Soon after Alix and Bruno Verney moved with their two young sons to Brussels from Paris in 2008, the couple bought a plot of land in the leafy, well-to-do suburb of Uccle. But instead of doing the predictable thing-hiring the same prominent architectural firm that most of their neighbors advised them to call-they enlisted the help of ambitious young Belgian architect . "Every house here has the same light-wood floors, the same kitchens, even the same door handles," says Alix, who formerly worked in public relations for companies such as Gucci and Saint Laurent and is now expecting their third child. "We are not afraid to be different," Bruno, an entrepreneur, adds with a smile.
The Rear façade of Alix and Bruno Verney's concrete-and-glass house outside Brussels, which was designed by architect Frédéric Haesevoets.
Even from the outside, the Verney house stands out like a woman wearing edgy Alexander Wang among a flock of matrons in classic twin sets. The front façade is the meeting of two Tetris-like rectangular blocks; one is made of a light-gray treated concrete and the other is an enormous mosaic of darker-gray stone tiles. With its lack of windows or formal entrance, the house looks like an abstract contemporary fortress.
The Verneys with their sons, Gonzague, left, and Stanislas, in the entrance hall.
But don't judge this particular house by its cover. Though there are very few windows at the front, the first thing one notices on entering the narrow, two-story space is the abundant natural light. That's because the rear façade is filled almost entirely by a wall of windows that look out onto a hedge-lined garden with an expansive lawn, which was designed by noted Belgian landscape architect
In the living room, the chairs are by Eileen Gray, left, and Mies van der Rohe, and the sofa is a 1960s design by Jules Wabbes; the painting above the sofa is by Daniel Lergon, and the artwork at left is by Gregor Hildebrandt. The cocktail table is by , the iron side table is by , the rug is by , and the floors are resin.
That sculpture holds pride of place in this open space-a long, rectangular room with a polished resin floor and a 13-foot-long white island by Bulthaup-that dominates the ground floor. "This is the room we are in from morning to night," says Alix. "From the beginning we knew the kitchen would be the center of the house." A glass wall between the kitchen and the family room serves double duty, letting in light and creating a seamlessness between the two spaces.
The kitchen island is by , the vent hood is by , the stools are by , and the hanging light fixtures are by
The many transparent surfaces effectively allow the eye to circulate from one room to the next. From the family room, for example, one can peek into the formal living room through the sleek two-sided glass fireplace that separates them. The living room exemplifies Alix's eclectic style: Chairs by Eileen Gray and Mies van der Rohe surround an India Mahdavi table; a vintage sofa is by Belgian designer Jules Wabbes; an Italian lamp is from the 1960s; and the whimsical side table with legs of metal branches was designed by family friends Jorge Almada and Anne-Marie Midy, founders of the company Casamidy, based in Belgium and Mexico.
Tulip chairs surround a table by in the dining room. The painting is by Anselm Reyle, and the mirror is custom made.
The entrance hall features a steel wall, a staircase of steel and kambala wood, and a resin floor inlaid with glass; The console table is Delcourt, and the photograph on Plexiglas is by Hans Opde Beeck.
As she does in the fashion she wears, Alix swings easily from European vintage to high-style contemporary, often adding organic shapes to soften the modernist hard edges. "I love to mix and match," she says. "Some new pieces, some vintage pieces, a surprising object that one doesn't see so much." In the living room, that unpredictable object is a purple metallic three-dimensional Aldo Chaparro sculpture that hangs purposefully off-center above the fireplace, so that it appears it might take flight at any moment; the classics include a Marcel Breuer leather-and-chrome chair in the family room and Saarinen stools and Tulip chairs in the dining room.
An armchair by the and Eero Saarinen stools in a corner of the dining room.
The latter is a semi-secluded space on the ground floor. An intimate square room, with an oval Christophe Delcourt table at its center, the dining room can be closed off from the kitchen and entry hall with sliding doors. Two stunning artworks face each other: a very modern, three-dimensional goth-style piece by Dieter Detzner, made of black reflective acrylic glass, and an Anselm Reyle painting of clashing colored and metallic foil stripes. "We love to entertain," says Alix. "We have dinner parties at least two or three times a month."
A collage by Josh Smith and an artwork by Lionel Estève in the upstairs hall; the back wall is painted in Yves Klein blue.
The fittings in the master bath are by .
In the boys' bedroom, the linens are by , and the bedside units are by .
Although the second floor is more of a private space filled with minimalist bedrooms, spacious baths with glass-enclosed showers, and a corner office that the couple shares, even here there are several jewel-like details, such as the exposed metal beam under the sky roof, an Yves Klein--blue wall at the top of the stairs, and retro-patterned David Hicks carpet in the walk-in closet. All of these illustrate Alix's fascination with "dressing up" surfaces with original details.
The bed in the master bedroom is dressed with a cashmere throw, the side table is by India Mahdavi, and the artwork is by Gregor Hildebrandt; the vintage Eero Saarinen cocktail table was a flea-market find, and the George Nelson sofa was bought at auction.
That might also explain her obsession with accessories. "I probably have about 400 bags and 400 pairs of shoes," she says sheepishly. Many of her accessories are kept in a custom-made, chest-high ebony box filled with drawers that stands like an enormous jewelry box in the center of the room.
"Happy wife, happy life," Bruno says with a smile.
The table in the office is by , and the chair is by Mario Bellini.