See inside director of MAX BENJAMIN CANDLES, Orla Van Den Bergh’s contemporary home with FLEMISH INFLUENCES …
Name: Orla Van Den Bergh, director Max Benjamin Candles Address: Co Wicklow My home: An open-plan new build emphasising the view The vibe: Contemporary with Flemish influences
When my parents, Hugo and Catherine, moved from Dublin to Enniskerry in 1981, everyone thought they were mad. It seemed so much further away than it is today. My father bought some land with my uncle, with whom he was in business, and so began what I call our countrifying experience. I had a passion for horses and we had a stable and a barn where we kept sheep for educational purposes. Later, I used the barn to make candles. After a few near misses with fire in my mother’s kitchen, our intial cottage industry began. Now we are celebrating the milestone of ten years in business.
The Max Benjamin studio is very close to my home. I always intended to move back to Enniskerry when I got married. My husband, Barry, and I applied and had several attempts to get planning permission before a successful result in 2012. We worked with Danish architect Kim Dreyer, who has a knack of designing buildings which are at one with the landscape, and we moved in two years later.
Our home is all about the view and bringing the outside in. The décor is muted and Flemish in influence, reflecting our heritage [Orla’s grandfather was Belgian]. Belgian houses are all about mixing the old with the new. I grew up with tiles and rugs and that’s what I’ve carried on. I have kept a neutral palette and add colour through plants and artwork; we’re slowly building a collection of both. Cherry Lane Gallery is a local source and my favourite pieces are artworks by Nicky Kruseman, while I’ve found many rugs at Kashan carpets [in Sandyford].
The kitchen is the heart of the home and if I have ten minutes to spare I’ll bake. I keep a stack of cookery books by the bed and am working my way through Ottolenghi’s latest, Sweet. The boys, Max, Benjamin, [after whom the brand was named] and Sean, have inherited my sweet tooth and when they have friends around they take over the kitchen area.
As for scent, I burn French Linen from our Classic range or Cologne Retro from the luxury Ilum range. I move between operations and trade marketing in the business. At the moment I’m planning an event in Paris during the Maison et Objet trade fair.
I find holidays invariably inspire new ideas as each region has its own fragrance, colour and food. Our family tradition is to holiday in Connemara, near Roundstone, and this year we are also going to Portugal for some sunshine.
Orla Van Den Bergh with the family retriever Jess in her kitchen, designed by Noel Dempsey.
“The dining room table is simple. I had a Habitat table which had sturdy legs so I replaced the top with a piece of Belgian oak made by a company I discovered at Maison et Objet. I limed it myself.”
The luxury Ilum range was launched in 2016 and features handcrafted porcelain vases with geometric patterns in teal tones contrasted with grey and gold foil. The design influences come from tapestries, tiled flooring, carvings on dark oak cabinets and wallpapers in the Van Den Bergh’s grandfather’s house near Antwerp. “We use a combination of three natural waxes – soya, bee and coconut – rather than paraffin, and our wicks are natural cotton. We only want to create quality products that endure – our Classic collection candles burn for a minimum of 40 hours and our diffusers last for a minimum of three months,” says David.
Each day, Orla’s mum Catherine, who lives in the cottage, hosts a lunch in the family kitchen for Orla, Mark, David and sister Emma. “Our parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year and as a family we went on holiday together to Sicily and Sorrento – which inspired our Amalfi range.”
For Orla, the kitchen is the heart of the home where she indulges her love of baking.
Mark Van Den Bergh, creative director, pictured with his brother David, managing director and Orla, director, outside the Max Benjamin Studio.
Where it all began: The Irish Max Benjamin luxury candle brand was born in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow where co-founder Orla Van Den Bergh (with brothers Mark and David) lives and where the Max Benjamin HQ is located in an idyllic setting in the hills. It’s a truly family affair.
MARK VAN DEN BERGH: “It takes about six months for a new candle and fragrance to be market-ready as we finesse the blends. We are fortunate to have our own fragrance library at the studio. Our clients appreciate the integrity of the brand and our “no compromise” approach to quality and design which we have maintained. We are one of the very few companies who produce their own candles – so many are outsourced. As a family working together we are mindful of the distinction between work and family mode. That said, we are able to speak our mind without anyone taking offence – not always possible in a business environment.”
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