A house is more than surface, it’s a place, a feeling.

A journey from bakery to modern haven in Brussels

  • ArchitectBruno Vanbesien
  • PhotographerMichiel Vergauwe
  • FabricatorAlu Decroock
  • CityJette
  • CountryBelgium

In the 1960s, many residents fled the city centre and suburbs in search of more space and luxury in the immediate green surroundings of Brussels. The result was an immense ecological impact - a mass of people commute in and out of the city every day by public transport, cars and other motor vehicles. What was left behind was a fantastic array of high-end homes, designed by Horta, Hankar and Cauchie. Each of them architectural gems, full of detail and playing with natural light. They are proof that cities and the creative freedom to design are not in opposition and can be achieved together.

Fortunately, we are now seeing an opposite movement in Brussels and the surrounding suburbs are getting a new life. Such is the case of the building renovated by architect Bruno Vanbesien, into his own family home with his own architectural office.

The building used to house a traditional bakery hiding behind a modest facade and consisting of four levels. Interestingly, the impressive, original brick oven was re-used to rebuild the new garden walls.

In his design, Vanbesien effortlessly merges air, space, light and views. In this renovation, the spaces were re-arranged. The space has been creatively interwoven to capture more light and create an open view to the nearby park.

Two walls were used which were removed from the otherwise entirely built-up area. As a result, the patio gardens form a courtyard and a connection between the office and kitchen. At the entrance is the kitchen, with an open staircase leading to the living room. From here, you can reach the more private space on the second floor. The exceptionally slimline steel staircase allows maximum light and visibility. The top floor, under the original gable roof, houses a guest room, guest bathroom and home office.

The copper facades with their weathered patina gives the house a unique charm and appearance. On first impression, the closed front wall emphasises a formal presence to the street facing. At the same time, the building draws attention to itself - especially through the combination of vertically streamlined copper bays with aluminium blinds and horizontal windows.

To the rear, there is a different character. Here, you experience the home not as a building, but rather a safe haven from the bustling city lifestyle. The raised terrace, with green roofs providing large planting space, offers an open view of the nearby parkland. This extends from the living room, a bright space flooded by natural light, thanks to the large window openings on both sides.

At the rear of the house, the dark-brown copper facade feathers into light variations of colour and texture - light grey terrazzo tiles, ash wood furniture, champagne details next to the exposed floorboards, untreated steel and wood-relief concrete elements providing the space with balance and character.

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