Tales of the Unexpected

The home of Élise Van Thuyne

The day we meet interior designer Élise Van Thuyne to talk about the reconversion of her own home, she excitedly shows us a preview of the book that she has been working on for the past year. It marks an important point in her career. After 13 years, rolling from one assignment to another, she has taken time to stop, take stock and document her past work; with a group of collaborators and artists that are dear to her.

To her own amazement she can look back on an impressive 72 reconversions, mostly residential projects. The book is as unconventional as her path in life, and it offers a very personal look into the nooks and crannies of her work. It reads like a metaphor for her approach capturing her intuitive, experimental and collaborative spirit.

Élise’s interventions are very much informed by contextual finds, and she has a great talent for gentle reappropriation. Her own home is in the final stages of reconversion. It was built in 1936 for a respected linguist (an interesting coincidence as Élise also trained in the same field.) Originally a lone country house, it is now surrounded by the urban sprawl on the outskirts of Ghent. She found the house around 8 years ago, prompted by someone who was describing its authenticity. She went to visit it, fell instantly in love, and bought it the next day. There was an immediate attraction to making this abandoned and dilapidated house a home for herself and her two boys. The house has proved a force to be reckoned with, it’s a building that has not been easy to change, but it’s a challenge that Élise has happily embraced.


‘I was trained as a linguist and entered the field of interior design from a completely different angle. What I actually do in my architectural reconversions is like ‘writing a story with materials’. I construct a home, as if I would build up a novel. I am a real autodidact, in work, but also in life generally. I jump into the sea and I keep swimming.’


‘The original owner of the house was also a linguist who worked from home a lot. He had the house built by an interior designer. You can feel this in the many ways that the interior manifests itself through details and unexpected corners. The beautiful reflections of the sunlight through the stained glass and the triangular door windows create an ever-changing atmosphere.’