Au Bain Marie

  • Nathalie Deboel
  • Henry van de Velde
  • Art deco
‘I hope that those who do not know the Lys will come watch the sunset from my living room some evening’, wrote doctor Martens after Henry Van de Velde had finished his Villa Landing and his Polikliniek on the other side of the street in 1934 and 1935. It is in the spirit of his late Art Deco style that Nathalie Deboel converted the meanwhile mutilated building to restaurant Au Bain Marie.

You can see the kitchen island as a kind of ‘architectural plate tectonics’. It's as if you're in the stone quarry cooking amidst newly mined marble blocks. Dirand sets the bar high in this bold balancing act. The counter has a dizzyingly long cantilever, like the monumental awning of a stunt building. The eating area is seemingly kept in balance by a massive slab of marble that has a sink recessed into it. Functionality is not the prime concern here. The aesthetics are the result of microarchitecture and engineering.Reconstruction was not only impossible, but also undesirable: the building was on the heritage list, but it was not protected. Deboel marinated the Art Deco in a contemporary sauce. The classic radiator covers were replaced by wickerwork wainscoting. The concrete finishing on the facade was reinterpreted into rough limestone on the inside. An effort was made to respect the volumes and proportions drawn by Henry van de Velde, while at the same time updating the interior in an original way. This was sometimes done subtly, like with the black wainscoting, something typical of graphic Art Deco, and sometimes very expressively, like with the blue-lacquered bar trimmed with green marble. A new chapter has been written into doctor Martens’ book. One that respects the place’s narrative.  

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