Jenny Meirens may have passed away last year at the age of 73, but her legacy lives on in the company that she founded in 1988: the edgy Maison Margiela (then named Maison Martin Margiela). Her memory and personality, however, live on in her isolated house in Pajottenland, a charming green suburb of Brussels that is also known as the “Tuscany of
Firmly attached to her Flemish roots, Meirens found refuge in the rural countryside within Belgium’s Flemish Brabant province. This house, found in the middle of wide-reaching fields, evokes a wild and rustic romance in its isolation and architecture.
Meirens’ tastes were eclectic and wide-ranging: she had a real passion for Italy, where she previously lived; she loved the large, pointed thatched roofs of traditional farms in Japan, and the typical dwellings that one can find in Retranchement, located between Knokke-le-Zoute and the Dutch border.
This house, designed and built in 2013 by architect Luc Maes, took inspiration from the architecture of Retranchement, intimately linking the structure to the surrounding natural environment. The natural materials, stark and simple lines, as well as the large swathes of floor-to-ceiling windows, allow those inside the house to feel intimately connected to the outdoors, to the fields and the wide stretch of sky.
This omnipresence of glass – in everything from the panes serving as a handrail to the basement staircase or the sliding door in the entrance hall – allows maximum transparency within the living space. This naturally leads the eye to the garden, landscaped in the romantic style by Vincent de Roder, at once wild, reined in and minimalistic.
One particularly ingenious aspect of the architecture lies in the seamless and stunning way two twin houses are connected, via an upstairs walkway that serves as a connecting bridge and private terrace.
The first thing that you notice when you step into the house is the sheer size and airiness of the space, despite the dark woods and stone that feature throughout the interior.
Frank Pay, Meirens’ son and owner of the vintage furniture store Showroom 144 in Brussels, not to mention the interior designer of the home, chose to blend contemporary minimalism with the patina of time. “My work is timeless, universal, purist, functional and focused on feng shui principles,” he explains. “I like serving architecture, light, sound, body and human spirit. ‘Bling bling’ and ego are not part of my vocabulary.”
This is certainly clear through both Luc Maes’ architectural work and Pay’s interior design, which work seamlessly throughout the building.
Mixing Brutalist and rural styles, the wooden frame of the upper and ground floor is set on a concrete base that houses a garage, cellars, a summer lounge, games room and a studio that opens onto a pool that is filtered naturally by
The expansive larch cladding is painted black with the facade of this ecological and passive construction embracing the four cardinal points. The windows of the rooms have a classic dimension to them to preserve the feeling of warmth and homeyness. These windows, which are oriented due south, have glorious, uninterrupted views of agricultural and peaceful landscapes. Curtains that would block the visibility of this extraordinary panorama have rightfully been excluded; only translucent yellow sunscreen blinds have been installed, lending a nostalgic sepia air to the scenery when drawn.
The custom-designed kitchen embellished with state-of-the-art equipment features Ardennes slate worktops and reclaimed wood that comes from old freight-train cars; it now covers the furniture and walls of the pantry. This is same for the floors, although here it’s sanded and bleached.
Like the creative, influential and pioneering personality of the internationally renowned owner, this home is strong, aesthetic and poetic, a fitting tribute to the woman who created such moving and influential fashion collections during her lifetime, who lived here until her passing.
As Pay says of his late mother’s home, “There are not two houses of this kind in the world and there will never be.”