creative chit-chat

Leo & Susan


Turning dreams into reality. It may sound unreal, but for Leo and Susan it’s part of their everyday job. What started out as a small boutique of 50 m², has grown into an impressive storehouse of 10.000 m² filled with remarkable props, vintage, antique and curiosities. From preserved animals in jars to decadent chandeliers, whether you’re in for a documentary or fiction, you will find it at Leo & Susan’s company called Sprookjes (Dutch for fairy tale). “It’s a hobby that ran out of hand. I started buying one thing, then I had two and before I knew it I kept on adding things to my collection. The beauty and what fascinates me about our job, is how lucky and rich we are to be able to do this and to be creative.” The facade of their home – which is situated on the most beautiful boulevards in Antwerp – is classical and quite misleading. You wouldn’t expect to find so much creativity  and an explosion of colors, texture and materials behind those walls.


Leo, you call yourself a decorator, a stylist and a collector. How did you start collecting?

Leo: I always say: ‘Either you are a collector or you aren't.’ In the beginning I was searching for curiosities, children's toys, stuff I found at the fair and that nobody wanted. Fifteen years ago I ran a small shop in the Kloosterstraat in Antwerp, which was successful from day one. We had people queuing trying to get a glimpse of our collection. But finally we left that location because we wanted to get away from the crowd. We exchanged the shop for a warehouse in Mortsel and moved to a place where nobody could find us. This way we had to start all over again. 

Susan: We also decided to restrict access to individuals. We only work with companies now. 

Leo: Our customers are very diverse, from event organizers, production companies, photographers, architects, to artists and fashion houses on the hunt for decor pieces. Our collection is very elaborated and we didn’t build in a day. It took a lot of time to collect what we have now and I'm in constant need of extra storage space.

Extra space? All objects at Sprookjes are for rent, but also for sale, aren’t they? 

Susan: Basically everything is for sale, but Leo is quite attached to his collection. (Laughs). Sometimes he just doesn’t want to let go. I'm much easier when it comes to selling.

Leo: I'm a collector and I’m buy sick. I don't like to sell and if I don’t like a person, I won't sell. (Laughs.) It's not professional, I know. Ask Susan who always says: ‘Money doesn’t talk, it swears.’ When you're not selling, you're running out of business. Nevertheless, I continue purchasing and collecting.


Do people have a clear vision in mind of what they are looking for, when they contact you? I’m quite sure the dazzling quantity of objects can be quite confusing. 

Leo: When you're looking for stuffed animals or you are trying to recreate a historic scenery, you can find it at Sprookjes. No matter how crazy it may sound, we will be able to provide it. In the early days stylists came to the warehouse to get inspired. In the first hall they were in love and happy. In the second hall they screamed they had found what they were looking for and in the third hall they ended up sounding desperate. We offer so much. It's a big universe in which you can get lost for hours and days and really lose yourself. Nowadays, the world is smaller and people are lazier. Everyone wants to work thematically and subsequently ask us for a proposition. This means we have to do all of the research and the thinking. People don't have time. They are always busy, too occupied. They make decisions based on photographs and ideas, but you really have to feel and see it for yourself to get an idea of the dimensions of what we have here.


Let's talk about dimensions, shall we? Your house is gigantic and the contrast between the grandeur of the facade and the modern playfulness of the interior is quite remarkable. 

Susan: The outer facade is beautiful, but the interior was really dark. The house was an assemblage of small dark rooms and its original charm was completely lost and destroyed throughout the years. We stripped the building to create a loft experience. As you can see, the whole house is constructed around Leo's fair collection, which is displayed in a glass case.

Leo: I prefer to call it Fairground Art. When we bought this place 20 years ago, I really wanted to display my big collection, but I didn't want it everywhere and then stumble over it. Susan is an architect and we decided to cut the house right in the middle and join all spaces around my collection. Everything you see comes from the warehouse and it's a mix of different style periods. It's not out of date. After all, we live in the now.


What's your favorite piece in the house?

Leo: Susan is my favorite. (Laughs.) When you have a big collection like this, art occupies a special place. All objects are fantastic, but art is irreplaceable. When it comes to our interior, we're quite loyal. We like to stick to what we have, we rarely change it. When it's good, it's good. 

Susan: Unless we see the perfect addition to our home.

Leo: It's good or it's not good. And, when it's good, we stick to it. It's not that we have a new designer chair of a new lamp every week. When we buy stuff, it goes straight to the warehouse. Our interior is complete. I wish I could say the same about my art collection, but I can't.

Do you consider art as an investment or do you buy objects because you like them?

Leo: I like it or I don't. Although I must admit I have an extra sense knowing if someone or something is going to be successful or a hit. I knew it with the Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek and the Belgian artist Arne Quinze and stuff I bought in the past that is now in demand. 

Susan: But you also love to support creative people who are talented and able to do their thing with little money.

Leo: That's true. I get a lot of requests from theatre associations. They have little means and I think we should be kind to them because they are motivated. I have the same experience with young artists. When I believe in a good story, I am prepared to invest in it because I know it will pay off in the end. I mean, creativity is a privilege and an enormous wealth. Creatives are rich. That's how I see it.


This story is part of our ongoing collaboration with De Morgen Magazine. 

Copyright © Coffeeklatch. All rights reserved. All Coffeeklatch original content and photographs are subject to copyright
and must not be reproduced without our express prior written permission.

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Coffeeklatch stands for ‘Slow journalism using a fast medium.’ Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen created the blog as a creative chitchat featuring creative entrepreneurs in their homes over coffee, including interesting people telling intriguing stories. It celebrates storytelling and creativity in all its forms, from fashion design to architecture. Read More


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