Christel and I both belong to the Brussels Childbirth Trust (BCT), a non-profit organization that supports expat parents in Belgium. I am a regular contributor for their magazine and that’s how she found out about me.
With two children aged 6 and 8 at the time we met, Christel and her husband had considered selling the house they had been living in for eight years to buy a bigger one. But they loved their neighbourhood and all the ties they had there and so finally decided to stay and improve some aspects of their current house.
One of the main areas that needed improvement was the kitchen and living room. Their house is a typical Brussels town house with a front room, a middle room, and a large new annexed space at the back, opening up to a beautiful garden.
We worked on the middle room to organize the storage of books and the general “stuff” (bags, children backpacks, sport equipment, etc.), and we did a complete kitchen renovation to add storage, and to create a different flow and experience.
What was your starting point?
“Since we decided not to move to a bigger house, we considered investing into our current home instead. We had some storage issues, the kitchen and the shower were a bit old so with the idea that we will stay for some time, we started thinking on how to make the house more comfortable for the future ahead.”
What were you dreaming to achieve?
“A nicer environment with less things lying around, a better organisation of some of the bedrooms for the children to have a space to grow into. The kitchen especially has always been the heart of the house for us. It was already open but we wanted to be able to tailor it to our needs, making it more functional and more to our taste.”
What was the biggest challenge to achieving it?
“On our side, finding the time and energy to follow the project through, which at the end was divided in two phases. It was very much like moving but in our own house. We took advantage of that to declutter as much as possible, giving away and selling objects and furniture we didn’t need anymore.”
What’s your style?
“I am not sure we have a style as such. We like simple but effective design, nice materials, and little details that make furniture or a room unique. For the kitchen, we spent some time searching for the lights for example, which really enhances the character of the area. For the shower we had redone, we also paid a lot of attention to the quality of the equipment (both in terms of design and performance) and the tiles. We wanted something modern and again light: the house is not very big so making each room as light as possible is important to give the impression of space, as much as possible.”
What are you now most proud of?
“To have adjusted the house to the next phase of our life! Also to take the opportunity during that year it took, from the very first meeting to completion, to reflect on our lifestyle and include the children into the project. The organisation of the new furniture has also been thought of for them. They can set the table safely for example: all the cutlery, plates and glasses are accessible to them easily. Their toys, games, and sport equipment are all at their height and are located in a designated area. They know where to find and where to tidy their things. We are very pleased with the renovation itself and how beautiful it is but at the end, we are probably most proud of how it helped the children to become more independent.”
What’s your favourite spot?
“The new bar table in the middle of the kitchen. It is such a nice place to work and spread out all my papers! We cook, we have friends over, and we play board games. I think my husband will probably say the shower: it is bigger with the perfect water pressure, and it consumes less than before.”
Any “crazy decision” you now fully enjoy?
“Probably going for the kitchen brand we did. We had to imagine it through the 3D model and samples since there was no showroom to actually see how it will look like. It was also more expensive than we had considered originally but definitely worth the investment.”
Would you have done anything different?
“For the moment no. We are happy with everything we decided upon.”
What’s the best advice you received?
“A very practical one: to spend some time with all the samples to try different combinations and to get used to the idea. You will be living with your choice for years so it has to be right!”
What do others in the family say?
“The children found the new kitchen really nice, they liked the way their toys and games were stored, as well as, the big bar table with high chairs. They also enjoyed the reorganisation of their rooms quite a lot.”
What do friends say?
“They definitely appreciate the new kitchen space, which can be very social with the bar close to where we cook. Our in-laws love the new shower with no extra step.”
If you had to describe your new kitchen in a sentence?
“It is a warm and welcoming space, yet quite orderly.”
What advice would you give to someone who is in a similar situation?
“Each situation is quite different so perhaps the advice is to analyse your needs and limits to make sure the project fits your expectations at the end.
In term of tips, I found the Levis Visualizer application to search for colour quite useful and the kids certainly had fun with that!”
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