Compromising and adapting to the clients’ needs, it comes with every job. After 23 years, Geert Verbruggen is de-registered from the order of architects. "This was my last step, building houses had become routine. After all, it’s just a house. "Geert opted for a career switch. He now paints, dances, rents out a trendy penthouse apartment and runs a Bed & Breakfast. When asked if he is a happy man, he replied: "Not really. Life is a pretty much hell. We’re constantly trying to evolve and improve ourselves. But now I'm far more stable and happier than before.” (laughs)
We meet Geert in his home in Antwerp, where his B&B is located. Indoors, you can easily imagine yourself in the Provence, where the color white dominates the space, the living room overlooks a wild garden and large paintings are hanging on the walls.
What you see here is work from 3 years ago. But you're right. I work a lot and I work fast. I save up my energy and it seems like I do this to finish up a new painting each day. I throw my work online immediately, hoping for response. When no one reacts, I start doubting. The hardest part of being creative is knowing whether you're doing well or not. Do you create for yourself or for someone else? Besides painting I'm busy with so many other things.
Every day is different but getting up early is a constant. Last week I was working in my studio. This week I invested my time in my B & B. But the weird thing is that I sometimes forget what I'm doing: interior design, dancing or painting. Once it is no longer new, it disappears from my mind. I always have the feeling I’m not doing anything. The day I’m on the couch watching TV, is the day I’m probably very ill. Every day I say to myself: I have to make the most out of life. I am a restless person.
Absolutely! I love taking care of people. I love to pamper visitors and to ensure that they are having a good time. I love this instant gratification. To serve people and to make them happy instantly! Compared to when I was an architect, building a house took at least 2 years!
As an architect I was frustrated because of the paperwork and the dullness of the profession. Designing was cool, but I didn’t like the rest of the job. I’ve built a lot in my life, but it had become an automatism. I was sitting in front of my computer the whole day: drawing and mailing, from morning to evening. Moreover, the projects kept on pilling up, which meant more and more paperwork. I am a perfectionist and I like to have everything under control. But that won’t happen when you are an architect, unless you choose to work day and night. I choose to spend my time differently.
I see the frustration, especially amongst young people. The competition is fierce. You settle for a certain price and the customer always wants the job done for less money. 30 years ago architects sat at a worktable to experiment. Now every client wants the same kind of kitchen…The appeal is standardized, structured and has become boring. You can no longer enjoy free designing.
I would like to have a wooden box: a very small box, not luxurious, in which I’m able to show my own vision. You can be free, but your vision is always adapted to the client, to urban planning, the implementation etc. With all that, there are some free spirits who I greatly admire like the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor (Basel, 1943) who in 2009 was honored with the Pritzker prize.
Sometimes I know exactly in which direction I want to go. Other times I start without knowing where I’m heading to, but my body feels free when I compare it to the past. Back in the days the human body was not that important. I started dancing later in life and it was a real revelation to discover my body and to make myself aware of it. If I could start my life over, I would become a painter or a dancer.
My partner Geert used to live in Toit and I lived a few streets away, where the B & B is now housed. We had a LAT relationship and when we decided to continue as a couple, I was so afraid of living together that I started to renovate the basement of my house in a studio. So if we got tired of each other, Geert would move downstairs. But that didn’t happen. Friends of ours had a B & B and we thought: why don’t we try it ourselves? And so, Ceder was born. In the meantime we sublet Toit, but after some problems with the tenant, the flat received a complete makeover and was renovated into a modern city apartment that people can rent for short periods, but also for a week or a whole month.
When I design for clients, I work in the style of Toit, full white and purified, giving the people a peaceful state of mind. My motto is: grab a can of white paint, start painting. Pure and simple. White gives you the structure you need to start organizing. In my designs I always think of cheap solutions and tend to stick to a minimal budget.
People do not think too much about the arrangement of their home. Start with asking yourself simple questions. How do you want to live? What do you think is important? What do you need? Think about your lifestyle and translate it into shapes, layout and structures. People also get stuck on fixed ideas. Spaces are never fixed, customization is key. Don’t let yourself be guided by trends either, such as the kitchen being the most important room in the house. Not every function takes place in the kitchen! Look, if you really don’t know, I have a good piece of advice for you: pick up a can of white paint and paint everything white. Tabula rasa!
Wetstraat 38, 2060 Antwerpen
Lange Zavelstraat 54, 2060 Antwerpen
Coffeeklatch is a creative chitchat, an original and personal way for Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen to go and look for inspiring personalities and intriguing stories. The online magazine showcases pictures and interviews with creative entrepreneurs in their homes, addressing various disciplines. Coffeeklatch stands for slow journalism using a fast medium. Read More
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