It was architect Tim Peeters who turned Tony and Carine’s corner house in Ghent upside down. Almost literally, because upstairs became downstairs and vice versa. It resulted in very happy residents, who are fully enjoying their retirement there.
“We like to live to the rhythm of the city,” says Tony. “And that’s in the little things: getting bread from the best bakery by bike in the morning or seeing the illuminated towers of Ghent from our lazy chair in the evening. We can’t miss the energy of the city, but we also don’t want to live right in the center.” They had a pharmacy in Halle for a long time, but returned to Ghent to enjoy their retirement. It became the Heirniswijk in the 19th century belt of Ghent. The corner house in Karperstraat had been their property for some time. At first the youngest daughter lived there, but later plans were made to move there permanently. It was not obvious. “This house was pretty much neither a mussel nor a fish,” Tony laughs. “It was once renovated by a young couple, but the house was too dark for us and lacked character. There was also little privacy because of the windows that opened onto the street.”
While looking for an architect, Carine and Tony came into contact with Tim Peeters, who coincidentally also lives and works in the area. “Curious about the architect’s creative approach, we gave him complete carte blanche. Although light in the house was very important to us.” They had not expected a sketch of a turned house, but the architect was still able to quickly convince the couple to completely rethink the plan of the traditional corner house. Storage space downstairs, bedrooms above and the living space under the roof. “Actually a very logical intervention,” says Carine. “And thanks to the home elevator, we can live here for life.”
And so the elevator goes all the way from the basement to the top, in the ridge of the gable roof. There you enter the living space of the house, which is divided into a part of the day full of light and a more intimate zone, just under the roof. “Painted pitch black!”, laughs Carine. “I couldn’t believe it at first when Tim suggested it, but it works perfectly here. This is the coziest place in the house, where we read a book in the evening and have a beautiful view of the city.” The white living space is a place full of life that breathes light, also through the breakfast corner that overlooks a small roof terrace. “We don’t have green fingers, but the fact that we can swing open the doors here and let the outside in is a huge added value.”
This living area also contains the kitchen, a space with its own design logic. “The kitchen is not so much regarded as an object, but was designed based on spatiality,” explains architect Tim Peeters. “The kitchen is actually a mini room with four sides. There is no front or back, but there is a connection with every corner and every part of the room. In terms of materialization, we wanted a warmer and richer alternative to the popular Scandinavian light wood. To hark back to the dark wooden colors of the seventies, we oiled okoumé plywood in a very intense, red-brown color.” The same warm wood is also used in the bedroom, bathroom and hall. For Tim Peeters, color certainly plays an important role in the design. For example, a sand-colored concrete spiral staircase with a light pink balustrade meanders through the entire house, the ceilings in the bedrooms are indigo blue, and you can see fresh mint green throughout the house. The greenery starts very subtly downstairs in the hall and explodes in the bathroom and living space. Striking yet subtle, perfectly in harmony with the layout of the rooms.
The facade also immediately reveals its color with the three red wooden doors. Striking elements in the design of the corner house, especially compared to the rather sober windows. “The side facade is a stretched version of the front facade,” says the architect. “The composition with the three windows next to each other has remained, but has a slightly more contemporary look on the side due to its proportions. The three doors mark the three entrances to the house and are variations on the same theme: wood, oiled in a red color.” To better protect the facade plaster, also against damage from bicycles, for example, striking brick strips were glued to the insulation. “If you saw a brick with holes in half, you get a fluting pattern. We looked for a light stone with beautiful cavities on the inside and designed a pattern so that the ribbed stones fit together. The composition of the facade, but also the color and materialization match the original Beaux-Arts facades in the neighborhood.”
While the renovation work was underway, Carine and Tony rented an apartment nearby. They let the architect do his thing, but often attracted big attention. “That spiral staircase, what an adventure that was! The impressive concrete staircase winds from the bottom to the ridge of the roof, and was even hoisted in through the roof. The balustrade was made on site by a blacksmith, which was also very impressive to see. We would never have chosen the color pink ourselves, but here in this house it matches perfectly. We are still proud of our house every day, and our children, who have already left home, also love it here. People don’t expect us to live here, people over sixty. Or they think that there are apartments hidden behind the facade. We may be retired, but we are open-minded, like to keep up with the times and, for example, also really love art. The only downside to this house is that there are not enough walls to hang all our large works of art. But we did get a lot of windows and light in the house.”
To fully enjoy their retirement, Tony Verstraete (66) and Carine Van Den Dooren (63) returned to the city. As art and color lovers, we click with architect Tim Peeters: timpeeters.eu.