“Mid century, transparency and tranquillity” are the three words Belgian architect Bart America uses to describe his recently renovated abode. As part of our Where Architects Live series, Bart invites est to explore how his home captures his signature details and respect for what came before.
A name like Bart America is memorable. Backed up by a quietly cultivated approach to residential design, the Belgian architect has carved out a reputation that sees him working on projects across Belgium, Germany, and the US.
Bart has just put the finishing touches on his own home, located in Belgium’s Bolderberg, close to the Dutch and German border. A 1970s bungalow, with all of the expected hallmarks – larger communal areas and smaller ‘service areas’ – Bart has instilled his personal aesthetic to restore the original architecture and refurbish the interiors.
Sharing his home with partner Arnold-Juergen, Pomeranian Pia and Hungarian Vizsla Raio, Bart takes us through where he likes to retreat to and what key features say the most about how he lives today.
When it came to renovating his own home, Bart followed the belief of deriving sophistication from simplicity. Shedding light on the original architectural details, the designer’s contemporary brushstrokes consider their functional and aesthetic presence, future-proofing the home while paying homage to its history.
Materials are at the heart of the calm and timeless atmosphere Bart wanted to create, in a place not just to live but work. He describes his approach to design as a “never-ending quest for the essence and beauty of materials and their correct use” – putting weight in the materials chosen for his own home. A classic palette of natural stone with bold gold and grey veining, warm wood veneer and lime plaster reflect this passion, and equally, call on the home’s “modern Midcentury ‘vibe’”; materials Bart assures are to stand “the (design) test of time”.
“The trees, green and lake just behind the house make for very tranquil surroundings which you immediately pick up. The home’s transparency brings all of that inside, which has an instantly calming effect.”
– Architect Bart America
Bart loves to spend time in the living room, which, typical of the seventies-era, is a large space with views on all sides. “You can follow the sun throughout the whole day, and the light constantly changes, which has a very entertaining and calming effect,” he says. But when Bart needs to retreat, he says his bedroom and ensuite offer an even greater connection to nature. “Since the house is one-floor level and both also open up into the garden, we can sleep, bathe and relax with the French doors open, connecting with the garden,” he says.
Bart says the outdoor area is also one of his favourite places to be. He says they often find themselves gathering around the outdoor fireplace, even on chillier evenings. “It’s directly connected to the kitchen area, which sometimes leads to (not always successful) cooking experiments – often to the entertainment of guests.” The pool was also designed as more of an element of the garden Bart explains than a pool. “By using black colours for the inside of the pool, daylight and the green of the garden reflect naturally and not a more ‘Hockney-esk’ way which would be too dominant for our liking,” he says. “The pool blends in nicely with its surroundings while connecting with the home’s architecture.”
The home has also become a place for Bart to feature the work of his good friend, Belgian product designer Michael Verheyden. Above the dining room table, the light fixture is a key piece designed by Michael, inspired by 1970s office lighting and made from solid brass. The lighting piece was a personal collaboration, a tribute to Bart’s late mother, Georgette, who passed away unexpectedly before the house was complete.
Bart describes the feeling of being in his home as “serene and cosy”, which he attributes to it being open to the elements and flooded with light. “The trees, green and lake just behind the house make for very tranquil surroundings which you immediately pick up,” he says. “The home’s transparency brings all of that inside, which has an instantly calming effect.”