Deep in the forests of Meylandt-Obbeek, a nature reserve and bird sanctuary just a short drive from the Belgian city of Hasselt, lies a secret. Hidden among the trees is an architectural gem of a house that seems completely in tune with its verdant surroundings.
As you approach the property – the product of a collaboration between interior designer Dorien Cooreman of Moka Projects and Elizabet Iglesias, an architect at ILB Architecten – it gives away little of the magic that lies within. Blocky volumes of stone and blackened-wood cladding combine to create its façade, but step inside and the experience is akin to forest bathing – the Japanese ritual known as shinrin-yoku, where you immerse yourself among trees to slow down and seek relaxation.
Here, there’s that same atmosphere of instant calm. With entire rooms and corridors wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glazing, this home takes inside/outside living to glorious extremes.
For Dorien and Elizabet, the main consideration before beginning work on the project was not to disturb the perfect peacefulness of the beautiful plot. The duo endeavoured to cut down as few trees as possible, and oriented the whole property to best drink in the views.
‘We wanted to show respect for the surrounding nature in everything we did,’ says Dorien. ‘The villa had to look modest, like how a bird would make a nest: functional and sheltered.’
A low, single-storey building with an overhanging flat roof, its silhouette is reminiscent of Peter Koenig’s iconic ‘Case Study House #22’ in Los Angeles, but with a panorama that could not be more different.
As you enter, you are greeted by two transparent hallways, one leading to the bedroom and bathroom, the other to the expansive living area and kitchen. Whichever way you choose to turn, the connection to nature is constant.
The purposefully understated interior takes its cues from the outside, too. Dorien, who also runs the interiors store Moka Tales in Hasselt, has an aesthetic that she describes as both warm and minimal – think washed linen, aged wood and a streamlined kitchen by Danish brand Vipp. Even the stucco applied to the walls adds to the effect, reflecting the soft green tint created by dappled sunlight filtering through the leaves on the trees.
‘I am always looking for beauty, harmony and authenticity. I like to take my clients on a quest for a way of living that brings peace,’ explains Dorien.
‘Now, you sometimes see songbirds flying into the clearing and experiencing a moment of doubt. They seem to be asking: “Should I choose one of the wooden birdhouses or the villa?”’ she says with a smile. Who can blame them for considering an upgrade? moka-projects.com; ilbarchitecten.be