A chocolate factory becomes a dream home

A chocolate factory becomes a dream home

For many people, the idea of living in a (former) chocolate factory sounds like a long-held childhood dream come true. And for a young family in Belgium, this really is the case. Furnished with treasured items from their travels, every day feels like a holiday.

Photo credit:

Stephanie Füssenich

Rustic meets modern

The leaves of a century-old Himalayan cedar cast a golden glow over the spacious grounds, which are dotted with chestnut and apple trees. Some 20 minutes from the Belgian city of Antwerp, this is where Valerie Verbeeck, founder of the fashion label elle and rapha, and her young family have found their very own paradise.

“We fell in love with the place the moment we stepped into the garden”, says her husband Thomas Mortier. “We immediately felt as if we were on holiday and knew we wanted to live here.” Perhaps they could also sense the extraordinary history of the old villa, which dates back to 1871 and offers plenty of space for the family of five with its impressive 600 square metres.

Half of the building is made up of a large, high room with a wooden-clad ceiling. This is where chocolate was once produced. The mouth-watering aroma of delicious delicacies is still embedded in the walls. However, the building’s exciting past also made its conversion into a home challenging: the owners wanted to create something new while still preserving the old building’s unique character.

Family and business under one roof

Rustic meets modern – the young family also successfully implemented this approach when furnishing their home. Antique furniture from previous owners is juxtaposed with modern objects found by the family on their trips to Marrakesh and Ibiza. The colour scheme of warm earthy shades adds cosiness and charm to this unique blend of old and new. Previously, the family moved around a lot. “We’re here for the long term though”, declares mum Valerie proudly.

The couple is also using their new home to bring together their professional and private lives: as a former model, it stood to reason for Valerie to come up with her own family fashion designs. Her company, which is named after her twin daughters, really took off, and with this, so did the need for space.

Thankfully, the property offers everything you could desire in this perspective. The small family company is housed in the former studio of the previous owner, an artist. The orders are packaged under the high ceilings and the old wooden beams – sometimes with the help of the twins, who love sprinkling glitter into the parcels.

The kitchen as a communal setting

The walnut-panelled kitchen connects the workshop to the rest of the house and thus serves as a link between Valerie and Thomas’ professional and family life. The team joins the family to eat here at lunchtimes. “The kitchen is the heart of our home, so it’s our favourite room”, explains Valerie.

The open-plan design had its challenges when planning the kitchen though as a conventional extractor hood would have impeded upon the room’s spacious feel. The decision to install a BORA X Pure was ultimately an extremely easy one: “We loved the design from the word go and knew that we absolutely had to have one in our own new kitchen!”

As well as installing modern kitchen appliances, the couple was keen to create a cosy seating area. They also wanted plenty of space to cook meals, such as their children’s favourite dish, spaghetti carbonara, for all of their guests. The kitchen is a place for everyone; it may be chaotic at times, but it’s always cosy. And that’s exactly how it should be, in the dream home of people of all ages.