Portrait of Stefan Vanhoutte (BE)
Year-round holiday mood
Stefan Vanhoutte, from Zulte in Eastern Flanders, considers himself lucky. He turned his hobby from the earliest days of his childhood into a vocation. His training began at the age of 12 and ended with an internship in the Netherlands, which set the trend for the rest of his career.
During his internship he learned a deep respect for public and communal green spaces. He also developed a feeling for a certain openness and learned to structure it anew with shapes and lines of force. Two core points that identify his work today. When he returned home, he set up business with his brother and two other employees. Gebrüder Vanhoutte bvba is active in the areas of design, layout, maintenance and renovation of gardens and green spaces. Roof gardens and terraces are also designed from time to time. The small team works to the motto “Quality before quantity” in order to guarantee personal attention for each project.
Designing with material
Right at the beginning of his career, Stefan Vanhoutte distanced himself from the prevailing trend of German and English garden design. The so-called playful and multicoloured borders and other fanciful elements in the cottage style did not do anything special for him. Even curved lines spoke to him only when they allowed a certain tautness to be identified. Bit by bit, his designs developed into stricter and more rectilinear forms. Vanhoutte works from three perspectives: from the play of lines, the materials and the planting. In the design process, the materials in particular decide the end result. Consequently, he prefers timeless, natural materials such as natural stone, clay pavers and long-lasting types of wood.
Details determine the result
The brothers’ designs are characterised by almost unnoticeable design and development details and these characterise the final result. One of these invisible interventions is the preparation of the ground. Here, Stefan Vanhoutte is always in touch with the latest products and technologies, such as composts or soil improvers. In recent years, innovations have demanded constant learning. Vanhoutte also reveals the importance of a well-structured garden in his enthusiasm for Belgian garden designer Jacques Wirtz. Gardens are taken back to their core: lines, shapes, structures and volumes. In other words, gardens are created which retain their shape, but nevertheless place atmospheric accents in the individual seasons.
Sustainability in the garden
Sustainability has long been a concept not only in the building sector, but also in garden design. Sustainable types of wood often identified by the FSC label and natural stone in often surprising and creative combinations determine Vanhoutte’s work. In interaction with the right planting, these materials always result in calming and low-maintenance gardens. And in terms of sustainability, the fired pavers by Terca-Wienerberger dominate. Wienerberger Belgium has long been engaged in producing the most human and environmentally friendly clay products possible. Stefan Vanhoutte frequently uses pavers and can hardly conceal his love for this material. He treasures its timeless character, the wide choice of colours, sizes, finishes and the feeling of space it lets him create.
Permanent holiday mood
Stefan Vanhoutte comments that “in 2007 we were commissioned to design and construct a garden with swimming pool and pool house for a classical villa in Zulte. The project offered some very special challenges. On one side, the site bordered meadows and agricultural land with special landscape elements such as long rows of regal poplars. On the other side of the house was the owners’ business with access road. What the client really wanted was a garden design that conveyed the most permanent sense of holiday style possible.” The necessary privacy was created on the side of the business building and access road with the help of a raised beech hedge, somewhat pruned in height. In one part of the garden, lawns were laid as a play area for the client‘s growing children.
Classic meets modern
Vanhoutte made the design clear and simple, not only with respect to what the form demanded, but also with reference to the planting plan. This produces a wonderful contrast between the classical style of the villa and the pool house in the “heritage style”. A podium of teak wood was placed on the terrace on one side of the swimming pool. Effective mood lighting was installed between the wooden deck and the paving. To tie things together, a teak wooden floor was also chosen for the pool house, only laid in a slightly different pattern. In order for the modern design of the rectangular garden to harmonise with the classical context, it was decided to opt for black Arte Mastiek pavers in the Waal format by Terca-Wienerberger. The benefit of these dark clay pavers is that water splashes from the swimming pool are hardly visible on the ground. The pavers were deliberately laid in an arrangement with the joints running in the same direction to achieve an attractive and taut spatial effect. The use of joints also offered itself for the steps.
The planting concept is ultimately kept very simple and is composed of a combination of airy and compact looks; box shrubs and hedges, decorative grasses and hydrangea were used here. The contrast between airy and compact, modern and classical, between closed and open spaces playfully conveys a relaxing holiday mood, which the occupiers can enjoy every day in full measure – the whole year round.
- Gebr. Vanhoutte bvba Garden & Landscape Architecture:
- Stefan Vanhoutte
- Oeselgemstraat 92, 9870 Zulte, Belgium
- Dries Van den Brande
- Area laid:
- 240 m²
- Paving bricks used:
- Arte Mastiek Black WF, available formats: 202 x 50 x 88 mm, 202 x 67 x 88 mm
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