Commuting from Belgium to Atlanta each day would be an impossible feat. But for these homeowners, capturing a little slice of the European countryside within Atlanta’s northern city limits came down to two things: hiring a design team capable of delivering just that and finding the perfect plot of land for their visions to take flight.
“We’ve always been drawn to the idea of the Belgian farmhouse,” reveals the wife, underscoring her affection for the style’s steep rooflines, light-as-air interiors and authentic materials in largely pale finishes. When, after three years of searching, she and her husband finally happened upon a dreamlike wooded site, they set about creating just such an Arcadian retreat. “We wanted a home that felt like it had always been there—a structure that’s timeless and would develop a beautiful patina over time. I didn’t want someone to drive by and get the sense it had been built in 2020,” she says.
Fortunately, the homeowners looked to Peter Block, an architect noted particularly for his manner of interpreting history and rooting residences to the land as if they’ve had generations to settle in. For the manor-like abode his clients requested, Block found inspiration in the celebrated vernacular of Belgian architect Bernard De Clerck, along with the work of two preeminent English architects of the Arts and Crafts era: C.F.A. Voysey and Sir Edwin Lutyens. “There’s a bit of the old in it, and there’s certainly a bit of the new,” Block says of the residence, which was built to his specifications by general contractor—and frequent collaborator—Shaba Derazi. Working with project manager Jim Basham, Derazi realized a series of spaces progressively more connected to the outdoors, including a loggia and spacious porch made more comprehensive thanks to sliding glass doors. From there, landscape architect Lucinda Bray’s considerate additions—limelight hydrangeas, roses, specimen maple trees and sweeping meadow grasses—help knit the new plantings to the native ones beyond.
Casting a magical scene that would instantly impart the charms of old-world Europe, Block turned to natural materials: among them, a cedar shake roof, wire-brushed European oak floors and limewash brick, which he notes is a “living” finish. “When you use good materials, they just get better over time,” explains Block, who teamed up with residential designer Richard Burgess and architect Bryan Busch on the project. “These materials age well. And they’re what make this house look like it could have been built 100 years ago.”
One of the most impressive elements from Block’s arsenal was Marmorino plaster for the walls—hewn of crushed limestone, marble and lime putty, the combination was used in ancient Rome and Renaissance-era Venice. “The way the light hits them, they’re always changing. The finish has an amazing, warm texture to it,” the wife notes. Free-range light was indeed key for Block, who designed the residence so that a majority of its rooms feature windows on at least two sides. “You feel the light changing as the day passes, but the rooms don’t get dark,” he notes.
The couple enlisted designer—and textural wizard—Beth Webb to whip up interiors that could stand up to such architectural grandeur but also “be amazingly comfortable,” Webb says. Take the dining room, with its ring of plump slipcovered chairs ideal for a lingering dinner party. “If you’re going to put the effort into a dinner at home, you don’t want your guests feeling uncomfortable and wanting to get up after 30 minutes,” she notes. Even the spa-like soaking tub in the primary bathroom was carefully chosen for its cozy factor. “I always insist that my clients get in the tub and sit on the furniture before we purchase it,” Webb says, “because every body is different.”
The interior color palette is equally cosseting: an easygoing blend of creams (“solution-dyed acrylics that are so incredibly resilient, you can pour bleach directly on them,” Webb says); breezy, barefoot browns; and blacks that punctuate each room like an exclamation point. Here, Webb found an unlikely muse for the home’s hues in her clients’ inherited art collection, most of which comprises works produced by the wife’s late grandparents—he, a renowned artist; she, a printmaker. “It really inspired the design schematics of the entire house,” Webb says of the museum-worthy hoard, which includes commanding terra-cotta figures with an almost monasterial quality.
At the culmination of all of this, the couple enjoys a homestead where deer meander throughout the grounds and hawks whirr across the sky, and the property does make a convincing case for a medieval parcel on the pastoral outskirts of Brussels. Sums the wife, “We wanted a home that felt connected with the outside. And I think we achieved that exactly. As Peter would say, it ‘just kind of came out of the ground.’”