This impressive building was originally a fort for Belgian soldiers in the late 1700’s, but has been completely transformed by a Belgian family into a beautiful B & B. ’The Bunkers’ as the property is aptly named, was then rebuilt in concrete on the brink of 1st world war and during the 2nd world war, bricks were added to the concrete construction. Today, the brickwork appears in an eye-catching pattern of red and yellow colours.
The owner, Axel De Bisscop grew up around 2 km from the property with his parents. ‘Every time we went by the property, I dream’t about living there some day. As I got older, I kept thinking if the property would ever be put up for sale. There’s just something about the scale of the buildings and the brickwork that has always drawn me in.’, says Axel. One day, Axel’s dream came true: ‘It was an amazing stroke of luck. And it is such a nice feeling to wake up every day and almost be able to wave to my parents across the fields.’
The Bunkers now consists of a main house and barn in the original concrete and brick materials, plus a new wooden extension that has been added to host the bed & breakfast. Axel and Margaux live in the main house with their son, while one of the four original bunkers dating from the first world war serves as a hen-house. The family’s twenty sheep graze the land.
The Bruges-based practice, Architectuurburo Govaert & Vanhoutte was asked to extend the original farmhouse to suit the family and visiting guests. The result is wood extensions on both buildings with metal-framed windows. A tunnel was dug out 1.5 meters below ground between the main house and the B&B, so you avoid the freezing cold in the winter time. The floors are concrete mixed with large stones.
The couple opted for a kitchen in black powder-coated steel from Danish brand Vipp. ‘We have acquired quite a few Vipp products over the years, and one day we were browsing across Vipp’s website and discovered that they not only make products for the home, but they also make an entire kitchen!’, says Margaux. ‘We really fell in love with the industrial look of the kitchen, and when we experienced it for the first time in real life, we could see that it was also very robust.’ The black kitchen was an ideal match for the concrete details of The Bunkers, and the modular concept of the Vipp kitchen made it possible for the pair to choose a configuration that matches the needs of hosting a B&B.
About their favourite aspect of the property, the family says: ‘We have always loved the property, but what we especially love is the combination of old and new in the architecture. We bought The Bunkers in late 2012 and the remodeling has just finished. We think the result came out beautifully with a great respect for the original architecture and history of the buildings.’
Knokke-Heist is a beautiful rural area at the North-Eastern seaside of the Belgian coast. The area is adjacent to the Dutch border, with the two countries separated by the Zwin nature reserve.
Originally a vacation heaven for urban families of Brussels in the early 19th century, the area grew into a resort town with an upscale clientele. Today, Knokke is best known for its beautiful shorelines and beaches and for the dike system from which the area originated.
Photographs by Tim Van de Velde.
The Bunkers can be booked via http://www.thebunkers.be/