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Boris Devis, founder of Goldwood by Boris

The Midas touch: How Boris Devis became the maverick of Belgian design

Boris Devis might be one of Belgium’s most recognised furniture dealers – having supplied pieces to everyone from private collectors to fashion brands Yves Saint Laurent and Hermès – but it wasn’t always his plan. Rather, he grew up believing he was destined to take over the family heating and cooling business. When the family company was sold, however, he ended up studying psychology and economics at university; and when he moved house at the age of 25, he found his true calling in the world of design and furniture, inspired by his mother’s passion for design and the interiors magazines she had filled his childhood home with.

“I was going to a lot of markets and second-hand stores,” he recalls. “I reached out to an old friend who was an interior designer in Moscow and asked if she was looking for a vintage design dealer – she texted me back in minutes saying she could use my help. So, I became the guy in Belgium with the Russian connection.” Soon after, in 2008, he founded Goldwood by Boris.

Goldwood by Boris, founded by Boris Devis
The Goldwood by Boris showroom in Antwerp is a treasure trove of rare furniture and collectibles

Today, the company has a team of 20 and a sprawling warehouse and workshop space in Antwerp stocked with more than 1,000 pieces of collectible vintage design crossing borders of style and era. Softly upholstered modules of the iconic Camaleonda sofa designed by Mario Bellini in 1970 sit alongside the sculptural alien-like form of a Mirror Lamp created by Decio for Everyday Gallery (another of Devis’ ventures) in the 2010s, and a rustic ‘Art Populaire’ folk art timber storage unit from France that dates back to the 1800s. It’s tempting to describe the collection as eclectic, but Devis thinks differently.

“It’s really hard to describe my style – I dare to cross boundaries but I hate the word eclectic as it doesn’t really say anything,” he says. “I get bored easily and I’m always changing my palette, looking for the next thing. I’m not searching for perfection, but for something exciting and meaningful.”

I dare to cross boundaries. I’m not searching for perfection, but for something exciting and meaningful – Boris Devis, founder of Goldwood by Boris

Currently, his interest lies in Art Populaire – think rustic timber chests and tables that contrast dramatically with his more refined contemporary pieces – and Postmodernism, alongside early examples of ecologically aware furniture by the likes of Charlotte Perriand and Jean-Marie Massaud. A quick browse reveals exquisite examples of Perriand’s dining tables and stools designed for Les Arcs ski resort in the 1960s, which aimed to push the boundaries of prefabrication.

Devis’ idiosyncratic, boundary-crossing approach to design has seen him garner clients from around the world. “We don’t get many clueless customers,” he says. “It’s mainly knowledgeable people who have a good eye themselves and want that perfect asset to complete their interior. Our pieces are a bit unusual, a bit more extravagant and exuberant.”

His pieces are also popular with major fashion brands, and labels from Yves Saint Laurent and Hermès to Kanye West’s Yeezy have bought or rented pieces to furnish their showrooms. Earlier this year, he even rented a Dromadaire sofa designed by Hans Hopfer for Roche Bobois to Harper’s BAZAAR Czech Republic for a cover shoot. The shoot took place in Goldwood by Boris’ pop-up space in a building in Antwerp designed by renowned architect Glenn Sestig. A model dressed in Louis Vuitton poses on the sofa, with a glimpse of a sixties totem sculpture – also from Devis’ collection – visible in the background.

The Glenn Sestig space was the latest in a long line of pop-up spaces for Goldwood by Boris, allowing clients to view the pieces in exciting and unusual interiors. “The next one might be a chateau or a fancy chalet,” muses Devis. “Although I do sometimes think a store can create a bit of a fake environment, so I actually prefer receiving customers in our warehouse. We have our workshops there and people can get a behind-the-scenes look at the restoration process.”

Showcasing iconic pieces by world-famous designers, Goldwood by Boris is the place to go for vintage design in Antwerp

Restoration is a key aspect of Devis’ business – and he has a team of expert restorers and re-upholsterers who can bring new life to vintage furniture. One of the pieces that Goldwood by Boris specialises in restoring is the iconic Camaleonda sofa by Mario Bellini. “I think it’s one of the most beautiful sofas out there,” he says. “It’s one of the first pieces that really caught my eye and that I wanted for myself.”

The sofa is just one shining example of Devis’ discerning eye. While Goldwood by Boris has been promoting the Camaleonda sofa for several years, it was recently re-issued through B&B Italia in testament to its enduring design. “I’m possibly one of the first that really spotted it as an ‘evergreen’ design,” says Devis. “It shows that we’re always slightly ahead of the pack.”

While Devis is pleased to see the sofa gain renewed appreciation with younger generations through its re-issue, he also believes it’s important to continue to celebrate the original pieces from the 1970s and keep them alive.

The Camaleonda sofa has been one of Boris Devis’ favourite pieces for many years

This dedication to restoring rather than buying new is a nod to the green ethos that underpins the business. “People are a bit scared when it comes to foam,” he reveals. “But, even if it’s from the 1970s, the quality is amazing. We’ve never had to throw a single element out. These vintage pieces are the best decision you can make, not only for the environment but also for your wallet. Even after the release of the new one, vintage prices are still increasing.”

Vintage pieces are the best decision you can make, not only for the environment, but also for your wallet – Boris Devis, founder of Goldwood by Boris

In the 13 years since starting Goldwood by Boris, Devis has also founded alpha.brussels, a bespoke atelier focused on supporting artists and designers to make radical, research-driven pieces; and last year he founded Everyday Gallery in Antwerp, which showcases the work of emerging contemporary artists.

So, what’s next for this easily bored maverick of the design world? “The older I get, the more of a philanthropist grows inside of me,” he muses. “I definitely want to collaborate with contemporary designers to make special green editions of their existing designs. And, I always like to keep ahead of the bunch, so I will continue to seek new styles that will remain relevant and excite me.”

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