Enticed by the unseen interiors of Brussels? This is your chance to explore.

BANAD Festival of interior design returns for its fifth edition.

The festival is normally held in March of each year, but organisers have delayed the 2021 edition until May.

Across three consecutive weekends, BANAD Festival provides us all with a unique opportunity to explore some of the hidden interiors and design treasures of Brussels.

I caught up with Julien Staszewski, director of the festival, for a behind-the-scenes look at BANAD.

How is COVID-19 impacting your planning for 2021?

“We’re hoping to be able to present a program that’s about 80 percent of what we’ve done in previous years.”

“We don’t yet know what the restrictions will be that will be in place during the festival, so that’s making things more complex.”

“We’re assuming that we’ll need to work with reduced capacity for each activity.”

What makes this period of design so popular?

“Art Nouveau is a real turning point in the history of architecture. It’s a period where everything is new -the materials, the techniques.”

“It’s also a period that showcases the role that the architect can play in every aspect of the building – down to details such as furniture and door handles.”

What do you hope that people feel when taking part in BANAD 2021?

“We want them to marvel, but also to learn about the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods.”

“The Festival is also an opportunity for the people who live in Brussels to discover their city – exploring neighbourhoods they may be unfamiliar with.”

“Festivals such as BANAD are also important to help revive the city’s accommodation and hospitality sectors, and the economy of region in general.”

The Festival

Explore the city from a fresh perspective, with guided tours, panel discussions, and immersive experiences.

BANAD focuses on the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods of design and style – Brussels is blessed with some really unique and spectacular examples, many of which are private properties and not easily accessed.

Each of the three weekends of the festival focuses on a different part of the city – it’s a tsunami of design and style that progressively sweeps across our capital.

Week 1: 22-23 May

This weekend focuses on the south-west of Brussels.

Highlights include:

  • Villa Beausite on the edge of Forest Park
  • The Art Nouveau home in Saint-Gilles of architect Paul Hamesse
  • The Art Deco Ramaekers apartment building in Elsene.

Week 2: 29-30 May

This weekend focuses on the centre and the west of Brussels.

Highlights include:

  • The former Victoria biscuit factory in Koekelberg
  • The Art Deco monument that is the Palace of Fine Arts.

Week 3: 7-8 June

The final weekend of the festival is devoted to the north and east of Brussels. With bike packages available, guided bike tours are an ideal way to get the most of your weekend.

How queer is this period of design?

BANAD festival creates opportunities for us to not only understand the concept of the architecture being showcased, but also to feel the atmosphere of each property. This is a style of design that’s very personal. These houses were designed specifically for the first owners that built them – especially when you look at the Art Nouveau period. You can feel the history. You can feel the personality of the people involved.

Can we describe this style of design as being particularly queer?

The Art Deco style represents a period synonymous with change and liberation. The inter-war period saw an embrace of desire and pleasure that probably encouraged a freedom of expression in the homes created at that time. The architecture followed the mood of those crazy years. These designs reflected the personality of the people who were going to live there.

Other highlights

  • Guided tours of the exhibitions at the Fin-de-Siècle Museum.
  • The Horta Museum.
  • The Art Nouveau and Art Deco section of the collection of old books of the Bibliotheca Wittockania.
  • A conference on servants in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • A behind-the-scenes tour of the International Centre for the City, Architecture and Landscape
  • A concert in Flagey.
  • A game evening at the Maison Cauchie.
  • Antiques Fair
  • Exhibition of restorers
  • An upcycling workshop at the Horta Museum, with the artist Isabelle Azaïs.

Ensuring access for everyone

About 15,000 people are expected to take part in BANAD 2021.

This year’s festival has a big emphasis on being accessible and inclusive. Audio-description tours are available, and tours using sign-language will also be available.

Tours have also been designed for visually impaired people and people with reduced mobility.

There’s also activities and events designed for families, to ensure that children have an opportunity to engage with the festival.

Find out more about BANAD 2021