Green is the new black. Just ask Bart Haverkamp and Pieter Croes who turned their love for nature into a beautiful profession. With their green thumbs they are able to create a unique environment, with the garden as their playground. We meet up for coffee in their loft and atelier, which is really a stunning green and quiet oasis in the city. In the afternoon we head off to their holiday home in the countryside. It’s not surprising to state that green is the red thread in their lives, for nature is everywhere.
Once you set foot in the city loft, you have the illusion to be in a whale’s belly, or rather to be in a gigantic greenhouse filled with souvenirs. The truss with white beams carries big skylights. Once outside you can enjoy the Mediterranean garden, with a tree in the middle, probably their most remarkable trademark. Bart & Pieter plant trees wherever they can. “I bought this tree for a client who wanted it on the 6th floor. When we reached the 4th floor, the rope broke and the tree fell all the way down. I saw this as assign, that the tree didn’t belong there and that’s why I planted it here. The neighbors are quite fond of it, because they can enjoy its beauty too” Says Pieter.
Bart: In our job we can do whatever we want, from creating gardens to spectacular roof terraces, from small to big projects.
Pieter: When we take on a big challenge we call ourselves the A-team. If a client wants a tree in the middle of a complex, we have to start lobbying months ahead. We arrive with a load of trucks, material and crew, because we have to finish it in one day. Traffic gets blocked, police cars escort the crane en cars get towed away. Real Para commando style, we love it! A big organization like that gives us a thrill and people enjoy watching the spectacle.
Bart: It’s nice to come up with an idea, but to put it into practice is so much more fun! When you design a kitchen, everything has to be perfect and it can never get any better. Our work only gets better in time, for nature has to do its part too.
Pieter: Every project is a search for the right solution. When a roof is too light, we use artificial turf or we replace soil by peat-soil. When clients want to install a new terrace, but they lack the budget, we re-paint old tiles or we replace them by plants. Everything is possible with what we do, although what looks simple is often the most difficult. With a rooftop you start from scratch. A garden is much more complicated, because you have to maintain it properly. I have to figure out which plants are weeds and which aren’t and I try to share this information with my clients, so they’ll know what to do.
Bart: No, on the contrary. We seldom come across clients with green thumbs.
Pieter: Most clients do want a beautiful garden, but none of them wants to take care of it. In the past we have designed so many stunning gardens, but clients don’t spend enough time at home to fully enjoy and work on their garden. The idea of gardening is more romantic than reality.
Bart: A few projects that we captured in our first book don’t exist anymore. Almost all of our creations work with automatic irrigation. But when a house gets sold, the real estate agent often forgets to replace the tablet of the irrigation system, with all its consequences. And when a house changes owner, our gardens get demolished and replaced by lawn or another atmosphere.
Pieter: Once and a while we see our designs featured on real estate websites, cause people love to show off their gardens. After all they add an extra value to the property.
Pieter: That’s so true. While a tree is full grown after a few decades, a city environment is faster subjected to renewal and change. In Belgium trees got to go either way. But when you look at London or Paris, people are able to preserve ancient trees in the city centre, they share a mentality that respects nature. Half of the genetic code of a banana is equal to the genetic code of a human being. This means we’re all part of nature. And by respecting nature, you respect yourself. It’s a petty Belgians don’t share this point of view.
You divide your time between the atelier in the city and your holiday home on the countryside. Which home do you prefer?
Pieter: 2/3rd of our time is spent in our holiday home, where we are totally surrounded by nature. But because we are busy working, we’re spending more time at our atelier in the city. Our holiday home is a cottage in the style of the English Bloomsbury Group, a collective of bohemian writers and painters from the 30’s. We call this house our holiday home, because we never work here. There’s no computer, because we don’t want to pollute it with stress. You can swim in the pond and relax in the garden and there’s plenty of space for outdoor experiments. Recently I started out with my own vegetable garden, with variable success. Our holiday home is located in a nature reserve, with regularly people walking by. But it’s nothing compared to the passage you see in the city. (Laughs.)
Bart: We bought our atelier 11 years ago. The front- and backhouse are part of an old farm, that dates from 1850. At first side the premise looked romantic with ivy growing through brick. At second sight it was a big mess. We didn’t know we had a garden until we started cleaning up the place. Yes, it was really that messy! First we sublet the place, but after renovation works, we decided to live here instead. We replaced all skylights making the loft space looking like a big greenhouse. We even had the idea to grow plants here.
Pieter: Skylights make sure we have plenty of day light, but I really wanted to be able to look outside too. That’s why we made a big hole in the wall and installed a sliding window. This way we can enjoy a beautiful view on the garden.
Bart: In the bedroom I installed a hatch for Pieter to watch his tree grow.
Pieter: On my wish list are a balcony and stairs leading towards the garden. My goal is to fully enjoy the little green we have here.
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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