Hoste, Léon Stijnen, Renaat Braem, Juliaan Lampens, Axel Ghyssaert and more. The fact that we can admire their work in almost every city is special. More recently, we have Vincent Van Duysen, who easily joins the ranks of Belgian masters; people like him are leading the way for the younger generation. So we have a lineage of inspirational designers, making us feel proud and passionate about what we do, and I think other designers from around the world can sense that.
“Natural stone indeed forms a reciprocal material in my work. However, I strive to make this material not appear prominent or arrogant but as a binding agent.”
– Frederic Kielemoes
Designing minimally is all about necessity. How do you strip a space back without making it too spare – in other words, dull?
Frederic Kielemoes: We must be vigilant that the concept of minimalism does not quickly turn into simplism. The way to do this is to hone the interplay of opposites, which is what my work is all about; it is contemporary yet timeless; minimal yet warm; graphic yet calm; calculated yet intuitive. In my opinion, the search for balance in these contradictions makes all the difference.
We’ve seen you employ reclaimed materials in many of your projects; the French Flagstone floors in Project M, for example, in our Modern Craft issue. Why now are you turning to these kinds of materials?
Frederic Kielemoes: Again, I’m constantly searching for the right balance between opposites, aiming to improve the quality and liveability of spaces. Containing a semi-outdoor living space, the use of reclaimed materials in Project M was clear from the start. In combination with the warm materials you see, the graphic and straight character of the stone is beautifully complementary.
Natural stone is a recurring theme in your work. What does the material say about your approach to design?
Frederic Kielemoes: Natural stone indeed forms a reciprocal material in my work. However, I strive to make this material not appear prominent or arrogant but as a binding agent.
What’s a key piece of advice or a quote that has stuck with you in your practice?
Frederic Kielemoes: I think to remain devoted and perseverant, only take on projects that you know you can commit wholeheartedly to, 100 per cent of the way.
So what’s next for you? What can we look forward to?
Frederic Kielemoes: I am starting a 2000-square-metre project soon, far beyond my comfort zone but an enriching challenge to say the least.
“I’m constantly searching for the right balance between opposites.”
– Frederic Kielemoes