The interior by Belgian designer Jo Hoeven and his companion Esther Noben reads like a book. The story of a family where every generation has its own chapter. A narrative – which here at The Socialite Family we love following – where each object plays its part, drawing on graphic lines and the intertwined chapters of its previous and current occupants. In this building in the centre of Bruges, with its typical nineteenth-century Flemish architectural details, the co-founder of the creative studio LoHo is shaking up the ambience established by his parents, the former owners. Destined to be a boarding house when they moved in, this family home has now become a showroom where art is freely expressed under the impetus of Jo and Esther, who are now in charge. A home where the mind wanders when considering its use. Is it a gallery or just an unusual home? “Why choose when you can have fun blurring the lines?” At least that’s what the decor suggests. The couple even went so far as to create a bed & breakfast project called KOOJ within these walls. Jo’s design pieces are on display in all the rooms, from the most vintage to the most contemporary. From Memphis creations, to Carine Boxy’s textile creations and Michel Martens’ plastic works alongside his own prototypes featuring organic silhouettes. A place where clay takes centre stage, like the masterly bathtubs and minimalist washbasins in the house’s two bathrooms. A creative signature with raw charm that presents objects as both natural and sophisticated, and a theme that will also be omnipresent in Jo’s new Bruges project. A guest house 2.0 called Jonojé.
The building was constructed at the end of the 19th century. Our family is the third one to live here. My parents bought it in 2000 and wanted to turn it into a boarding house.
Tell us about the history of this property which is situated in central Bruges. How did you plan its layout and decoration?
The building was constructed at the end of the 19th century. Our family is the third one to live here. My parents bought it in 2000 and wanted to turn it into a boarding house. At the time, local city regulations forbade this type of project, so they decided to keep it and mainly lived on the ground floor. I was 12 years old when my mum and dad asked me if I how I felt about leaving our old house to come here. It was a no-brainer. The idea of having a public park in front of my home instead of a busy road – which meant I couldn’t play outside – made it a far more attractive prospect. The fact that I spent most of my childhood here meant I got to know the rooms and how to adapt them to my taste once my parents were no longer there. I wanted to create my own pieces of furniture, matching the style I had in mind.
Jo, you’re the co-founder of the design studio, Studio LoHo. Where can we see your creative signature style in your home – which is also a guest house?
As with our studio, I focused on using natural materials for technical reasons, because there aren’t any synthetic products that precisely match their colours and textures. Although fired clay and ceramics are ancient mediums, we are trying to innovate at Studio LoHo by using clay for unexpected purposes. You’ll now find our new models, which have been designed using our knowledge of ceramics.
Which rooms do you love spending time in on a daily basis?
Definitely on the second floor. In one of the smallest rooms with a balcony that has stunning views of the park. Obviously, nothing beats a sunset in a tropical paradise, but the ones here come pretty close! (laughs)
The fact that I spent most of my childhood here meant I got to know the rooms and how to adapt them to my taste once my parents were no longer there.
How would you describe The Socialite Family?
A medium where you can discover beautiful houses and read stories about the people who live there.
Which design from our collection would you choose to incorporate into your decor?
Do you have any go-to places in Bruges that you’d like to recommend?
Well firstly, there’s Jonojé, our latest hospitality project, which will open its doors next November. This is a new guest house in Bruges that will also be a showroom for Studio LoHo. We will be able to invite clients, architects, friends and design enthusiasts. Anyone who’s travelled a long distance to visit us can stay in one of the 5 suites. For this new living space, we focused more than ever on custom natural stone and ceramic designs.
Where will we find you in the near future?
2023’s due to be an exciting year for our studio. I’m glad I’ve got to where I am now, but I know the best is yet to come with ever more challenging adventures in the planning.
As with our studio, I focused on using natural materials for technical reasons, because there aren't any synthetic products that precisely match their colours and textures.
Photography : Eve Campestrini – Text : Juliette Bruneau @thesocialitefamily