Van Staeyen Interieur Architecten Illuminates a 20th-Century Antwerp House
The owners of this early-20th-century house in Antwerp are not your average family. Husband and wife met at university and then travelled together for years while he played professional volleyball for clubs in Belgium, Spain, and Argentina. But once two sons arrived, average needs followed: a home near good schools, within a Vespa ride of restaurants and bars in the city center, and boasting enough light and space for a growing, active brood.
The couple—he’s now an engineer, she’s a real-estate manager—bought a 2,260-square-foot triplex with a generous rear garden and original plasterwork. The catch? It was dark and, despite an open floor plan, lacked a sense of conviviality. And so, within a frenzied three-month timeframe “the charming house underwent a severe reconstruction,” says firm principal Johan van Staeyen. “We brought in natural illumination by all possible means.”
That included insertion of a skylight that spans the width of the house, creating a sort of double-height light well between the kitchen and dining areas. Sunshine now floods the ground-level living spaces, bouncing off the kitchen’s polished-concrete floor and drawing out the golden tones of the living/dining area’s oak herringbone parquet. A chill-out space at the rear offers garden views—and access—through floor-to-ceiling glass sliders.
In the four upstairs bedrooms, windows are curtained in clean white sheers to let even more light pour in. Coziness, meanwhile, comes in the form of rustic pine floors, vintage Scandinavian furnishings, and, in the master bedroom, a headboard upholstered in gray cotton. The master bathroom features a custom woodlike laminate vanity in family-friendly proportions and his-and-her sinks.
But the ground floor is the true heart of the house, van Staeyen explains. The sociable kitchen centers on a showstopping gesture: a broad swath of oak forms a wall-mounted cabinet, bends to become a ceiling canopy, and then drops down to morph into a bar counter. Lending cohesion and maximizing storage, the overarching structure also sparks party conversation. A second custom built-in distinguishes the living/dining area: a geometric composition of oak, white lacquer, and Carrara marble for the display of tchotchkes and sculptures (and to house the TV), it’s a work of art in its own right. “The design is at once radical and modest,” van Staeyen concludes.