I’ve been a little vague on what exact work we need to do on the house until now, which is a little silly for a renovation blog… I did make a small list on the first post but I’ve just been so caught up in the concept and planning stage, it took a while for it to become a concrete project (pun intended, woka woka!!) that I could develop on what needed to be done.
The house is laid out in a pretty standard 1920s-30s Brussels style – there’s the one long room called “trois pieces en filade” (lit. three rooms in a row) and smaller rooms off that main room. This was practical in the 1930s when the family would spend all their time together in one room and the servants would work in the small side rooms, preparing food, etc. It’s not so useful today when the whole family uses all rooms and we don’t have servants to prepare our dinner out sight of our sensibilities! Our challenge is to reimagine the space for a modern family, without losing the beauty of the original features.
To that end, the following is the work we have to do in no chronological order.
- Divide the long main room in two parts, to create a second bedroom, which will be the master bedroom. We have to do this without completely destroying the light in the room and without losing the openness created by the high ceiling. We had thought about building a library wall and inserting windows into it but that would involve a lot of manhours that are outside our budget. We came across a magic solution after the first day with the team – one of the interior doors that is no longer necessary in it’s current position can be moved to the library and we build around it. Winner! We maintain the symmetry with the double doors in the main room, and keep the light flowing through, while providing privacy for the master bed. The doors with surrounding library will be built inside the arch if you’re looking at that huge bay window you can see in the photo below. The space between the library wall and the arch will be a cosy small sitting room. The gorgeous chimney will be in our master bed. We’re still wondering how to use it in the room but no doubt my highly creative Belgian will come up with something.
2. Redesign the three smaller side rooms which currently form a tiny kitchen, an even tinier bathroom and a large, dark back bedroom with no opening to the outside, only one interior window to the bathroom – that last one is weird. We decided to split the large back bedroom and form an interior larger bathroom, and knock through the wall under that interior window to the existing bathroom to create one long kids bedroom, which will have a window to the outside. (This is hard to explain without looking at the plans but it does make sense. As I said previously, I’m not very fond about putting the plans on the internet, of which all burglars in Brussels could take advantage!) We will knock a door through from the main room to the bathroom – at the moment it opens into the kitchen which is a little weird and creates the issue of no full wall in the kitchen.
3. The tiny kitchen will remain a tiny kitchen but, as mentioned above, we’ll seal a wall with an unnecessary interior door (the door is one with the stained glass images and will move to the library wall) to create one full wall at least. At the moment it doesn’t have even one full wall – impossible for shelving or large pieces of furniture. The kitchen then needs to be updated. We have to put in a hob and hood, oven and storage. We’d like to put up beautiful new tiles, but that will have to wait until we have refilled our savings pot…
4. Redo all of the electrical and heating systems in the house. Both haven’t been updated since the 1970s, which is not up to modern health and safety standards. This includes all plugs, light switches, ceiling lights and connected appliances. At the same time we need to redo the heating. When we bought it there was one heater for the whole building. We need to divide it to one boiler that will serve only our apartment and connect all of the radiators and hot taps to the boiler. These two are pretty big items. They’re highly technical and we’re very grateful to have the advice of a friend of my father-in-law to help us with this.
5. There’s also garden work to be done to prepare the space before we move. As I mentioned before, at the moment there is one giant garden which is to be divided between the two apartments that have access to the garden. We get the further part of the garden (the sunnier part!!!) which means we have to build a pathway down the side of the garden where there are currently a lot of trees and bushes. We will have to put in a dividing fence between our section and the neighbour’s section.
Those are the main points of the renovation. It’s hard work for professional renovators, exceptionally hard for us amateurs. But I’m ready for it!!