The hu­man scale

This homely pied-à-terre in Brus­sels, by in­te­rior de­signer Joris Van Apers, demon­strates how the con­trast of light and dark can add char­ac­ter to com­pact spa­ces

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Contents -

This pied-àterre in Brus­sels shows how the con­trast of light and dark can add char­ac­ter

Re­ceived wis­dom warns us

against dark colours in small spa­ces. But, when one Ar­dennes-liv­ing Bel­gian cou­ple tasked Flem­ish in­te­rior de­signer and crafts­man Joris Van Apers with trans­form­ing this 90-squareme­tre flat at the top of a 1950s apart­ment block in Brus­sels into a serene, one-bed­room piedà-terre, he threw that myth out of the win­dow. After call­ing on what he calls ‘the old trick’ of knock­ing down di­vid­ing walls to make an open­plan space, he painted the liv­ing area, bath­room, main bed­room and a guest room a lu­mi­nous off-white, pro­duced us­ing six lay­ers of chalky lime­wash. But the cen­tral hall­way? Dark­est matt green, al­most black. It’s a dusky foil to the rooms that lead off from it on all sides. ‘The use of an in­tense colour em­pha­sises the spa­cious­ness and lev­ity of the rooms di­rectly next to it,’ Joris says. ‘It’s all about cre­at­ing con­trast.’

Con­ti­nu­ity is main­tained by the up­cy­cled pine floor­boards that run through­out. Joris’ in­te­rior de­sign stu­dio grew out of his par­ents’ re­claimed ma­te­ri­als com­pany, so the fit­tings and a lot of the fur­ni­ture were hand­made in his spe­cial­ist sal­vage work­shops. ‘ We like to make,’ says Joris. And there are many charm­ing one-off ad­di­tions in this home, from the be­spoke-built, green mar­ble-topped cup­board that in­vis­i­bly houses a new ra­di­a­tor to the re-worked French beams that have been trans­formed into kitchen units, topped with black slate. It’s very clear from the at­ten­tion to de­tail in this apart­ment that Joris en­joys work­ing on small homes. ‘I think that the idea of “the big­ger the bet­ter” is just a bit too Amer­i­can for me,’ he says. vanapers.be

HOW TO CRE­ATE SPACE US­ING LIGHT AND SHADE In­te­rior de­signer Joris Van Apers’ tricks for adding drama to smaller homes

COLOUR ‘Darker or more in­tense colours make the mind imag­ine things,’ Joris says. ‘They make a space more mys­te­ri­ous.’ A room can seem to swell or have more po­ten­tial when you can’t im­me­di­ately see its di­men­sions. WIN­DOWS If there is no nat­u­ral light, don’t try and ar­ti­fi­cially lighten a room. Em­brace its dark­ness and turn it into a USP by paint­ing it a state­ment, at­mo­spheric shade. MIR­RORS Par­tic­u­larly in a shady room, mir­rors can fur­ther dis­tort a per­son’s sense of space and can trick the eye into think­ing that a room is al­most dou­ble its size. FLOOR­ING If you paint a small room dark, be sure to keep the floor­ing pale to pre­vent it from feel­ing too cav­ernous. LIGHT­ING Don’t ruin the at­mos­phere of a sul­try small room with spot­lights. Stick to vin­tage sconce lights or ta­ble lamps. ➤

Small does not mean easy, ac­cord­ing to Jor­dan Cluroe of 2LG Stu­dio, who, along with his part­ner Rus­sell White­head, was com­mis­sioned by ELLE Dec­o­ra­tion’s Con­tent Di­rec­tor, Pip Mc­cor­mac, to com­pletely ren­o­vate his one-bed­room flat in Lon­don’s Water­loo. ‘ When you have a team of work­men on site it be­comes very dif­fi­cult to move around,’ he says. But, of course, that wasn’t the only prob­lem in ful­fill­ing a brief that in­cluded in­creas­ing the lim­ited nat­u­ral light and cre­at­ing an ‘In­sta­grammable kitchen’. There was also a de­sire to en­tirely ban­ish the old mem­o­ries of a space that Pip had lived in six years ago be­fore rent­ing it out.

‘The pro­por­tions of the lay­out were not work­ing and there were a lot of small rooms com­ing off a dark hall­way,’ Rus­sell re­calls. Sit­u­ated on the sec­ond floor of a Bru­tal­ist block, the 60-squareme­tre apart­ment had a fairly large bed­room, but the kitchen was tiny. In­creas­ing this space was a pri­or­ity: ‘ We re­moved the ex­ist­ing wall be­tween the bed­room and lounge to cre­ate a larger liv­ing space,’ Rus­sell says. ‘The old kitchen then be­came a min­i­mal­ist bed­room, a cabin-like nook with pock­ets in the door and a size­able win­dow to keep it bright.’ The whole apart­ment now feels more wel­com­ing and invit­ing, thanks to this fo­cus on max­imis­ing light. ‘By adding a slid­ing wall of smoked glass and brass cladding in the hall­way, we made the sun bounce into the space,’ Jor­dan says. ‘ We took this idea of play­ing with light to the next level by cov­er­ing the in­side of a niche above a dress­ing ta­ble with mir­rored glass – it’s an un­ex­pected gen­tle­man’s van­ity area, framed by ‘De­can­terlight’ pen­dants by Lee Broom. ‘It doesn’t seem like the same place that felt so gloomy and dark to me be­fore,’ Pip says. ‘The kitchen glim­mers with sun­shine, mak­ing me happy ev­ery day.’ Though the em­pha­sis of this project was to cre­ate space, it’s also added so­phis­ti­ca­tion to this home. 2lgstu­dio.com

‘IT JUST DOESN’T SEEM LIKE THE SAME PLACE THAT FELT SO GLOOMY AND DARK TO ME BE­FORE’

HOW TO MAKE A SMALL SPACE LOOK LUXE De­sign­ers 2LG Stu­dio re­veal three prac­ti­cal tips for stylish homes

RE­MOVE RADIATORS They en­croach on the avail­able space. We used vinyl par­quet-style floor­ing tiles from Amtico. They are thin enough to slip un­der­floor heat­ing be­neath, and run through­out the property, for a co­he­sive flow. RE­FLEC­TIVE SUR­FACES These don’t have to be just mir­rors. The pol­ished brass cladding in the door-less walk­way bounces light from the liv­ing room into the ad­join­ing hall. OPT FOR DEL­I­CATE FUR­NI­TURE Think thin legs on chairs, skinny bod­ies on lamps and nar­row sofa spin­dles, which all al­low light to pass eas­ily around and through them, stop­ping rooms from feel­ing too boxed in.

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