After having lived in Cape Town, Brussels, Princeton and New York, graphic designer Stephanie Specht returned to her hometown of Antwerp. After years of being a home-based freelancer, she only just recently opened up a brand new studio in Borgerhout. The building also houses a few other creatives, making it the perfect place to think, create and be inspired. We sit down with the homegrown talent and talk stationary shops, little-known Sunday brunch spots and Middelheim Park’s most striking pavilions.
Photography Eva Donckers.
Like a lot of things in my career, opening a studio sort of just happened to me. I tend to live in the here and now, I don’t really have a tight plan about the future. I see what happens and think about it when it happens. The opportunity this space offered was too good to pass on. It’s more than just a place to put my desk as it will also serve as an exhibition or even a co-working space. I really like working together with other people, and this studio can be the perfect place to continue such collaborations in real life.
Buchbar – a café annex bookstore – is one of my favourite places to relax. When I need a calm, peaceful environment, this is where I come. It’s located centrally, making it the perfect place to plan meetings. The books and stationery they have are also really worth a stop! Stationery is my week spot, so I have to refrain from buying too much. Another regular stop is Caffénation, but for a complete opposite reason. This place is always buzzing with activity, so this is where I come when I want to meet people and be energized. There’s a real ‘city vibe’ here, which is truly invigorating before a day of work. Klein is a new spot, but a really great one (read Klein’s Antwerp tips here). They opened up their studio for the public, hosting regular brunches and private dinners. When I’m here, I feel like I’m on holiday. The Californian vibes make you feel comfortable the moment you walk in. And the food they serve is amazing: healthy and organic but without the lecturing. The area here is slowly changing into a more creative, buzzing place and I’m sure Klein will play a big part in this overhaul. Another creative hotspot is the studio of Afreux, a graphic design bureau. They have their own screen print and stencil machine, and it’s just fun to be able to see how these processes work. And to have your own prints in your hands afterwards off course. I actually don’t go shopping in Antwerp that much, I prefer to save some money first and then take it to London or Paris. Though I do make some exceptions. The Recollection is such an inspiring store. I often come here just to browse, enjoying the pretty objects and nice scents. ‘t Stad Leest sells great stationery sets: postcards, stamps, calendars, notebooks, letterset cards … Helder is also a very inspirational interior store, selling the nicest objects and accessories. Perfect for gifts. Garderobe Nationale is a very nice clothing store. The interior is the perfect background for the sober, simple styles they stock. They also stock Magdalena, the Belgian brand my sister Catherine works for. The two sisters behind Christiaensen & Christiaensen have a great eye for vintage. They sell furniture, accessories, ceramics and also have their own line of textiles. The collection changes every so often, so there’s always something new to take home. I visit a lot of shops for browsing and inspiration, but at & Other Stories I actually buy things regularly too. They’re great for cool, basic pieces with a twist, but without the usual price tag. For a hint of greenery, I like to visit Middelheim Park. It’s located right around the corner from where I grew up, and coming here brings back fond memories. I forgot about it for a while, but now I try to come here as much as I can. My favourite pavilion is the one by Renaat Braem, but the portal by John Körmeling and the Robbrecht & Daem pavilion are also very nice architectural specimens. I wanted to be an architect when I was, young, so I’m still very touched by this form of art. In the summertime, there’s also a café in the garden, perfect to enjoy the sun, friends and life.
Scroll down for the full list of addresses.Buchbar – Scheldestraat 79
facebook.com/buchbarantwerp Caffénation – Mechelsesteenweg 16
caffenation.be Klein Agency – Braziliëstraat 23
klein.agency Afreux – Zendelingenstraat 38
afreux.be The Recollection – Kloosterstraat 54
therecollection.com ‘t Stad Leest – Steenhouwersvest 16
facebook.com/tstadleest Helder – Vrijdagmarkt 13
studiohelder.be Garderobe Nationale – Nationalestraat 72
garde-robe-nationale.be Christiaensen & Christiaensen – Steenhouwersvest 20
christiaensen-christiaensen.be & Other Stories- Korte Gasthuisstraat 17
stories.com Middelheim Park – Middelheimlaan61
middelheimmuseum.be Botanical Garden – Leopoldstraat 24