Catherine Lebrun pictured in front of her new concept store Subtile
Photo: Romain Gamba
Subtile, a new shop where vintage meets contemporary, opened on Thursday in the site where the former Galerie Beaumontpublic once stood.
In the heart of Belair, set back from avenue Gaston Diderich, is a small passageway surrounded by foliage that beckons you to enter. At the end is a glass façade entrance to Subtile with a fire pit nook. And that’s all before you’ve even stepped into the shop.
As Subtile owner Catherine Lebrun explained, there’s a “feeling of decompression” as you approach the space. This first impression is one which resonates throughout the entire visit, as Lebrun aims to achieve a space of multisensory perception, where visitors are encouraged to use all five senses to take in the objects.
“It’s not a gallery, it’s not a showroom only for furniture. It’s a mix,” said Lebrun, who was formerly chief financial officer at Kneip. “I want to bring together all the ‘arts decoratifs’ [decorative arts], which were famous at the beginning of the 20th century, and it’s why we have flowers, small things to eat, furniture, art: to feel at home.”
Remnants of the former art space are still visible amongst the shop’s treasures: there are large hooks on the walls which once hoisted up large works of art from the level below, still accessible through a trapdoor feature. Also below the ground level: a small projection room, and Lebrun already sees plenty of potential there. She envisions in future having Sunday morning breakfasts and screening short films, for example. The former gallery’s founder, Martine Schneider, lives next door, but Lebrun said: “[Schneider] liked the concept I explained to her”.
Lebrun had already been following her passion and travelling regularly to places like her native country of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany to snag vintage furniture and objects in the past, which helped her gain contacts with antiquers, and said the idea to open a concept space had been brewing for a while (for the last year she had been a part of the pop-up scene). She found the site during lockdown and got the keys for the space in early September.
“I saw here in Luxembourg vintage furniture is not as famous like in Belgium or in Paris, and I said there are certainly young people interested by that,” Lebrun said, as she stroked one of the 1960s refurbished chairs in her shop. Not only does she want people to be able to feel and appreciate the textures, but she hopes people may consider a visit to her shop and contribute to the circular economy instead of buying from large chains.
There is a story behind every object in the showroom. Lebrun carries contemporary rugs by CC Tapis (who offer education to children of weavers in Nepal); unique tables and chairs made entirely of hardened, folded paper by Molo Studio (100% recyclable); tapestries made of wool and inspired by pancake drizzles by Mira Sohlen; stunning fine art photography by half-Belgian, half-Spanish photographer Pedro Correa who takes photos through windows to give them a blurred and abstract look which sparks the imagination.
“I’ll work with people directly and focus a bit on Belgian [things],” Lebrun added. “I like the Belgian touch, but of course I’m open to local artists, or at least European. I don’t want to go [outisde of Europe] because we have so much here to bring in the light.”
Lebrun anticipates switching up the collections at least every 6-8 weeks to keep the experience fresh and she said she wants the site to be one where people do not just come to shop but rather stay to discuss or enjoy the luminous space, perhaps over a glass of minty water or a little snack to boot.
She's excited about the possibilities the space offers not just to relaxed shoppers but also to companies for small events or workshops for example. The ideas seem to be endless, but Lebrun has been waiting a long time for this.
“When I had to decide what I was going to do at university, at the last minute I changed. Originally I wanted to be an architect and I said no, I got my MBA. It was put on the side, and when you turn 40 you have to decide to do something else. And sitting all the time… I need to move, to see people."
Subtile is located at 21, avenue Gaston Diderich. For more information about the space and its upcoming events and collections visit the website.