Issue 02 | Interiors

Rigour and Poetry

Brussels, Belgium

French interior designer Pierre Yovanovitch turns a Brussels mansion into a contemporary art refuge

In the Belgian capital, the suburb of Ixelles stands out for its enchanting and romantic atmosphere, thanks to its buildings’ rich mix of architectural styles – from neoclassical to neo-renaissance, but especially art nouveau – ringed around two beautiful ponds.

It is here that French interior designer Pierre Yovanovitch has worked on the remodelling of an exceptional 1,200 sqm mansion spread over five floors. Behind a facade made of brick and stone dating back to 1910, it strikes the perfect balance between grandeur and warmth, with pure lines, noble materials and custom features.

The property is the primary residence of a Flemish couple with four children, who are avid collectors of modern art and passionate about architecture and design. Having similar aesthetic tastes to Yovanovitch, they felt an immediate connection with his work, trusting him to lead the remodelling of this historically classified monument.

“The brief from the family was to have a warm and bright house,” says Yovanovitch, “so my work consisted of bringing natural light inside the building.” The facade is the only element left from the original structure. All the interior spaces were removed, leaving Yovanovitch with an “empty box” to completely rethink, both in terms of flow and style.

Several key features shape the airy space, most notably the geometric stained-glass roof, which is situated at the centre of the rebuilt home. “I felt that we needed to add some poetry and colour to the white architecture, so we had the idea of creating a skylight,” says Yovanovitch. This playful element helps to balance the rigour of the rest of the house’s design.

The glass roof sits at the top of a monumental staircase – a sinuous sculptural element that has become the backbone of the house. Down in the basement, which also houses the utility areas, Yovanovitch designed a 15-metre-long swimming pool for the family.

“I tried to keep the soul and architectural spirit of the house,” explains Yovanovitch, who describes the home with the same adjectives as its dwellers: sophisticated, generous and simple. “The eclecticism of the house is what makes it interesting.”

I like it when the furniture is in dialogue with the art

In the generous hallway with its period front door, a piece of art by Jonathan Horowitz has been placed on the wall above a Yovanovitch- designed two-piece bench and a Paavo Tynell floor lamp. The contemporary kitchen is also on the ground floor, sitting adjacent to an outdoor terrace; it features a ceiling light by Ru Editions, a Dornbracht island and stools by Mark Albrecht Studio.

Living spaces take up the first floor – reception areas, living and family rooms – with the master suite and bathrooms on the second storey. The couple’s children have been given free rein on the top floor, with three bedrooms, a bathroom, a sitting room and a terrace.

“Every area of the house has its own spirit and, altogether, they contribute to create the cosy ambience,” says Yovanovitch. “For example, the powdery pink master bedroom adorned with a woman’s portrait by Magritte above the fireplace corresponds to the sophisticated, soft personality of the wife, while the bar (and cigar cellar) with walls covered in caramel-coloured leather and blackened larch reflects the festive, welcoming character of the husband.”

I love the materials for which you feel the hand of an artisan. For me, it is what humanises a place and gives it personality