Built in the Belgian countryside, this house by Stéphane Beel Architects features an attractive and extremely intelligent arrangement of different spaces within a traditional farmhouse context. Built into the rolling grassy hills of converted agricultural lands, the dwelling takes on an entirely different character from different angles. From above, two separate traditional stone-clad dwellings appear entirely in character with the style of the well-used farm the house is situated on. Down the hill, however, an entire long lower level is revealed featuring an airy, modern interior and open access to the lawn. The design of the house honors the history of the site from the side of entry, since a trip up its main drive reveals two distinct, antiquated buildings, with no sign of the modern house inside and underneath. Once you’ve ventured into the property however, the full amenities and advances of a contemporary home become available.
From downhill, the scope of the new home’s architecture seems to almost form a protective barrier in front of the older farm buildings which existed on the property prior to its construction. At this edge, the lower floor of the dwelling is visible, uniting its two second-story extensions into a single modern structure built into the hillside.
Approaching the farm buildings from the driveway on their more functional side, the design of the main house is manipulated intentionally so that the garage and dwelling appear as two separate, compact stone structures, allowing them to coexist with their agrarian surroundings while hiding contemporary amenities and space underneath.
Due to the unique arrangement of the home’s architecture to honor rural traditions, the building’s layout follows a long, narrow path across the property’s edge, with walls extending above the hill level at each end. These extremities of the dwelling host rooms that are partially submerged in the hill, while the landscape and driveway rise up above.
The first of the two top-floor sections of the house is actually a carport, with storage space hosted in the free structural space next to it. The aged stone and overall shape of the two upper wings of the house are meant to blend in with the centuries-old farm buildings surrounding them, while a glance at the level below shows undoubtedly current design themes.
Along the upper edge of the house, where the hillside flattens into a broad grassy plain, a few new trees have been planted to eventually grow and provide shade for a welcoming lawn. A path of roughly rectangular concrete slabs flows between these new features of the property and toward the house’s main entrance, at the other top-floor module.
A number of different modes of entry are available to those living in the house as well as those visiting. The carport is open on both sides to allow residents to traverse across the gap between the two upper buildings towards the main entrance, while a bridge from the lawn’s path leads indoors as well. On the other side of the dwelling, various rooms looking out over the hill have sliding entrances of their own.
To let light into the lower portion of the house at any time of day, there has to be a way for the sun’s rays to reach its rooms from the rear. To that end, a wide pit structure was dug next to the house at its hilltop edge, allowing for the installation of wide window banks without interrupting the traditional look of its upper level.
The window pit is finished in smooth stone tiles, with mirrored edges at each end to extend their visual length from indoors. It also includes a drainage hole at each side to avoid flooding and erosion of the lawn immediately next to it.
The residence’s main entry path on this side forms an elegant contemporary bridge over the cut in the landscape, adding a touch of new flair to its antique overall appearance on that level. Still, though, a visitor must be very close to the building to see that the pathway is elevated over anything, preserving the dwelling’s vintage appearance from afar.
Beyond the paths leading from the carport and the lawn, the actual door into the main house is rather minimal, with a small awning above it to shelter you from the rain giving the only indication that it’s even there from the side. One visible sign that the small house extends to a larger dwelling below is the low side window next to the bridge path, presumably set on a staircase inside.
At its far end, the two edges of the dwelling continue as they do at the opposite side, but this time there is no driveway rising from the hill to meet the edge of the upper level. Because of this, keen observers may note that the inner structure of the walls are not made from the same aged stone that covers the outsides of the house.
Inside the house’s lower level, many of the walls of interior rooms are made from glass and meant to be covered with curtains for privacy, allowing light to stream in fully from outdoors at every opportunity. To aid in this, a single hallway connects most of the interior at the rear, running next to the excavated area of the yard.
At the opposite edge of the house, many rooms both public and private feature wide doors and tall windows opening directly onto the spacious hillside. A number of stone decks and paths are situated off these rooms, allowing living space to be brought into the lawn.
Stéphane Beel Architects