Belgian Style

Recently, I had quite a response when I posted this image of a restaurant designed by Alex Van de Walle on the Wilson Kelsey Design Facebook page.

Restaurant Design by Alex Van de Walle

It first caught my eye because of the millwork design of the bar. The millwork junkie in me sat up and noticed.Then I took in the rest of the picture – floor, lighting, colors, textures and realized how inviting and intimate it felt. The space invited me in. I wanted to go there. Interestingly, Van de Walle has no website, so it took some time to find more images of the restaurant. It was well worth the search. The following is a “walking tour” of the restaurant’s interior.

Restaurant Design by Alex van de Walle

I can’t decide if the floor is tile/stone or painted concrete. Fabulous blend of antique and contemporary light fixtures. Love the exposed brick behind the shelves.

Restaurant Design by Alex van de Walle

View from the table above.

Restaurant Design by Alex van de Walle

Wainscot detail at a banquet. The attention to the littlest thing is phenomenal!

Restaurant Design by Alex van de Walle

The cabinet doors are SO discreet! Note the wainscot in the background.

Restaurant Design by Alex van de Walle

I decided this was in the basement.

Restaurant Design by Alex van de Walle

Stairs to the upper level to what appears to be a large function room.

Restaurant Design by Alex van de Walle

I am drawn to the mix of modern architectural forms and the whitewashed old structure. The overall effect is very contemporary. Even with the high ceilings, the lighting creates a sense of coziness.

Restaurant Design by Alex van de Walle

I  hope to visit in person some day in my travels.

Cheers,

John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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I’ve found another favorite – A Sense of Place Houses of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod. In the WKD library, it’s tucked right next to Axel Vervoordt’s Timeless Interiors. Both books speak the same language.

Mark Hutker, founder of Hutker Architects, has been practicing architecture on the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and environs for over 30 years. His second book, A Sense of Place Houses on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, showcases 13 homes from his large body of exceptional work. Mark is a Modernist whose work draws from the history and vernacular of Cape Cod architecture and it’s communities. In doing so, his work is a 20th/21st century extension/expression of the region. The book is a wonderfully written and visually rich narrative that illustrates how breath taking and beautiful modern residential architecture can be when it draws from a region’s historical vernacular, creating homes that are “beautiful, personal, authentic and unique to their sense of place.”

You could dive right in and look at the photographs of the 13 homes in the book and believe me, it is beautifully illustrated.  But to truly appreciate those 13 projects, you must read the introduction and the ensuing pages that precede the homes.

In the book’s introduction Mark discusses his philosophy and approach to design. He talks of Purpose as being more than his client’s aspirations of home. The home needs to have/contribute meaning to where it is built. He speaks of Collaboration as having three components – Narrative, Meaning and Pattern of Use. He poses several very simple and profound questions. “What is the specific family story we are trying to interpret, and how does that narrative come out in each of our homes? What is the meaning of that narrative to our clients? How will the house anticipate the needs of it’s residents?” Other key notions Mark refers to are Cultural Context, Stewardship, Beauty and Craft – taking you from the larger scale question of how does the surrounding community and/or nature influence one’s design decisions to the equally important expression the littlest detail thru using the right material and the right way.

Let’s take quick look at the residence on Grey Barn Farm, a working organic farm in Chilmark. I’m going to pull words and phrases from the book’s description of the home.

“A new building designed to appear as though it began life as a 19th century barn and was repurposed as a contemporary residence.”

“…language and strategies of adaptive reuse.”

“… a muli-layerd architectural composition…”

“…livability from the best of history and modernity.”

“…reaching back in time to regional values and giving these values a freshness and relevance that is appropriate to, and at home in, the present day.”

Now the images, remembering the words…

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth.

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

From a personal perspective, having grown up in farm country of upstate New York, I easily see the story being told of blending old and new in the architecture. I can appreciate the honest straight forward use and expression of materials. Maybe this is why I am so drawn to Belgian Style which also artfully dances with old and new and whose story is of drawing from and reinterpreting their history and architecture for today’s modern lifestyle.

Cheers,

John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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Our work pace has slowed sufficiently that I’ve taken a few hours each of the past two days to sort and organize images for an update to the Work in Progress section of our website. At one point the realization came to me, “So, this is why there’s been no time to blog these past 5 months!” The sorting and organizing should make it easier to write more blog posts as well.

I thought I’d start with a kitchen/bath and “Oh by the way, I’ve never liked the way the fireplace and closet doors by the fireplace looked.” project that is just ramping up in Charlestown. The kitchen and bathrooms are relatively simple, while the fireplace/closet door problem is more challenging. (And more fun…) Right now, the fireplace elevation looks like two doors in a wall with the fireplace in-between. Overall, the room lacks focus and has no organizing/interesting architectural detail to speak of. The client’s taste leans toward Late 1700’s French Neoclassical and English Georgian (with a little New England sea captain thrown in for good measure…). “Casual elegance” were the descriptive adjectives written in their programming form.

The obvious solution is to build a mantel surround that ties together and conceals the two doors, thus bringing coherence to the elevation and creating a focal point for the room.

With that in mind, I began to cast about for ideas and inspiration. One source I always turn to when paneling is involved is the work of my Belgian friend Greet Lefevre and Lefeve Interiors. What I’m seeing here is how the paneling frames and bridges over the mantel as well as the finish, which is saying casual elegance to me.

Lefevre Interiors, living room paneling details

Here, Greet steps the formality down even further.

Lefevre Interiors, mantel surround paneling

We can’t forget the Georgian, New England sea captain. What a contrast in styles!!! This is an example of the work of American architect Phillip Trammell Shutze.  I can see a connection is aspects of the paneling between this and the image above.

Swan House, Phillip Trammell Shutze

Winterthur never disappoints. Typical of many early colonial homes, one wall would receive paneling while the rest of the walls in the room would be plaster. Both this image and the Swan House image give clues as to proportion and detail when dealing with a lower ceiling height. (My favorite reference book on Winterthur is Winterthur Style Source Book, Traditional American Rooms, by Brent Hull and Christine Franck.)

accent paneled wall, Winterthur

While not necessarily using specific details from any of these images, I created the first of two “cartoons”. The doors by the existing stone fireplace are concealed as full height “wall panels”set within flat stock door jambs. the existing stone mantel is deep enough that I can pad the wall around and above it such that this paneling sit slightly in front of the plane of the door jambs. The full height doors and the long shadow lines created by the trimmed fireplace give vertical lift to the room and create a focal point for the room.

French Neoclassical fireplace surround A, Wilson Kelsey Design

Adjacent to the surround is the kitchen, which will be opened up so it is visually connected to the living/dining room. I have designed the living/dining side of the counter to feel/look like a kitchen island to which one can pull up chairs.

Cartoon 2 illustrates my premise that sometimes you need to draw an idea simply to prove to yourself that it isn’t as good an idea or is an inappropriate solution. The idea was to study the effect of further panelizing the doors and to see what would happen if the counter were to be de-emphasized. Too busy and too weak…

French influence fireplace surround B, Wilson Kelsey Design

The contractor LOVES cartoon 1. The client feels #1 is the best choice, too, but is concerned that it may be too formal. My feeling is with the proper trim profiles (simple and not fussy) and the right paint color (a warm griege with a glaze) the room will snap together fulfilling the goal of casual elegance.

What say you?

Cheers,

John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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