An Asymmetrical, Sustainable Home Rises in Belgium After a Devastating Fire

A nearly decade-long collaboration between Atelier Tom Vanhee and the owner results in a playful renovation that prioritizes passive design principles and multifunctional living spaces.
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About 30 minutes north of Brussels in Vilvoorde, Belgium, architecture studio Atelier Tom Vanhee led a thorough renovation of a fire-devastated home using sustainable materials and passive design principles. The Brussels firm collaborated closely with the client for over eight years to perfect the 1,431-square-foot residence, dubbed Blanket of Steel.

One of the home’s most striking features is its white metal exterior, which replaced the original brick. The front and rear facades, as well as the sloping roof surfaces, are all clad in highly insulating sandwich panels that create unity throughout the volume. While the street-facing elevation blends in with the neighboring homes, the rear facade’s asymmetrical, slanted panels bring a healthy dose of personality. 

Because the site has a significant slope with the backyard situated about three feet lower than the front garden, the firm lowered the home’s ground-floor annex by roughly two feet to create a more integrated relationship with the rear landscape. Stairs with built-in storage bridge the height difference between this space—which functions as the kitchen and dining room—and the living room. A floor-t0-ceiling glass wall with a glazed door provides backyard views and facilitates direct access to the outdoor area.  

Curtains can be drawn across the open-plan ground level to create makeshift walls that divide the space and form an additional room at the entrance area. This way, the multifunctional living space can also be used to host neighborhood events. 

"We retained as many materials as possible that were not destroyed by the fire," says architect Tom Vanhee. This included the wood floors, ground-level staircase, and select brick walls. 

A new wooden staircase leading to the top floor is centered around a skylight that permeates light deep into the home. When new materials were used for the renovation, Vanhee kept in mind the client’s environmentally conscious ethos to design the sustainability- and community-focused residence.

Related Reading:

A Striking Home in the Flemish Countryside Cuts an Otherworldly Silhouette

An Architect Couple Handcraft a Rustic Haven at the Edge of a Belgian Forest

Project Credits:

Architecture of Record: Atelier Tom Vanhee / @ateliertomvanhee

Builder/General Contractor: Koen Peeters, Albodakk and Jos de Witte, Renotech

Structural Engineer: Francis Delacroix, Lime

Photography: Filip Dujardin

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