For Carmen Tonen of Antwerp’s Akanthos Eclectic Interiors, vintage collecting is all in the details

A Closer Look

Akanthos at 46 Kloosterstraat in Antwerp Photo © Akanthos Eclectic Interiors
In the picturesque heart of Antwerp, housed at 46 Kloosterstraat, you’ll find Akanthos, a vintage and antiques shop curated by dealer Carmen Tonen. The selection is vast but reflects Tonen’s experienced eye for quality and sensitivity to design details; think furniture by Ib Kofod Larsen, Hans Wegner, Cees Braakman, and De Coene alongside an array of postwar ceramics and glass, illuminated under fixtures from MuranoVistosi, Kalmar, and Doria .

“In 1988,” Tonen tells us, “I opened my first gallery together with my partner, Karl Stimm, an art historian and archaeologist with whom I share a desire to reassess what is in danger of being unfairly neglected. From the beginning, our collection has been firmly rooted in our combined expertise in ancient antiques and 20th-century decorative arts and design. Over the years, I have focused more and more on Belgian, Scandinavian, and Italian design, as well as on works of the Constructivist and Bauhaus movements.”

Plush Model DU55P Lounge Armchair by Gastone Rinaldi, 1954 Photos © Akanthos Eclectic Interiors
Belgian modernist design has a growing fan base internationally. For years, design masters like Willy Van Der Meeren, Marcel-Louis Baugniet, Raf Verjans, Emiel Veranneman, Jos De Mey, and Jules Wabbes were overshadowed by contemporaries from other parts of Europe. That’s finally starting to change thanks to Belgian-based vintage dealers like Tonen. “For a long time,” she explains, “the importance and quality of midcentury design from Belgium was underestimated, but this has changed for good.” Alfred Hendrickx for Belform has emerged so far as the stand-out Belgian star of the vintage market, and his chairs, tables and cabinets are well represented at Akanthos.

Tonen, however, is not motivated by following trends or trying to guess what the market wants next. She does what she does for the pure pleasure of it. “Seldom do I have an individual client in mind when I’m buying for the gallery,” she says. “I purchase only what I like myself. Even when it’s hard to sell, it’s never a disappointment for me. How can an art lover like me ever be sad with so much beautiful furniture and objects around?”

Small Sideboard by Alfred Hendrickx for Belform, 1962 Photo © Akanthos Eclectic Interiors
Tonen’s love for design is an outgrowth of her love for nature; she approaches each with care, respect, and attitude of environmentalism. “From my childhood, growing up around my parents’ greenhouses, I was always aware of the necessity of taking care of our natural environment,” she says. “I have seen how difficult it is to create the right conditions for a successful flower growing process. I have discovered that everything is in some way fragile—even when it looks wonderful. With this in mind, collecting and protecting vintage design is for me a new green.”


More to Love