Provenance takes on a whole new meaning in the Ghent home of art and design journalists Thijs Demeulemeester and Iris De Feijter. The constellation of triangular mirrors in their kitchen came from a Holiday Inn. The four wooden blocks that form a table in the living room were retrieved from an abandoned construction site. “We enjoy giving objects a new life, a new purpose in a new environment,” Iris explains. “And these old pieces also enable us to be totally at ease. They already bear the traces of use. A few more scratches won’t hurt.”
Ghent is an eco-friendly city, allowing hardly any cars in its medieval city center. It’s politically to the left and slightly bohemian. There’s a lively music scene and you’ll find high-level restaurants and coffee houses where it’s easy to linger the day away. Thijs and Iris live in Ledeberg, a diverse 19th-century district on the fringes of the medieval city center.
“We had to redo almost everything,” shares Iris, “bathroom, roof, windows, floors. But we kept all the elements that we could, such as the ornate ceilings.”
Iris traces her taste for old things to her girlhood. As a teenager, she decorated her room with flea-market pieces, including an antique metal bed that she found while vacationing in France. When she met Thijs, she discovered he shared that enthusiasm. And while they don’t always have the same passion for every object they come across, their essential sensibilities are so in sync that aesthetic differences never really come between them. “We definitely don’t always agree, and we don’t always inform the other that we’re buying something new. But in the end, we find a solution,” assures Iris.
As writers who work from home, one thing they do agree on is the need for a comfortable and comforting environment. “If you spend 24 hours a day in your house, it better be a nice place,” asserts Iris. And not just for those hours when they’re generating copy. “We both find it very important to live in a cozy house, one that offers warmth and that is a place where many people meet. We love to invite people for dinner and throw parties. It’s all about the atmosphere and ambiance.”
For all the visual and material richness of their home, for all the thoughtfulness the couple puts into acquiring pieces and fashioning pleasingly integrated interiors, they don’t think of their house as designed. “We just buy stuff that we like and then we start combining. It’s very spontaneous,’’ explains Iris. “We’re still adding things. It’s really a passion, hunting for treasures. We recently got a really cool open cupboard with a mirror backdrop. It’s owned by our friends, but they moved to a new apartment where it doesn’t fit now. So, we look after it. It took a bit of rearranging, but we like the energy that a new interior gives.”
In addition to flea-market finds and cast-offs, the couple’s space is home to some marquee pieces, including a chair by Maarten Van Severen – the Belgian designer who collaborated with Rem Koolhaas – and a lighting fixture by Florian Schulz. In the master bedroom, a lithograph by noted 20th-century abstractionist, Sonia Delaunay, shares wall space with works that never hung in a museum. As fine as these things are, the eye-filling magic of this much-loved home is spun, primarily, from a singular, unexpected coherence riding on a current of randomness. Its spirit radiates as much from a small shelf that Iris’ uncle made as a graduation work for his carpenters’ exam, as it does from the Derek Wilson ceramics on display. And that, to crib from the poet Robert Frost, makes all the difference.
Photography by Luc Roymans.
For more interiors utilizing fleamarket finds, be sure to check out the work of design studio Ridge House here.
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