In 2006, Dirk Wynants, owner of the outdoor furniture company Extremis, purchased a circa-1850s farmhouse in Poperinge, a municipality in the Flanders region of Belgium. He spent the next seven years updating it, while staying within the area’s stringent preservation codes. Here, he shares the backstory on the project.
The rules are most strict in the Flemish part of Belgium: the maximum ‘living space’ a private building can have here is about 35,300 cubic feet. If you want more space, you have to find a bigger building and renovate, but the maximum size to use as living space in that building still is the same. As our building is more than 70,600 cubic feet, we had to be clever in how we used the spaces that we could not use under the name of ‘living space’ and still use the building’s full potential. A bit over 1,000 square feet can be occupied for office purposes, if you have an independent activity. Four guest rooms for renting to tourists can be included in the existing structure—with no volume restrictions. A terrace under a roof doesn’t count. And then you can use areas as technical space: my prototyping room in the basement cannot be reached directly from outside, for instance.
"If you want to respect the old, the contrast should be brutal. I want to be very clear what is old and what is new." —Dirk Wynants
“It’s usable when the weather is not perfect, so we use this area most often,” Wynants says.
“To be able to respect the ‘massiveness’ of the roof, making bigger windows would be wrong, because we would lose the character of the farm,” Wynants explains. “Therefore, I was looking for other ways to collect light. At this spot you had the big barn doors at both sides: This is the economical axis of the farm. This I kept, as my own design office is right under this volume. It keeps the sun out, so I have a splendid view when I’m working—I never need sun shades.”
In one part of the landscape, Wynants placed a Sunball, a circa-1968 piece by Günter Ferdinand Ris and Herbert Selldorf.
Discreet kitchen storage, which conceals the refrigerator, a wine cooler, the freezer, recycling, and cleaning materials, complements a view of one of the family’s five horses.
An open-air terrace off the kitchen features a Marina table and Captain chairs from Extremis.
Wynants grew up sailing, and he created the piece to suggest "a moment of togetherness...the way one might gather at the back of the boat, to talk and drink." A side view of the house captures a glimpse of what he calls "the monolith."