Aurélie Coene and Thomas Van Den Driessche have chosen to live their family life to the pace set by Achille, their son. Working in their Brussels apartment in the heart of the very beautiful neighbourhood of Saint Gilles, they plan their day between school outings and work meetings at their communication agency, Fifty Fifty. Their life together is based on compromise. The decor was therefore a dual effort just like everything that they undertake. A perfect combo of a classic decor in the spirit of place with a very 50s retro style that is perfectly befitting to their personalities. The result is charming!
Aurelie and Thomas, what do you do for a living?
We formed a graphic designer/photographer partnership and, on that basis, we created our own small communications agency, Studio Fifty Fifty, 5 years ago. In addition to these professional activities for the “family business”, Thomas is also developing a documentary-style creative work and is represented by INSTITUTE agency which is based in Los Angeles.
Why have you chosen this style and era?
For several years, we lived in a beautiful 1930s building in the same neighbourhood. We were rather into “art deco” to begin with. But then, the first time we visited the apartment, it was love at first sight. The height of the ceilings, the stained glass windows, all these original features that have been perfectly preserved in the apartment, the facade that refuses to be ignored, the magnificent lift and the monumental entrance hall. We fell for it. We are living here close to 5 years and every morning we still tell ourselves how really lucky we are to live in such a place!
In terms of interior design, what education do you have?
My parents always afforded interior design a certain significance and my graduate studies in graphic design at La Cambre (a college based on Bauhaus principles) strongly developed and refined my taste for beautiful things in everyday life. Thomas’s parents are both art historians. As a child, this left a mark on him and has definitely contributed to the continued importance he places on the design of our living space.
Nice decor, family life and work all in the same place: are they compatible with each other?
Not only are they compatible, but for us it is vital. Our living space is also our workplace given that our offices are located in the apartment. It really is something that we want to always hang on to in future, no matter where we live. Many people want to have a kind of “separation” between these two worlds. But we are so fulfilled by our respective professions that we see it more as a pleasure, or even a kind of luxury. After all, you still need a bit of discipline on a day-to-day basis so that the apartment/office doesn’t turn into a total dog’s dinner. Thomas, like many creative people, is a hoarder of objects/books and is sometimes a little messy. We complement each other pretty well in that regard. Our son, Achilles, is fortunate to have a large room with a small adjoining playroom. He also often converts the long hall into a bike track. So he has room to express himself. And then we have a magnificent park right next door to us.
What decorative works, objects or furniture do you prefer most in your home?
For my part, I love the sideboard that is in our son, Achilles’ bedroom. It really is a beautiful piece. There is no signature, but it is a beautiful piece of furniture that is extremely well finished and full of character. I know that Thomas loves the lights in the entrance hall. These are “Wabbes” – Belgian Designer from 1950s-70s. They go really well with the gilding of the David Hicks wallpaper that is right across from it.
Where did you go antiquing?
For quite a while, we went to a lot of flea markets around Brussels. But in the end, quite a lot of our furniture was found on eBay at really unbeatable prices. We also bought quite a few things in a small shop in the “Brocéliande” centre, which unfortunately closed recently. He was a former antiques dealer that specialised in vintage furniture (not signed by any big names) at very affordable prices. Every Thursday, he would put on a small production in the shop. Within 48 hours, 90% of what he had on offer would be sold. Twice a year, there is also a design market in Brussels organised on the magnificent Tour & Taxis site. It is a must for lovers of vintage decor!!!
The place where you feel most comfortable?
The kitchen, which is a very bright room with a view of our small terrace full of flowers. We “pimped” a basic Ikea kitchen by painting it and adding 1950s handles. The result works pretty well. As for Thomas, he really likes Achilles’ bedroom. It is also one of the apartment’s brightest rooms with stunning views of the St. Gilles town hall. We spend a lot of time there playing and tinkering around with our son.
Some design advice to give us?
For us, taking the time to live in a new place before furnishing is important. With your decoration, there is no point in looking too far ahead. You have to be within “your four walls” to really become aware of the space and make the best choices. Not all furniture goes with every place either. Be daring with the colours too. By touching up certain walls of a room… Which together make up a nice set that, room by room, are subtly coloured according to their use, which is much warmer than an apartment that is totally white.
The less expensive pieces of which you are proud?
Our deer trophy that “dresses” the fireplace. We are not total bargain hunters, but this imposing black chimney place deserved some decorative piece that was worthy of it. So we found our friend “Norbert the deer” on eBay for a hundred euro! The King Baudouin portrait too. There was a two-part negotiation involved in getting it at a flea market in Brussels. Namely, a really low price for a rendition of our national anthem sung at the top of our voices so as to demonstrate our profound commitment to a united Belgium to the seller.
The most recent restaurant that you would recommend in Brussels?
Two design addresses on the web or in Paris?
Vos projets à venir ?
Continuer à développer notre petite entreprise familiale et maintenir ce joli équilibre entre développement professionnel et épanouissement familial ! La formule du bonheur fonctionne bien depuis un petit temps déjà et on compte continuer à l’améliorer. Thomas a lancé également la seconde édition française de son petit livre humoristique “How to be a photographer in four lessons” aux rencontres d’Arles début juillet. Il a aussi exposé au festival de Lodz en Pologne et à la Triennale de Hambourg.
Credits : Constance Gennari @thesocialitefamily