While Belgian design is certainly a favourite here at est, interior architect Willem Benoit caught our eye for his sophisticated yet emotive interiors – all done with a signature minimalist touch, of course. In a recent apartment all his skills are displayed, weaving together subtle material details and a refined monochrome palette. We spoke to Benoit to get more context around his design approach and how it inspired the various elements in this Belgian apartment.

DESIGN Willem Benoit

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Though some of us might be intimidated when designing for clients who are design-savvy themselves, Benoit saw it as an opportunity for collaboration.  “The clients for this project are knowledgeable about interior design, but they needed some help with the total concept” he says. “Their brief was very clear – they wanted warmth overlaying a modern and timeless design. I was able to help find the perfect balance between a lot of different ideas and assist in planning the building process.”

Faced with an existing building that was quite rural in its style, Benoit decided to embrace this rustic ambience externally while introducing a modern look inside. In keeping to a minimal palette and with reduced furnishings and objects, he has indeed modernised without losing the character of the building. Dark colours play out in the hallway, kitchen and bedrooms to add an instant contemporary mood, while the upstairs hallway is pared-back with a black glass handrail, its transparent form adding a special accent to the space.

In fact the hallway is one of the standout spaces in Benoit’s opinion. “Three of project’s key features can be found in the home’s hallway; an eye-catching niche is lit by two small super modular lights and provides this recess with further decorative possibility, the steel door entering into the living room gives another rural accent to the space, and welcomes the external architecture into the interior design, and the black wall which sits behind the renovated staircase is another highlight and provides consistency overall to the entry concept.”

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The kitchen was actually constructed by the client, Bossuyt Grootkeukens, a Belgian design business specialising in professional kitchens.  Having built kitchens for some of Belgium’s most renowned chefs, they constructed a custom island bench for the apartment’s kitchen in a combination of Inox and Corian stone. The black back wall is a veneer lacquered in black varnish and then scrubbed – when viewed in combination with the Calacatta natural stone, it is both sophisticated backdrop and an eye-catching detail among the refined interior aesthetic.

Towards the rear of the dining room, Benoit created a black steel and glass separation to create an entrance space. The finesse of its construction gives protection from the elements, allowing one to to enter the room without bringing in the cold or heat from outside – a clever addition for those frosty winter temperatures. But Benoit’s favourite feature is the combination of black and white colours that play out in different materials. Says Benoit; “It links the steel, wood, natural stone and the paint colours. Black and white can sometimes feel tough or reserved but here they create a nice, warm atmosphere.” We can’t help but agree – a monochrome palette juxtaposed with warm timber and natural light is always a good idea in our books.

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Benoit has collaborated with his clients – designers themselves – to achieve a modern, stylish home with a warm welcome and rustic vigour.

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