Architect Marc Merckx worked for fifteen years for one of the most famous and successful Belgian architects, Vincent Van Duysen, but has been making a career under his own name for several years now with Marc Merckx Interiors. And some kind of career it is! With projects in Belgium and internationally, he quickly became well-known in the world of interior design and architecture.
In his portfolio we find a wide variety of projects such as private homes, lofts, apartments, shops, offices, hotels and restaurants. What these have in common: the modest interiors are always simple, classic and luxurious. Merckx is constantly looking for the perfect balance between proportions, materials and space. He creates warm, minimalist designs in which functional use and quality of life are guaranteed. In addition to interiors, the architect has also already designed a series of furniture pieces with sofas, chairs, tables and lighting pieces.
It is about time we got to know Merckx and his work better. You worked for Vincent Van Duysen for a long time. How did you get there and how did you experience this?
"Vincent was a member of the jury that judged the final works. He noticed my design and when he asked me if I wanted to work for him, I did not hesitate! He quickly gave me his confidence and trust, which allowed me to work very intensely with him. The projects were very varied and fascinating. There was always enough of a challenge. Those fifteen years of collaboration with Vincent have literally flown by for me."
"I especially like spontaneous encounters with interesting people who have a story to tell."
Why did you, after all those years, take the step to start on your own?
"I had been playing with the idea for a long time, especially as there were more and more requests for my own projects coming in. At a certain point you have to make a choice and I chose fully for my own work. Just then, the assignments for Robey Hotel, the house in Mexico City and the office for Tribù came in."
You collaborated with Nicolas Schuybroek for that beautiful Robey Hotel, how did that go?
"We had known each other for several years at Vincent Van Duysen, so it was a very smooth collaboration in which I was able to fulfil my role as a creative designer to the fullest."
Who would you still like to collaborate with for a project?
"I especially like spontaneous encounters with interesting people who have a story to tell. Whether this is an artist, architect or craftsman, that does not matter to me. It is the moment itself and the dialogue that arises that often leaves an impression. These kinds of introductions and exchanges make you more complete as a designer." How would you describe your style and can you tell me a bit more about your colour and material choice?
"My style translates my preference for pure and essential design. The palette I prefer to use is natural and earthy. The materials I prefer to work with have a timeless and calm look. Think of steel, wood, terrazzo, natural stone and concrete. Usually, I also use them in their most rough and raw form, so the tactile and sensual character contributes to a warm interior. Each assignment is seen as a unique design and many elements such as lighting, furniture and even door handles are designed specifically for each project to create an ideal balance between architecture and interior. And everything is always tailored to the customer's needs."
How do you find the balance between materials, space, colour, etc?
"This always happens in a very spontaneous and intuitive way. There is no particular fixed formula."
What is your design philosophy?
"First of all, I want to design a space where people feel good, regardless of any trends. The search for the right balance and harmony between architecture and interior is always the most important starting point. I achieve this for all my projects by a very close cooperation with the client."
What inspires you and who is your great example?
"Everything around me inspires me. There are so many things in everyday life that at first sight seem unimportant, but can still be inspiring. I can be fascinated by beautiful light, perfect proportions, tactile textures, etcetera. But this can also be an inspiring building or detail, a piece of furniture, an object, a work of art or nature in all its aspects. My great examples are architects like Carlo Scarpa, Dom Van Der Laan, Luis Barragan, Josef Frank, Pierre Chareau,..."
Which project are you most proud of?
"There are many projects I am really proud of. But especially the office building of Tribù in Bilzen because I not only did the interior and furniture, but I also designed the architecture and garden."
"My style translates my preference for pure and essential design."
Besides interiors, you also design objects and furniture, what do you prefer?
"I love both! You cannot see an interior and furniture separately. When I design a piece of furniture, I always have a type of customer or context in mind."
And if you had to choose between residential or commercial projects?
"Both have their advantages and disadvantages. In a residential project you usually have more time to go into more detail. In a commercial project, efficiency appeals to me. Decisions are made faster in those projects and I like that too."
Do you prefer working in Belgium or abroad and is there a difference between those projects?
"I have a very diverse clientele and work both nationally and internationally. It is mainly the contact with the client that I find very important, the location is secondary to me. In itself, there is no difference between national and international projects, at least not as far as the design process is concerned. Of course, as with any other design, you take the context into account. So to that extent there is an influence. The big difference lies in the cooperation and communication. There is usually a collaboration with a local architect who takes care of part of the follow-up. Because you are less frequently present during the execution phase, the biggest challenge is to preserve the concept in combination with a high quality."
How does it feel to make a name for yourself abroad as a Beglian?
"Recognition for your work is the most important thing. It doesn't matter to me whether this is at home or abroad."
You already achieved a lot, but what is still on your design bucket list?
"The complete furnishing of a boat is something I would very much like to realise still. As a designer, your craftsmanship is fully addressed in this kind of projects. There are technical limitations that you have to take into account, but the team that is responsible for the design of these kinds of realisations usually has enormous craftsmanship. This also gives the designer more opportunities to go the extra mile!"
What are you working on right now? Can you give us a hint about what we can expect in the future?
"At the moment I am finishing the renovation of a large house in Notting Hill in London and there are also some residential projects in Belgium that will be completed in the coming months. There are also new furniture and lighting collections in the pipeline."
Do you have other passions besides interior and architecture?
"In the free time that remains, I try to make as much time available as possible for my family. Fortunately, we share the same interests and love to regularly discover and visit new cities and museums."
This interview was originally published in Imagicasa Magazine Spring 2019. You can still order this special Belgian issue via our webshop.
All images courtesy of the architect