Architect Nicolas Schuybroek takes us inside his latest project, a 19th-century house in the historic district of Antwerp, Belgium, renewed through a modern scope.
The transformation of this historic building in Antwerp into a modern home emerged from a longstanding relationship between architect Nicolas Schuybroek and his client, a director in a fashion company: from selecting the building, to knocking through walls, to choosing furniture, each detail was discussed thoroughly. The resulting building stitches together elements from both their backgrounds—“monastic” simplicity as Schuybroek puts it, drawn from his upbringing in a Benedictine school, and the attention to detail that’s the hallmark of haute couture. Schuybroek told us how it came together.
What did your client require from his home?
He’s a director at a global fashion brand, so he travels a lot—people like that need a haven to return home to. We selected this property—a classical house from the early 1800s in the historic center of Antwerp—first, because he wanted to be centrally located and second, because he wanted a place that was filled with natural light. This house has a huge facade, which is unusual for old houses in Antwerp. Still, when he bought the place, it was dark and overdecorated, and the circulation didn’t make sense. We restructured the house, imagining new volumes and shaping the way light would flow. We connected smaller rooms and added spaces to create a continuous circulation next to the windows, which meant natural light could come into the whole space.
Why do you describe it as “monastic”?
In all our projects, we try to create environments where people feel quiet and serene. I spent my childhood in a Benedictine school, so I’ve lived that experience: To me, simple spaces with a few tactile materials have always felt good, while opulent, heavy interiors do nothing for me. In this project, there’s just the right amount of light, the right number of signature pieces of design, and we work with a restrained material palette. We often describe it using the German word Gesamtkunstwerk, which means a “complete work of art”—architecture, interiors and furniture coming together as one.