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.’
For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration June 2018
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