A Concrete Home in Rural Belgium

written by:
photos by:
February 20, 2014
Originally published in Bright Interiors
as
Brutal Beauty
Smitten from the start with a 1970s concrete villa in rural Belgium, a resident and her designer embark on a sensitive renovation that excises the bad (carpeted walls, dark rooms) and highlights the good (idyllic setting, statement architecture).
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  When Belgian fashion retailer Nathalie Vandemoortele was seeking a new nest for her brood, she stumbled upon a fortresslike house in the countryside designed in 1972 by a pair of Ghent architects, Johan Raman and Fritz Schaffrath. While the Brutalist concrete architecture and petite but lush gardens suited her tastes to a tee, the interiors needed a few updates.

    When Belgian fashion retailer Nathalie Vandemoortele was seeking a new nest for her brood, she stumbled upon a fortresslike house in the countryside designed in 1972 by a pair of Ghent architects, Johan Raman and Fritz Schaffrath. While the Brutalist concrete architecture and petite but lush gardens suited her tastes to a tee, the interiors needed a few updates.

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  Vandemoortele worked with designer Renaud de Poorter on the interior renovations, which included opening up the heavy structure with the help of new windows and doors to the outside. They didn’t want to gut the space, and kept existing decorative motifs like the dining room’s circa-1975 painted cupboard.

    Vandemoortele worked with designer Renaud de Poorter on the interior renovations, which included opening up the heavy structure with the help of new windows and doors to the outside. They didn’t want to gut the space, and kept existing decorative motifs like the dining room’s circa-1975 painted cupboard.

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  “We tried to make our interventions look very natural, with no sign of design. We did a lot for the house, and it needed it, but we wanted our touch to be invisible.” —Designer Renaud de Poorter

    “We tried to make our interventions look very natural, with no sign of design. We did a lot for the house, and it needed it, but we wanted our touch to be invisible.” —Designer Renaud de Poorter

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  De Poorter refurbished the original red sinks and black-and-white cabinets in the home’s 1970s kitchen. Instead of ripping out what some may consider dated trimmings, Vandemoortele says, “I wanted to keep some parts of the house’s history. I think that renovation often goes too far.”

    De Poorter refurbished the original red sinks and black-and-white cabinets in the home’s 1970s kitchen. Instead of ripping out what some may consider dated trimmings, Vandemoortele says, “I wanted to keep some parts of the house’s history. I think that renovation often goes too far.”

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  The dining room leads onto a terrace with a built-in concrete table and barbecue that are original to Raman and Schaffrath’s design. A pair of Hardoy butterfly chairs from Knoll are positioned by the pond.

    The dining room leads onto a terrace with a built-in concrete table and barbecue that are original to Raman and Schaffrath’s design. A pair of Hardoy butterfly chairs from Knoll are positioned by the pond.

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  Vandemoortele’s young sons and their friends enjoy the house’s nearly one-acre site as well, especially the lily pad–stocked pond.

    Vandemoortele’s young sons and their friends enjoy the house’s nearly one-acre site as well, especially the lily pad–stocked pond.

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  De Poorter lowered the living room floor by about three feet to allow for larger windows. Vintage Sade sofas, purchased in Berlin, join an Arco lamp by Achille Castiglioni for Flos, a Noguchi coffee table, and a painting by family friend Hugo de Clercq.

    De Poorter lowered the living room floor by about three feet to allow for larger windows. Vintage Sade sofas, purchased in Berlin, join an Arco lamp by Achille Castiglioni for Flos, a Noguchi coffee table, and a painting by family friend Hugo de Clercq.

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  In the split-level master suite, a bathroom and dressing area are situated under a combination sleeping area and lounge (above), which look onto the garden.

    In the split-level master suite, a bathroom and dressing area are situated under a combination sleeping area and lounge (above), which look onto the garden.

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  Many of Vandemoortele’s objects were collected on her travels around the world, including an antique Japanese screen, a vintage lamp purchased in Arizona, an antique Mongolian side table bought in Ulan Bator, and a rich textile mix. Two brass shades from a local thrift shop are arranged as a floor sculpture, and the cane daybed in her suite is by prolific Belgian designer Maarten van Severen.

    Many of Vandemoortele’s objects were collected on her travels around the world, including an antique Japanese screen, a vintage lamp purchased in Arizona, an antique Mongolian side table bought in Ulan Bator, and a rich textile mix. Two brass shades from a local thrift shop are arranged as a floor sculpture, and the cane daybed in her suite is by prolific Belgian designer Maarten van Severen.

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