creative chit-chat

Nicolas Schuybroek


We must give him credit, architect Nicolas Schuybroek knows how to build tension “Let’s meet in a couple of months. Currently I’m quite caught up in the renovation of my own home.” We were very anxious to see the results and patience gets rewarded! No new-build home for Nicolas. Instead he decided to renovate an old butcher shop into an office space and compact home for him and his family. We meet for coffee near the Ixelles Ponds. “We moved in one month ago and the house already shows signs of wear and tear. That’s what happens when you have small children running around.”


Your architectural projects are characterized by clean and pure lines and the style is very contemporary. Your home is more classical and therefore shows quite a different atmosphere. 

My home doesn’t set example for what I do as an architect. It’s intimate and perhaps that’s the reason why I don’t like showing it. I consider my home and my projects as two separate worlds and my home is a compromise between my personal and my wife’s taste. I’m more into clean lines and tactility and I spend a lot of attention on textures and materials, which you won’t necessarily find here.


Did you do a lot of renovation work to adapt the house to your standards?

It was a slum dwelling and with a minimal budget we’ve been able to renovate it from the ground floor all the way up. We’re standing in my office, which used to be a well-known gastronomic restaurant and back in the forties this space housed a butcher shop. The beautiful tiles on the wall remind us of that period. First, I was thinking of removing them because they aren’t in good condition. But now I’m glad I didn’t. The same goes for other decorative elements in the house, such as the fireplace, the moldings, the wooden doors and floors and the staircase. We really wanted to preserve the volumes and charm of the building, although its charm is largely defined by the collection of furniture.


We are surrounded by an impressive furniture collection, there’s a small fortune standing here. 

I’m a big fan of twentieth century furniture design and I’ve collected a few pieces by Serge Mouille, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret, Jean Prouvé and Pierre Paulin. The Anthony chair by Jean Prouvé is quite rare. The same applies to the Eames chair in the bedroom that I unfortunately broke this morning (Laughs.) I bought these beauties because I love them and I have no intention of selling them, although I might trade them as I did in the past.


As you mentioned earlier on, some pieces are not easy to find and they are quite expensive. And, yet you see them everywhere. Has twentieth century design been hyped? 

Certain French gallerists were smart enough to link furniture design to contemporary art. Furniture pieces from French designers from the Fifties were collected and traded as art. The recent expo on Calder and Prouvé at Gagosian Gallery in Paris is a really good example. But now we’re facing the problem that a collection becomes valuable when it contains a certain piece. In other words: everybody is looking for the same pieces of furniture. This way you create scarcity, but also a hype. I was fortunate enough to have bought a few pieces at a reasonable price before the hype begun.  But the real reason why I am so fascinated by these pieces of furniture is the way they are constructed and assembled. The technique, the texture, the wood and the architectural approach is extremely intriguing.


Do you get approached by clients to go and collect beautiful furniture?

Usually my clients already have a small furniture collection and when certain objects are still missing, I work as an intermediary. It’s funny because one day I’m with my boots in the mud on a construction site and the next day I’m organizing the smallest details, like looking for a specific piece of furniture. The variation in my job is very interesting.


You were named as one of the 100 best interior designers by the French magazine Architectural Digest in the 2013 Collector Issue. Do you consider yourself being an interior architect or architect?

That nomination was a complete surprise and a big honor. The magazine enlisted interior architects, but also architects who create projects from A to Z. Before setting up my own practice, I worked for the Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen. Designing a tower was as important to him as working out a door handle. The strength of an architect lies in the fact that he can deliver everything, from construction to interior. 

Total concepts and an eye for detail. Is this a combination you learnt at your former employer? 

Vincent (Van Duysen) has an eye for detail and the importance of texture, tactility, the right proportions, the right illumination angle, is something I learnt from him. After studying architecture for five years and a two-year internship, you would think you know your way around as an architect. But your personality gets shaped when working for someone else. I owe Vincent for getting me where I am today.


There’s even a piece of Vincent in your kitchen. The Pottery series he made for When Object Work are up on the kitchen counter. Is this a setup or do you really use them? 

I always use them. They’re pretty useful. I’m not sure if Vincent was aware of the strength of his drawings when he made them because his pots are a huge hit. I also really like the concept behind When Objects Work: to ask top architects to design everyday objects. Brilliant, isn’t it?


Now that we’re talking about hits and trends, which interior trend is popular at the moment?

I guess it’s because of the influence of Pinterest and Tumblr, but the trend I see emerging everywhere is the industrial look in a non-industrial space. It’s a masculine atmosphere and industrial materials such as concrete, tiles, bricks and black steel profiles are used. The industrial look is not ideal and it looks quite strange when industrial elements are merely used in a decorative way. People are obsessed with images and it’s dangerous when people fall in love with an image because it’s quite opposite to what that client really wants and it doesn’t fit within the context of the building. As an architect it is my responsibility to say: this look isn’t working. I love inspirational websites, but I’m also quite sceptical. The opposite, a client giving you carte blanche. Well, that doesn’t exist. André Gide once said: l'art naît de contraintes, vit de luttes et meurt de liberté. (Art is born because of restrictions, lives because of fights and dies because of freedom.) I’m not saying I need a lot of constraints, but they do teach you how to be creative. Architecture is all about creativity, right?

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and must not be reproduced without our express prior written permission.

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About Coffeeklatch

Coffeeklatch stands for ‘Slow journalism using a fast medium.’ Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen created the blog as a creative chitchat featuring creative entrepreneurs in their homes over coffee, including interesting people telling intriguing stories. It celebrates storytelling and creativity in all its forms, from fashion design to architecture. Read More


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and must not be reproduced without our express prior written permission.

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