Real con­nec­tion to na­ture

The newly ren­o­vated in­te­ri­ors of this 18th-cen­tury farm­house and barn in East Flan­ders en­cour­age ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the sur­round­ing coun­try­side

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Contents - Words/ pro­duc­tion/styling MARC HELDENS Pho­tog­ra­phy VERNE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

The newly ren­o­vated in­te­ri­ors of this 18th-cen­tury farm­house and barn in East Flan­ders en­cour­age ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the sur­round­ing coun­try­side

Not many of us will have thought of spend­ing our hol­i­days at the end of the gar­den path, but when the sur­round­ings are as pleas­ing as this pic­turesque part of East Flan­ders, a stay­ca­tion seems very ap­peal­ing. Sit­u­ated close to the banks of the River Leie, whose nat­u­ral beauty fa­mously pro­vided in­spi­ra­tion for the Flem­ish Ex­pres­sion­ist pain­ters, the prop­erty of Christophe Van der Elst, owner of R Square fash­ion agency, his ad­ver­tis­ing di­rec­tor part­ner, Caro­line Van­de­moortele, and their two teenage chil­dren, Lu­cie and Harry, is both fam­ily house and hol­i­day es­cape. The cou­ple’s main home is sit­u­ated in the plot’s 18th-cen­tury farm­house and the barn, a short walk away, is where they spend lazy sum­mer days.

When the fam­ily first moved to the area, they all stayed in the then-di­lap­i­dated main house while do­ing ren­o­va­tion work on the barn. It had a charm­ing camp­site feel: ‘Our wa­ter came from a hose and we did all the cook­ing on a gas camp­ing stove,’ Christophe re­calls. They re­moved all of the barn’s in­ner walls to cre­ate a large, open-plan liv­ing space, in­stalled a new con­crete bath­room and kitchen, and added ex­pan­sive win­dows that make the most of the sun­light. The beauty of the orig­i­nal vaulted wooden ceil­ing is now com­ple­mented by a mix of se­cond­hand and vin­tage fur­nish­ings, in­clud­ing con­tem­po­rary clas­sics, such as a sofa by An­to­nio Cit­te­rio for Flex­form and chairs by Char­lotte Per­riand.

‘Both the barn and the farm­house have his­tor­i­cal in­ter­est, but,’ says Christophe, ‘they also have a real con­nec­tion to na­ture’. That is largely thanks to the ad­di­tion of a modern out­door ter­race. At­tached to the main house, it is here where, on a con­crete bench warmed by the sun, the fam­ily sit and con­tem­plate the abun­dant flora and fauna in the neigh­bour­ing corn­fields. ‘The ben­e­fit of this setup,’ says Christophe, ‘is that we now have two beau­ti­ful homes, both of which pro­vide peace and pri­vacy.’

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