A 16th-century estate in Bruges, Belgium, is recast as an eloquent family home, offering a new narrative through exquisite finishes and bespoke artistry.

Taking on the renovation of a 16th-century estate requires a fearless spirit. This grand dame in Bruges has received a second life, thanks to the tenacious architectural vision of Simon de Burbure Architects and their dedication to an intensive, four-year design journey that honoured age-old traditional craftsmanship at every step of the way.

The reframing of this 16th-century estate originally started with a scope for a renovation but evolved quickly into a partial reconstruction involving two side-wing extensions. “Before the current owner, the property had been occupied for the last 20 years by an elderly lady who didn’t use most of the rooms. Our team was incredibly fortunate to be able to dissect this monument to the very bone and transform it into a city palace,” Simon de Burbure says.

Last touched in 1880 with decorative updates befitting the era, Simon and his team worked tirelessly to streamline and open spaces, blending old with new, while staying true to the architectural imprint of the original property. “Immaculate architecture combined with the highest level of finishing using high-quality materials and craftsmanship formed the common thread within this project,” Simon says.

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Gommaire May Coffee Table

Gommaire Carol Teak Lounge Chair

The archways and reductive interior scheme offer a modern character to the spa area while maintaining a luxurious feel. The dark brown beamed ceiling and monolithic-like columns offer an Italian bathhouse feel. Pictured is the Gommaire May coffee table and Carol teak lounge chair.

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The terrazzo tile conservatory floor mirrors the same technique used when originally laid, using Rouge Royal, Noir De Golzinne and Italian Carrara natural stones.

The ground floor comprises a vast entrance hall, bathrooms, two living rooms, a kitchen, conservatory, spa and fitness area with a swimming pool, garage and staircase up to the first floor where a primary suite, bathroom, dressing room, two guest bedrooms with bathrooms, and a massage room are all housed. The former attic space has been converted into a bar and billiard room, while the basement occupies an intimate wine cellar.

A dual design approach included the restoration of the original, central parts of the home, such as the vast entrance hall, kitchen, living rooms, bedrooms and office spaces alongside the new extensions. “There were many existing elements we had to consider, such as the high ceilings with existing panelling, original floors and 12 fireplaces – which also had to be individually preserved,” Simon says. “To create unity, I felt it was important to draw inspiration from the home’s classical past to shape the new additions.”

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The study illustrates the property’s original architectural heritage. The timber panelling, including four paintings on canvases in the study space, was moved to a studio outside the centre of Bruges, where professional artists restored it to its former glory.

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The impressive original 16th-century entrance hall is 20 metres deep and six metres wide, which is almost unthinkable within a new construction in today’s architectural landscape.

The orangery is a perfect example of the intensive care and consideration taken by the restoration team. “The floor of the 1887 conservatory was originally a combination of terrazzo and mosaic. When we recovered the property five years ago, the floor had risen 30 centimetres due to roots underground,” Simon says. “There were drawings in the mosaic that could be partially preserved by complete removal and restoration, while parts of the terrazzo floor were reinstalled using the same technique from 1887 using stone such as Rouge Royal, Noir De Golzinne and Carrara.”

While the central section of the estate was given an overhaul, two new buildings now flank either side making room for a fitness room, an 18-metre indoor swimming pool carved entirely of Pietra Di Medici stone, a spa area and garage. “You can see through the old study all the way to the kitchen in the new part and even further into the garden, creating transparency and overview,” Simon says. “The client’s brief included a relationship between nature, light and views of the garden.

By restricting the colour palette for each space, Simon and his team have cultivated a refined atmosphere of ‘tonal poetry’. “The ultimate goal was minimalism and refinement in terms of details and maximalism in terms of a luxurious look and rich materialisation,” Simon adds.

Simon de Burbure Architects have added a modern mark to this historic residence, restoring its beauty and charm for a second coming.

This featured originally appeared in est magazine issue 50: Celebrating 50.

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The 3,500-square-metres enclosed garden features several terraces, open and covered, rebuilt ancient brick walls, and towering old trees alongside newly planted flowers, bushes and trees.

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Maxalto Febo Armchair

Maxalto Febo Ottoman

AERIN Iva Large Wrapped Sconce

GUBI Stay Lounge Chair

AERIN Pierrepont Medium Table Lamp

The upstairs bathrooms articulate Simon’s approach to restricting the colour palette to cultivate a refined atmosphere of ‘tonal poetry’. Pictured is the Maxalto Febo armchair and ottomon, AERIN Iva large wrapped sconce, GUBI Stay lounge chair, and AERIN Pierrepont medium table lamp.

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