‘Why live in a silo if you don't respect the base form of a circle?’ asks Belgian interior architect Arjaan De Feyter, who embraced the challenge of designing an apartment located within eight old silos, converted by Axel Vervoordt Real Estate at the Kanaal development in Antwerp.
Fully acquainting himself with the unconventional shape, De Feyter started ‘casco’, or from scratch, with the industrial space – exposed concrete floors, concrete plaster walls and brick structure – occupying the third floor in the block across four of the silos.
‘It was directly clear to us that living in round spaces is not an ideal,’ De Feyter says. ‘The infinite character of the circle can give you a restless or confused feeling. That's why it was important to integrate the right visual pauses.’
The natural stone surfaces in the kitchen are a Titanium Travertin by Van den Weghe. Photography: Piet Albert Goethals
The original space was connected as a long corridor, but De Feyter re-circulated the space to create more of a domestic environment, redirecting the dweller into a more natural flow. With the aim of keeping interventions minimal, he added just two walls into the space. ‘We kept on puzzling, abstracting, and trying to find the right balance between functionality, space and concept. We just kept on questioning ourselves.’
De Feyter is familiar with the site where his office is located and has a long term relationship with the client – a couple with grown up children who had recently fled their family nest. When they visited him at the office, he showed them the property and three days later they had snapped it up – in celebration of their new freedom. Consequently, the design process became very personal and the clients accompanied De Feyter to craft workshops and studios in search of the right materials. ‘It's a process where we like to make our clients part of,’ says De Feyter: ‘Each material has a kind of memory now for them.’
Inspired by the site itself, and the Moroccan roots of the couple, De Feyter achieved a sense of industrial serenity through his bespoke design, by paying careful attention to texture, surface and material.
Sightlines are framed by wooden walls and warm charcoal grey-coloured linen, materials that continue throughout the apartment. Photography: Piet Albert Goethals
The walls are treated with a neutral mineral painting technique: ‘We've been searching a long time for the right 'brute' painting technique, which still felt cosy. This was made possible with the right craftsmanship – in this case, Texture Painting from Turnhout, Belgium.’ Similarly, the floor surfaces were installed by Texture Painting with a microtopping surface treatment, and De Feyter designed brass details in the floor seams.
The materials add warmth to the design; from the bespoke kitchen cupboards in a dark silvered ash, coloured by the ink of the gall wasp and polished manually, to the linen used on the bench textiles and curtains in the living room that acts as an acoustic softener and a subtle divider. ‘On first sight, the curtain might be nonchalant, but it's essential to our design. It brings – in a modest way – the circulation from the entrance to the day-zone, without being disturbing for the evening-zone. It creates privacy in the sitting area and the curtain obstructs the look-through to the two passages.’
Moving smoothly from the kitchen, to the living room, to the study, to the bedroom, materials repeat themselves in new manifestations, creating a visual continuum in sync with the circular shape of the silo.