When Alexander and Sarah were looking for a centrally located house in Sint-Niklaas with a sun-oriented garden for their two toddlers, this property caught their eye. The old house consisted of, as befits old Flemish building tradition, a main house and a series of annexes placed one behind the other, with an eclectic interior.
Because the renovation budget was not unlimited and should always stand in proportion to the value of the house itself, we in deliberation with Alexander and Sara consciously chose to maximize the qualities of the existing home and limit new interventions up to a minimum.
When designing a renovation project like this, usually our first move is a thorough clean-up exercise and this house was no exception: the volume was reduced to just the main building. In the remaining part, all techniques, which were very outdated, were renewed to offer sufficient comfort.
The new extension uses the existing foundation of the demolished part. The facing bricks were recuperated. The budget was mainly used to turn the ground floor into an open, light and inviting space, whereas the floors above were renovated with minimal resources. Facade works were limited to placing double glazing within the existing wooden joinery.
The major challenge when renovating a terraced house is always the search for spaciousness and light. To achieve this, several strategies were applied:
Immediately upon entering the house you get a perspective throughout the house to the garden behind. This perspective is also the main circulation axis. The space to the left of this axis is set up with storage space (cloak cupboards in the hall, a utility room and kitchen cabinets) and the staircase, the lower steps of which have been adapted so that they don't start transversely, but parallel to the perspective.
By introducing different floor levels, we created different spaces along this axis without placing walls or adding doors. This allows the resident to experience the same open, light, transparent space everywhere on the ground floor but to feel more secure in the highest sitting area, where the floor level now connects to the window sill of the window in the front facade. The dining table doesn't stand lost in a big open space but is the center of the lower situated dining room and the kitchen forms the connection between dining area, patio and garden. Playing with different floor levels has not only added spatial quality but also gave us the opportunity to heat the ground floor with underfloor heating, placed on top of the existing floor, which saved considerably in the demolition works.
We thoroughly exploited the inside-outside relationship. The floor level of the kitchen continues into the garden and under the canopy. The patio, bordered by the canopy, a large fixed window along the kitchen side and a fully opening bi-fold window between the outdoor area and the dining area, guarantees a maximum of transparency and light and at the same time ensures that the terrace space is part of the interior, not only in terms of spatial experience, but also literally in summer when two or three tables are joined from inside to outside to receive a large group of friends. The double blind door provides access to the outside space under the canopy which provides the necessary shelter in rainy weather, creates shade in strong sun and has a swing (!).
The first floor was furnished for the children, the main rooms were retained and a new bathroom and a laundry room were provided. The existing attic floor was renovated, insulated and furnished for the parents with a bedroom-annex-dressing room and a bathroom. A couple of well-aimed roof windows provide the bathroom and bedroom with the necessary light and views.
As an office, we strive to achieve interior architecture and architecture as a whole in our design. Budget-friendly solutions such as saving on false ceilings and keeping the steelwork and wood supporting structures visible, demand a stronger coordination from the outset architecture on interior architecture and vice versa.
We believe that based on the above interventions of a decrepit and depreciated dark house, we have once again made a valuable, spacious and bright home for Alexander, Sara and the children. The enthusiasm of the 4 residents to take over the different spaces and to make them into their own only strengthens our suspicion.