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Hobby House

Retirement often offers couples more time together, but when René Menten and Mikey Bienkens left the working world, they built a house that emphasized their individual activities. The balconies breaking into the space behind the glass and white aluminum facade of their home in Bilzen, Belgium, give each partner a private space in which to pursue personal passions.

hobby house exterior facade

The lower alcove, called Hobby 1, pokes out into the three-foot-wide space behind the glass front and is a reading nook for Menten, an avid art historian. “When you read, there’s this intimate relationship with the book,” says architect Bassam El Okeily, who designed the house. “Menten has enough light to see the sky and read, but people on the street can’t see him.” The upper opening, Hobby 2, is an extension off of Bienkens’s art studio. “Someone paints or creates art because they want to share it,” El Okeily says. “Her balcony is exposed so passersby can see her and her work.”

Despite the strict segregation of individual areas behind the street facade, the remainder of the 2,500-square-foot house consists of shared spaces where the couple enjoy their meals and evenings. And even while they’re at “work,” the balconies are close enough and offset at just the right angle for them to wave hello to each other throughout the day.

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