60 Years at the Furniture Fair

De Eiken Zetel and the Brussels Furniture Fair have gone hand in hand for 60 years.

Which exhibitor can say that? They could write volumes about the ‘good old days’, when everything wasn’t necessarily better, but was certainly different. On special request, De Eiken Zetel has been diving into the archives. The images document the history of the firm, Belgian Furniture and the ‘International Trade Fair for Belgian Furniture’. You see the evolution from Then to Now.

De Eiken Zetel started out in a small workshop of 20 m2 with a single model, the Kennedy rocking chair. Now it has grown into an internationally oriented business of 19,000 m2. The legendary oak shell designs have made way for customising collections and interior concepts such as the &dez label. Simple rocking has been replaced by high-tech reclining mechanisms. The latest innovation is the four-motor option for small, medium and large armchairs.

In the past, the entire Belgian furniture industry was producing models in oak. Now the offering is far more diversified, and production is decentralised and outsourced. “In its 1970s heyday, Eeklo was Belgium’s key furniture town.” Now, De Eiken Zetel is one of the few manufacturers and the only exhibitor from the region.

Then, pieces were placed on a stand, the more the merrier. Now, stands are carefully designed and stylishly decorated. The exhibitors’ famed hospitality is exactly the same as it was in the past. At De Eiken Zetel, the bar is in the centre of the stand. Every day there’s a happy hour from 5 pm onwards. In the meantime, the fair offers free snacks and drinks at strategic locations in the halls. Brussels continues to be synonymous with mixing business with pleasure.

Then the ‘Stoelenmakers’ were awarded as prizes, eight (!) in total. The categories were endless: gold and silver for Classic and Modern pieces, ditto for Seating. De Eiken Zetel won three prizes. Now we have the Brussels Balthazar Awards in four categories.

The anecdotes are not something you’ll find in the archive; these are the stuff of legend. The ‘Palaces’ that were bursting at the seams, so tents had to be erected. The snow drifts that were several metres high. Orders that were placed willy-nilly: ‘just write it all down’. Now there is more to it. Things have been professionalised.

So that’s a summary of the past 60 years. And that book? Perhaps it will be written someday… Time will tell.