Tom Verellen at Artefact
Belmont—it’s the realm of Mitt Romney, Tom Perrotta, and acres and acres of nice suburban abodes. Not exactly the place you’d expect to find tailored, Belgian linen-upholstered, handmade bespoke furniture. But yes, that impossibly elegant curved banquette, filled with down and framed in solid maple, is an American-made piece by the star of the easy elegance himself, Tom Verellen. And Artefact, a brand-new home store in downtown Belmont (if you could call it that) carries Verellen, plus all kinds of seductive accessories for every room.
But back to Tom Verellen (picture here with Artefact co-owner Maureen Walsh), who came up from his home-base in High Point, North Carolina, yesterday to tell us about himself and his design philosophy. The Antwerp native moved to the States in 1992 and
set up a textile business in Ohio. In 1999, he started his upholstery and case goods company, founded on a few guiding principles. He sat down to a cup of black coffee to tell me about what makes the beauty of his furniture more than skin deep.
During our chat in the showroom, squinting through the setting sun, Tom laid out his roughly four business principles, which I’ve collated here: 1. Always start with the design (not the price tag); 2. Never outsource (it messes with the remarkably quick 4-week lead time); 3. Only sell through mom-and-pop brick-and-mortar shops (they’re more reliable than larger chains, and they appreciate the love); 4. Be as ecologically minded as possible (for obvious reasons, his company uses exclusively FSC wood).
“That was the old way,” says Tom with a smile, “but now it’s the new way.” The one thing he did take from his native country was the soft, finely woven linen. Made in Belgium, the fabric (offered in over 40 colors) is much more environmentally friendly than cotton and very durable.
What drew Tom to the US to start his business? “Americans aren’t as judgmental as Europeans,” he says. “It’s not as clique-ish here; people are more open. In the States, a plumber or a gardener can be friends with a doctor or lawyer; that doesn’t happen over there.”
On the other hand, he does miss European spontaneity. “In Belgium, friends pop in unannounced and stay longer, sometimes deep into the evening. But Americans are don’t feel as comfortable entertaining because they think everything has to be perfect.” In fact, he says, the house should always be in good shape and entertainment-ready. “Who are you trying to impress? Why do you have these things?” he asks. “For yourself, that’s who. Enjoy what you have, care about what you have. My house always puts together. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should look like you care.”
That’s nice, Tom. But every time I have a cleaning frenzy, my husband teases me, saying, “The Architectural Digest shoot isn’t until next week,dear.”
All photos here were taken in the Artefact showroom, featuring furniture by Verellen. Note the incredible details, like custom nail heads with suede trim. Verellen is also available through Hudson Boston, in the South End.