There is something about the holiday season that fills me up. And every year I look forward to it … to the merriment and good will; to the holiday treats and yuletide libations; to the mantels and banisters dressed with boughs of greenery; to the twinkling lights; to the spirit of Christmas and all it promises. Yet once the holidays come to an end I am considerably sated, to say the least. Full, you could say. And so, every year, I look forward to the opposite of feeling full, to a cleansing of mind, body and spirit. I look forward to getting back to the basics.
The compound featured in today’s post characterizes my new year’s state of mind, featuring a collection of barns and outbuildings renovated and designed by the brilliant architect Vincent Van Duysen in his inimitable elemental style. Located in the farming town of Zwevegem, Belgium, near the French border, Van Duysen was presented with the challenge of reconciling the past with the present. Local building codes require that specific historic worthy architectural elements stay intact, maintaining the essential architectural character of Flemish country houses. This meant the terra-cotta roof tiles had to stay. But virtually everything else was re-imagined, from the ground up. To honor the local architectural vernacular Van Duysen put up exterior brick walls covered with light colored traditional clay-and-plaster, called kalei (lime wash).
To provide the interiors with a feeling of openness and light Van Duysen installed large floor-to-ceiling windows throughout, and kept materials to a minimum. Free of extraneous decor his rooms breathe. A monochromatic scheme of plaster white, stone gray, bleached straw and smoky charcoal allows the views of the countryside beyond the picture windows to take center stage, and soothe the mind, body and soul. The main house comprises one of three barns; the second houses the stable and garage, and the third an indoor swimming pool. If the holidays left you feeling over-indulged, step into these sybaritic spaces designed with simplicity, comfort and peacefulness in mind.
Photography by Juan Rodrigues and Didier Delmas