This house was renovated by piecemeal interventions during the long time we have been living in it. It is a 4 bays wide terraced house with a porte cochère on the side, that used to lead to a courtyard, giving way to a workshop of approximately the same size as the house. Demolishing all annexes on the courtyard and removing redundant divisions in the house restored generous dimensions to the rooms, the house itself and the courtyard. Windows, moldings and the mantelpiece were preserved on the streetside, but not on the courtyard side. Subsequently, the workshop was demolished as well, leaving only a small segment that serves as a tool shed and braces the high party walls. In 2005, on the adjacent plot, our office was built. The last steps were the kitchen extension in 2018 and the consecutive garden layout in 2019. Water springing from a once obliterated well was collected in a tank, creating the conditions for a luxuriant garden.
These last steps made a clean break with the porte cochère type. A narrow extension on the full width of the house opens a terrace for the garden side rooms on the first floor. The living room with the mantelpiece and the dining room onto the garden were complemented with a third room: a kitchen that cuts and partially occupies the porte cochère. The dining room now extends beyond the rear façade to give way to the kitchen, where the depth of the extension increases, allowing for a long kitchen counter overlooking the garden. Views from the entrance into the garden are preserved. The side track continuing the porte cochère outside was erased: movement through the garden now runs in the middle.
With each step in the renovation, usable materials were set aside for later use. Interior doors and windows in many forms and sizes were allocated a new place. Bluestone sills were used as short span lintels, as support for a garden sink and, if broken, as stepping stones. Roof tiles were used as wall copings.
New windows are in steel, allowing for high sashes. As the garden party walls and the rear façade of the house are loadbearing and bare, we wanted the façade of the extension to have the same properties. It supports the concrete pavings of the first-floor terrace, spanning from the new onto the old façade. But since the extension has large openings, we chose concrete over brick. When fluid, the concrete gently adopts the slant of the party walls. Ceramics painted by Benoît Van Innis offer a backdrop for the cooker and elevate the yellow ceramic pavers, just like the marble mantelpiece ennobles the plain plank floor.
Ghent has a history of cultivating plants and flowers, exalting the botanic wealth of the world. Considering this, Jan Minne designed a garden where trees are characters, overlooking a polyphonic, unpredictable crowd of plants, gathering around two brick terraces. Creepers climb the walls. The colours confirm, and occasionally contradict the seasons.