Once an old hat factory in Berlin, now the essence of family energy ; it here, inside this extraordinary setting where Nadine and her...
Arriving at the entrance to Leen’s house in Ghent, Belgium, I’m already in love. The house dates from the 19th century with old marble floors in mosaic and high ceilings. It feels almost like being in Italy in another era, but the decor of the place brings us back immediately. A clean, uncluttered look reigns. Leen likes white, light colours and raw wood. The superfluous is banished, simplicity is honoured and the materials are natural. Upstairs, in the children’s rooms, frames, toys and furniture transport us back to the 1980s, a period Leen favours and appropriates so well in his clothing collections signed, ‘Oh My Kids’. Discovering the rest is a delight for the eyes.
Leen, could you present yourself ? Who are you?
I’m 33, living in Ghent,Belgium, with my husband Robin and two kids, Annabel (6) and Oscar (4). I grew up in a Small town on the other side of the country, and came to Ghent 15 years ago to study Graphic Design at the Royal Art Academy. I fell in love with the city and my husband and I never left. After my college graduation I started working at Zara Home, supposedly as a temporary job, but I stayed with the company for more than eight years. I loved working there, and was given many wonderful career opportunities. Two years ago, while Robin was working abroad for 2 months, I wanted to keep myself busy at night and started experimenting with my mums old sewing machine, making things for the kids. The response I got was really good and just like that, Oh My Kids was born, a kids clothing and home label. Since things were going so well with my label, I took the major decision of leaving my steady job and I’m now, since a few months, fully focused on Oh My Kids.
Was your childhood linked to you taste for fashion ?
No, my hometown, Mol, wasn’t the most fashionable place. I had a happy, carefree childhood, but fashion or a sense of style were barely present. When I was about 14, I started to rebel quite a bit, shaving my head, wearing dodgy clothes and I loved how I could attract peoples attention by dressing differently.(remember that H&M and Zara did not yet exist back then!!) I was always looked at as being the quirky, creative one in a pretty conservative family. There was no internet yet, so there was no way to find likeminded people as teenagers do nowadays. But I can only see this as an advantage, as the overload of images you come across these days can quite easily paralyze your creativity.
Where do you spend the most time at home ?
Now that I’m working from home I spend most of the day in my studio (that’s the reason why I claimed the brightest room of the house for myself ;-)) When the entire family is home after school or on the weekends we are always in the downstairs living/dining room. We only have a television in our bedroom, so for the kids it is a real treat to all cuddle up in the big bed and watch TV. In summer, we are usually out on the roofdeck ( which has been decorated as a second outside living room).
What attracted you right away ?
We had been looking at many, many houses, and after seeing this one we fell in love instantly. The mozaiek floors, the big triangle window, the original features, the roofdeck. The house is almost 100 years old, built in line with the Amsterdam School architecture, hence the very specific windows and facade. We bought this house before we had kids, so our main priority back then was to live as close to the city as possible, It’s only a 10 min bike ride away.
How did you plan the apartment in terms of decoration?
The house had some structural problems so we had to renovate quite a bit before we could use it to its full potential. For example the ground floor was a dusty uninhabitable space for the first two years. We lived upstairs back then. Living a busy life with two kids and demanding jobs, it has taken us a few years to slowly renovate each room. We are quite happy with the way it is now, only the kitchen and bathroom are getting a major makeover next spring. I can’t wait!
Which artist influences you the most ?
I get influenced by many people/things. It can be anything. New Oh My Kids collections usually start shaping themselves in my head for awhile .For example, the upcoming SS15 collection was inspired by my 1980/90’s family holiday memories. Usually I have a pretty good idea of what the final campaign shot will look like long before I have even touched any fabrics.
The cheapest piece of which you are the most proud ?
I love some of my recent thrift finds. The big round mirror, the little dented vase, the stone book end. But the best find must have been the marble kids desk. I initially bought it as a coffee table for €22 at a thrift shop. But once inside the house it looked really off. It was too high and it had some stains. But after we’d given it a good clean it turned out to be perfect for the kids crafting nook. I also love Oscars rock collection.
Your last holiday destination with your family ?
My in laws (father & sister) immigrated to Spain about 12 years ago, where they run a hotel/restaurant so we always go there to catch up and enjoy the sun. Now that the kids are getting a bit older we start dreaming of taking them to places around the world.
The most recent restaurant you would recommend in Gent or anywhere ?
JEF, where we had lunch a few days ago, was amazing!
Credits photos : Constance Gennari@thesocialitefamily.com