Among green fields, south of Brussels, stands a 1960s modernist-looking villa. White-plastered walls, flat roofs and a garden pavilion. The new owner bought it because of its aesthetic appeal, which should not be lost when renovating the whole place.
The starting point of the new design was to insulate the house from the inside following a clear logic: while the white outer walls of the original house remained and were restored with white building blocks, a new house was built inside with red brick. The result is a new plan of nine ground-floor rooms, linked together more or less like an enfilade, with one of the rooms falling outside the insulated shell as a protected outdoor space. A cross-shaped timber structure additionally provides four new rooms on the first floor. The same logic is continued in the garden pavilion, where a wellness and studio space were created.
While the structural logic starts from a clear design, it is executed without strict hierarchy, so that the plasterwork, the white building blocks, the red bricks and the wooden structure come together in ever new configurations and detailing. The overlapping window and door openings of the old and new houses are used to emphasise the specific atmosphere of each room in its own right, with these openings not always matched contiguously. For example, an original doorway overlaps with a new double-glazed door, framing part of the old house from the inside. Or two window openings side by side, with the red brick cascading sunlight in, without providing a direct view out.
The design strategy to remake this modernist villa into a contemporary home thus not only preserves the original aesthetic of the house, but enriches it with numerous new layers – structural, climatic, material.
Text by Bart Decroos